(this page was last updated in July 2018)
Mato Grosso, Brazil, 1961.
Lives and works in Mato Grosso, Brazil.
PIPA Prize 2018 nominee.
Gervane de Paula is a Brazilian born in Cuiabá, capital of Mato Grosso, Midwest of Brazil, precisely in the Geodesic center of South America, where he lives and works since 1977. He integrated “The 80s Generation”, a Brazilian artistic movement of big relevance to the visual arts, since then, he has been participating in solo and group exhibitions at museums in Brazil and overseas. His work has its nature in mass culture, religious and popular, it represents the social realism that illustrates several kinds of street violence, a local setting which portraits the world in which we live. He works with painting, drawing, object, and installation, using diverse media and materials.
Video produced by Do Rio Filmes exclusively for PIPA 2018:
THE ANIMAL – Gervane de Paula – IN THE WORLD
Text by Prof. Dr. Laudenir Antonio Gonçalves – UFMT
Brazilian Association of Art Critics – ABCA
Gervane de Paula was born in the outskirts of Cuiabá, Mato Grosso, in 1961, in the neighborhood of Araés (the name of an extinct indigenous group), where he lives until today. A few blocks from his residence, amidst a number drug dealing spots (boca de fumo in Portuguese), we visited his studio called which he calls “Boca de Arte”. Since the age of 15, he has always been a militant of art and a great cultural entertainer.
For those who don’t know him, his first major appearance in the national artistic scene occurred in 1984, when he participated in the exhibition “Como Vai Você, Geração 80?” (“How are you doing, generation 80s?”), held on the premises of the School of Visual Arts in Parque Lage, Rio de Janeiro, which was a landmark of renewal in the visual arts in Brazil.
This exhibition, “Animal World”, was awarded the Funarte Connection Circulation Visual Arts Award, Edital 2016 and only now did it become possible to take it to the cities of Belo Horizonte (MG) and Campo Grande (MS). The aim of MinC/Funarte is to promote the exchange of exhibitions and artists from the various Brazilian States with the “purpose of stimulating the multiplicity and diversity of languages and trends of contemporary Brazilian art”.
And the “animal world” created by the artist perfectly achieves Funarte’s aims and presents seven unusual, bold and creative exhibits as well as paintings, photographs/performances, and two art videos. The heterogeneity of his work is great and so it is extremely contemporary in two broad senses: the first is in relation to the medium. There are no more limits to his form of artistic expression because he works with … “anything”. It could be tree trunks, aluminum sheets, written notes and messages, animal remains, rubber, plastic, newspapers, cardboard, iron or any other industrialized product that arouses his interest to compose a piece of work or an exhibit. In his urban and rural surveys – when he collects the material for his work – the artist’s imagination has no limits.
On the other hand, his work talks to us in a satirical or dramatic way and transits between criticism and irony, fiction and reality, the possible and the impossible, without the slightest hitch. He lays bare issues that are currently being debated, not only in Brazilian society but also worldwide.
His way of working is extremely interesting as, according to he himself, an object, or a fact, or an idea can initiate a long creative process that might take days or more to complete. For example, the exhibit “Suffer with me, let us share this cross”, was started some two years ago when he was going through “some difficult moments, of actual pure suffering when I made the first cross”. Therefore, the artist initially establishes an inner dialogue with himself based on his sensitivity and the perception of the contradictions of his surroundings or daily life. In this way, the artist’s expression of his interior may have more value than the final result of the work. And so, some cases, his work has an almost artisanal richness and the unfinished piece ends up composing the final work of art.
During the creative process of the exhibit “Suffer With Me”, the artist invited friends to collaborate in its construction which turned it into a collective work since “I thought it should involve other artists”, after all, “together we are stronger”. And thus, the cross gained a new form of representation as it became a support for developing the creation but of which “most is my own work”. And the exhibit transformed into a grand tribute to the friends and artists that influenced its creation and who deserve mention. This is the case of Keith Haring, who influenced the development of graffiti in the 1980s New York culture scene; Jean Michael Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, among others, and the older ones such as, Matisse, Picasso, Gabriel Orosco, Phillip Guston and the Argentinian, Alberto Cedrón.
It also paid tribute to the friends who collaborated in the making of the “the crosses” that are part of the exhibit, but who passed away during the creation process. These are: João Sebastião Costa; the sculptor Roberto de Almeida; and the great primitivist, Nilson Pimenta, deceased on 23/12/2017.
Humberto Espíndola is also honored with the “cross-horn of a bull”, along with Wladimir Dias Pino, the creator of the Federal University of Mato Grosso’s symbol and who, in 1967, together with Álvaro de Sá, signed the manifesto that gave rise to the “Poem-process,” which renewed poetic language in Brazil and in the world.
