A meeting with the Artist.
Portrait of Joao Carlos Abreu
It was with some trepidation that I accepted the invitation of a friend of mine to join him in a meeting with another old friend of his on a glorious Madeira February afternoon. The somewhat formal encounter was to be a quick rush to the senses. Firstly, as I had not associated the name of his friend, Joćo Carlos, to the Secretary of Tourism, and secondly when I was welcomed into the Secretary's office to be overwhelmed by a sea of colour splashed across the walls. I was enchanted. Bewitched by the paintings before me. Like the hungry sailor who sees dry land after months at sea. I could not help noticing the resplendent use of red on one particular painting, mounted next to the only candelabrum in the room, and remarking immediately that that is the one I wanted to buy.
"It's not for sale", replied the Tourism Secretary. "They will be hanging in a New York exhibition next month. Many people have offered to buy these works. But I cannot sell them". The look on his face as a father to his children.
I felt embarrassed.
I had immediately translated the mounted works of art into their commercial value.
My first mistake.
The meeting continued and tumbled through various tourism issues, art chat and friendly banter. Through consultation of other issues with other members of staff in the tourism offices and then back to the possible meaning in some of the paintings. We spoke about the possible connotations of the content or subject matter of the paintings, and why Joćo Carlos had not given most of the paintings any titles. My second mistake.
Detail of one of the many untitled paintings
Joćo Carlos deftly guided me to understand, to find in my own way, that these could not be given names, or positions, like placemats on a table. They were continuous self-absorbing and self-regurgitating works. A contingent mass of colour and feelings that vibrate into change whenever it pleases them. Never held back by the redundant concept of fixtures or solid objects in the physique of the piece of art. These living evolving organisms changed according to the mood of the spectator. To the casual observer they may be the type of paintings that "bristles in the highlight of the afternoon sun", or that sing "lamentful tunes in the darkening evening light", or any other lame cliché of the day. To the pensive spectator, however, these were not objects or moods or feelings that could be named. Pointed at, or declaimed. No. These paintings belonged to a realm that if you looked closely enough and proffered some self-introspection you would have guessed yourself in them ! And it is this interaction of looking at yourself, introspectively, in that strange way with each of Joćo Carlos Abreu's paintings that makes you jolt. This is the talent of a great artist. To shock you from your diurnal routine, and to mesmerise you to look at those things inside of you mirrored in the colours before you.
To show you ultimately that the artist is just like you. Or that you are just like him.