Brazil Week: Eustáquio Neves
This week once again we will dive into the diverse Brazilian Photography presenting incredible works by Aline Motta and Eustáquio Neves, both at the current 35º Bienal of São Paulo, Claudia Jaguaribe, José Diniz and Celina Portela, addressing various themes such as environment issues, ancestry, racism, dance and movement, through instigating approaches.
Today we feature the work of Eustáquio Neves.
Eustáquio Neves, or José Eustáquio Neves de Paula, was born in Juatuba, Minas Gerais, in 1955. He became an industrial chemistry technician. Working with laboratories and chemicals led him to the analogue environment of photography. One day he went to see an exhibition by Arthur Bispo do Rosário. There was a catharsis. The works that juxtaposed obsession, viscerality, forcefulness and a myriad of materials opened a kind of portal for the young photography apprentice that freed him into the universe of experimentation. From this meeting emerged the strategies of amalgamating images, textures, abrasions, historical documents, disconnected spellings and other information that would come to color his creations from then on, invariably having as their theme the dark dungeons of slavery in Brazil and the structural racism on the population. black that persists to this day. Photography expanded in his experimentation laboratory, making him an unavoidable and unique artist in contemporary Brazilian artistic production. Since 1992, when his series began, Eustáquio and his iconoclasm have become a reference for new generations of artists. His work was one of the pioneers in displacing official history and making a critical review of slavery and its echoes.
Follow Eustáquio Neves on Instagram: @eustáquioneves
Photographs with mixed techniques
Respect for the wisdom and experience of older people is a strong tradition among residents of quilombola regions such as “Arturos”, in the municipality of Contagem, in Minas Gerais.
Quilombo’s name honors its founder, Arthur Camilo Silvério, son of enslaved people. Coincidentally, this is one of Eustáquio’s first series created after he discovered the work of another Arthur: the plastic artist Arthur Bispo do Rosário. The possibility of intertwining disparate discourses and symbols in the same image emerges with strength and originality in this series in which Eustáquio exalts the ancestral traditions held by quilombo residents. Such strategies have since continued to gain new layers of complexity in artsta’s work.
Cartas ao mar – “Letters to the Sea” series
Photography with mixed techniques
Until 1831, between 20,000 and 30,000 people captured and enslaved on the African continent, who did not resist mistreatment during the forced journey to Cais do Valongo, in Rio de Janeiro, were buried in mass graves along with objects and animal bodies.
With the advent of works in this region of Rio before the 2016 Olympic Games, many bones reappeared and Eustáquio went to the site to investigate the situation. Faced with horror, he was unable to take any photographs. He returned to his studio, in Diamantina (MG) and began creating this series based on the image of a tombstone, constant throughout the series.
Each of these images is a symbolic production that aims to be a message encapsulated in a bottle thrown into the sea of intolerance and racism, in the hope that they can impact future generations. Through portraits with unrevealed identities, torn paper, ashes, grooves and stamps, the artist makes these beings resurrect as an image, unearthing them from the history that annihilated them.
O Encomendasdor de Almas – The Orderer of Souls Series
Photography with mixed techniques
This series was carried out in the Ausente quilombo, located in the Serro region, in Minas Gerais. Traditionally, quilombos were established in empty areas far from urban centers as a way to avoid racial hate crimes. Eustáquio went up and down mountains, suddenly crossed the Jequitinhonha River and only then reached Ausente.
In these spaces, resistance to oppression also generated and continues to generate ways of extolling the ancestry of people of African descent. Many still include expressions in Bantu, the mother tongue of their ancestors, and practice subsistence agriculture.
In the community, Eustáquio met Crispim Veríssimo, a man with a high spirit who has the role of ordering bodies, responsible for freeing the souls of the dead from the earthly plane to reach celestial dimensions. In the African cosmology of certain matrices it is said that only those who are not remembered die. Therefore, Crispin enchants, usually in a tree, those who depart for eternity. As Ambassador of Catopê, Crispim goes at the front of the processions, scratching the ground with the tip of his sword. Thus, he cleans himself and opens the paths, ridding the land of all evil. This series was carried out in diptychs as a way of reinforcing integration between residents, territory and their beliefs.
What led you to work with photography? And what keeps you connected to it?
I have always learned a lot by observing what is around me, photography at a given moment helped me to grasp fragments of that environment. I got into photography by chance, I bought a camera when I was in my twenties, to fill my idle time, when I worked as a chemist in an industry in the interior of Goiás. This camera became a kind of notebook for me. I continue with photography because it is the language in which I feel very comfortable expressing myself and over time it has become an effective tool for me to discuss the issues I discuss.
What motivates you to start a new project?
The urgency in relation to social issues, especially regarding structural and systemic racism, which over time only improves against black people in this country. So I will always have reasons to start a new project.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced to date?
As a photographer, as a visual artist, it’s the challenges that move me, I don’t remember any that made me stop doing my work.
Your work invariably addresses powerful themes and harsh realities, but with delicate aesthetic results and great plastic beauty. How does this union happen?
The aesthetics in my work is perhaps a strategy to draw attention to the discourse within the work.
Your works are currently at the 35th São Paulo Biennial. Could you tell us a little about this experience?
For me it came as a good surprise, I never considered being there, but due to the theme, the urgency of the issues addressed there, the curation and the group of works and artists brought together in this biennial, I am very proud to be there.
Coming from a patriarchal family in the Northeast of Brazil, Ana Leal began her path in the art world when she decided, almost at age 50, to dedicate herself fully to her old passion: photography. With a female gaze and perspective, Leal focuses her research on psychological themes.
Born in Recife and based in São Paulo, Leal is an artist who works primarily in photography exploring themes of fragility, temporariness, and impermanence. Inspired by impressionism and minimalism her images share an abstract aesthetic.
Leal is a Gold Award winner at the 2020 TIFA and the 15th Julia Margaret Cameron Award Winner in the abstract category. She also received a Bronze Medal at the ND Awards 2021 and Honorable Mentions at the IPA 2021, Rotterdam Photo 2021, Prix de La Photographie Paris 2019, and The 15th Pollux Awards. She completed her MFA at the Miami International University of Arts and Design (2018) and the Professional Photography Course at the Pan-American School in São Paulo (2013). Her work is part of the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts – FMoPA collection. She works also as a content editor for South America at Lenscratch.
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