It should be noted that the cross – the main object of the exhibit – is a symbol that is part of the human, symbolic universe which is present in practically all cultures, with a variety of meanings, as stated by Carl Gustav Jung.
“The animal world is the barbaric world we live in,” says the artist and “Suffer With Me” reveals the laceration to which the “sapiens-demens” of Edgar Morin is exposed and exposes all forms of violence that we are suffering/living through today and which, undoubtedly, we must overcome once and for all before society succumbs to an abyss of atrocities from which there is no return. In a sense, “Suffer With Me” is thematically linked to all the other exhibitions – “Dismantling the Gang”, “They Are Back”, “Art Here, I Kill It!”, “The Entrance Portal” (tourism, drugs and agribusiness”), “God Apis, His Wives and Their Herd” – and which, therefore, provide coherence and homogeneity to the exhibition despite the diversity of materials and exhibits.
Thus, in the Gervane de Paula’s “Animal world”, our daily lives are laid bare, spat into our faces through the most varying themes, such as drug trafficking, rape, fascism, machismo, Nazism, sex, animal and human extinction, narcissism, technology and social network addiction, in short, the main contradictions of mass society and consumption.
His work is usually autobiographical – because it is very much in tune with his time/historical moment – and in this way, he is able to transform his feelings into art by living daily in this “animal world”. Precisely for this reason, his art is provocative, striking, political, innovative and purposeful. Art has many functions in society such as “to capture the essential traits of his time and to unravel new realities, as well as … to bring in the new and in the act of pointing it out the artistic work has a supporting role in the construction of a new world”, (Peixoto, Unicamp, 2001).
In this sense, the “animal world” dissects the diffuse feeling that the nation of Brazil is passing through a historical moment because our country has never before been so as vilified as it is today. Hate has spread through Brazilian society together with intolerance and fighting between different class groups has never been as fierce as it is now.
I cannot end without mentioning the performance-photographs by this artist. His main representative icon, the Tuiuiu (the bird which is the symbol of the Pantanal), also called Jaburu (the name of the official residence of the Brazilian President), has been through the most diverse transformations: it has been ground, shredded, crucified, hung up and metamorphosed many times throughout his career. Now, in this time of rupture proposed by the artist, the creator incorporated the spirit of the creature and thus it became the work of art itself. This form of aesthetic intervention is also used by the artists Yuri Firmeza, Cabelo, Paulo Nazareth and others.
By Frederico Moraes, while visiting the “Animal World” exhibition in May 2016.
I am frankly very surprised, first of all, because there is a humor to this versatile art. Inside the humor, there is a political view; not just of what is happening in this region of the country, but it is a view of a large part of the Brazilian population.
This last exhibition is a brief art history, he does not only act as an artist but as a person capable of addressing not only the world of art but also the real world, the everyday world. He has a voice not limited to his own work but the work of his colleagues, local artists, and the own art history.
He plays very skillfully with the words and images, he does this with a great versatility. The end result is a daring display of art, which is not limited to the region of Mato Grosso. I believe that it creates a statement with a certain provoking tone, which is lacking in today’s art, where everything seems to be the same. But not here, suddenly a new perception is born and it can be seen is his work. I believe this is a very interesting transformation from the usual art you see. And it shakes things up not just here but in the global Brazilian art.
It is the time to rethink about Brazilian art from local regions. I have always insisted on this matter, local regional Brazilian exhibitions. It talks a lot about the crisis of current art, for a lot of reasons. But is actually a crisis of international art, that also is seen here and it is closely linked to the market. The problem is Brazil has a lot of local regions producing art that don’t have the Brazilian support.
I think what is needed is to immerse a critic in these regions, I have only scratched the surface of what is the study of this regional style of art.
Gervane’s work is extraordinary because it is showcasing new trends, and he is very scrupulous and creative. His work is striking and exuberant.
This type of work can bring a different kind of energy to Brazil.
By Aline Figueiredo, March 2018
Gervane turns a scorn into the trigger of critical comedy of his art, making use
of various objects, hammering ideas and denouncements of everything and against
everything. Bricks, cans, tires, rubber, logs and stumps, chainsaws, paper, cardboard, plastic, recycled materials that have been lost or bought. A wide range of topics too. From corruption to organized or disorganized crime, even urban violence, crimes against the environment, drug trafficking and cartels, not even the church or religion are left alone. But nobody can say that Gervane is a man of little faith. Faith, in his case, is plentiful, especially in himself. Yes, it even makes you feel like saying, “Oui, Je Suis Gervane”.
It is worth mentioning some of the artist’s daily pranks. His wife leaves him
a note: “Gervane, keep your tools in the right place – Signed Magna”. And immediately he makes a sign with the silhouettes of the tools, a machine gun in the place of the drill, alligator teeth in the place of the saw, etc. And there it is a note leading to artwork in response. Meanwhile, his 10-year-old son says, “Dad, please don’t use my stuff for your artwork.” So that is the mischievous and unruly vein of creativity that moves our Gervane’s daily life which prevails in everything.
In Gervane’s Animal World the artists of the “jungle art” are there. Whether as guests invited to participate in some of the artwork, such as the 100 crosses
made of a variety of materials and in different sizes which make up the “Suffer With Me”; exhibit, or, whether they are have been referred to, reflected on, introduced or translated work in their conceptual interpretations of art. Thus, among others, there are Benedito Nunes, Aleixo Cortez, Alcides Pereira dos Santos, and, of course, João Sebastião. Jaguars and their markings counteract with paths of trunk stumps making explicit reference to the devasting effects of the chainsaws and their related, cruel industries.
“The God Apis, two wives and their herd”, is another installation that climbs up
the wall. Three moors with an erotic appeal, armed with horns, represent Apis
amongst his wives. On the wall, in decreasing size, there are 15 tree stumps, all with horns alluding to the Buccaneers, making a caricature reference to Espindola’s installations.
As mentioned before, scorn is the trigger of this comedy and as such, parody
is a feast. Let’s see an example from our book: “Arte aqui é mato” (Literally “Art here is like weeds”, meaning it appears everywhere) (Ed. MACP, UFMT, 1994) What
does Gervane do? Well, the idea comes from the literal. He removes the verb “is” that comes before the noun “mato” (weeds) which transforms into the conjugated verb “eu mato” (meaning “I kill”). Leaving us with, “Art here, I kill it!” (meaning “Art, I got this” But let’s be honest Gervane, the play with words was virtually asking to be made, wasn’t it? But, as I always say, writing things down is good because one day somebody will read it and think about it. Geez, for this reason alone it is worth spending the hours and sleepless nights.
I praise this faith when I analyze the objective way in which this artist solves and presents his artistic “joys”, so raw and direct, without using sophisticated media. None of this is necessary for these strong, negro arms. No, no and no! There is no prejudice in the use of this word here because we always value the performance of the contributing character of the black sensibility in the artwork of Mato Grosso. So, what’s left to say is that Gervane gets it perfectly and spears it into our hearts from his animal world.
Rarely has there been such a compelling desire to create, recreate, question an idea to discover and rediscover the satirical, sarcastic side in a crude way without subterfuge. Thus, this young man of 57 years of age shows that nothing, absolutely nothing is as obscene as the political banditry and social hypocrisy in which we live today.
Gervane shies from nothing and neglects nothing in his work and the same applies to the effort he employs and to the size and materials used. And, so, this compulsion of such intensity is far from the whims of repetitive, sugary stylization. Far from it, in Gervane freedom of expression gains a voice through his acidic scorn of corruption and racial prejudice.
And there’s more: Gervane makes a point of being a “regional”; artist because he faces the here and now, politicians, scandals, and fearlessly names everything and everyone. From within his internal world, this artist speaks of the animal, global and ecological world. Feeling very much at ease, he traces the transient transitions of contemporary art.
In the midst of such voracious experimentation, our “creative whirlwind” does not forget about painting. And, together with everything else, it – painting – happens and provides him with a drive.
“FRESTAS”, Sorocaba Triennial, 2017.
The work of Gervane de Paula questions the circulation of popular icons from the
folksy repertoire of Brazil’s Mato Grosso state. The artist looks at the dynamics that attribute value to these symbols and how they can be appropriated by the market and tourism, and even be conscripted into a regionalist discourse. De Paula turns a critical, humorous gaze toward the way of an exoticized image is spun for the Pantanal wetlands. Instead of the underbelly, with pasture consuming wild being its violence and waste throughout the state, but especially along the border with Bolivia. He also reflects on the art scene and how the traditional models and themes of the region’s crafts are replicated and consumed like trinkets from a souvenir store.
In the wooden objects and sculptures that make up “Mundo Animal” [Animal Kingdom], De Paula wrangles with issues inherent to the region and its symbols, such as the visual omnipresence of the jabiru stork in local logos and advertising. In one of his pieces, a grinder chews up a number of jabirus in front of some packs of sugar that depict the bird on the front. The jabiru returns in another installation consisting of a shelf that juxtaposes the typical souvenir fare – jaguars, alligators and typical regional fruits – with an outsized crack pipe.Inside the pipe, instead of crack rocks, we see various jabiru storks, ready to be burned.