Sao Paulo-born artist Rodrigo Branco has agreed to answer a few questions to us and reveal more about his work, creative process, and the messages behind his enchanting images. This Rodrigo Branco interview offers a unique glimpse into the mind of the artistic force that Branco is and brings him closer to his admirers who can get to know the person behind his amazing works. Recently, the artist created 42 small canvases for the special edition of myFINBEC, which you can check out here. Branco is a person with a rich biography, and given that he is not even thirty years old, this statement becomes instantly more impressive. He has suffered, he has overcome his issues regarding health, he has created and envisioned the world and the people in it as a completely new universe, influenced by his childhood, and given the breath of life in his adult years. The Brazillian artist paints the faces that reveal as much as they hide, he gives shape to the life that flows through the streets of this vast world and the people that occupy it, he offers a personal and a visionary look at the people and elements we see every day, making them abstract and exceptional just by the touch of his brush.
Rodrigo Branco is a true artistic soul, and we couldn’t be happier that he has taken the time to answer our questions. So if you want to know more about this artist, and if you are ready to become inspired to do wonderful things, go ahead and read the new Rodrigo Branco interview with Widewalls.
Widewalls: You were raised in Sao Paulo, the city famous for the unique graffiti style Pixação. Did the fact that your hometown has its own native graffiti influence you more towards the incorporation of some elements of that style into your paintings or did it drive you in a completely new direction?
Rodrigo Branco: When I was a teenager I used to walk through my neighborhood and downtown São Paulo to see the buildings, the walls and the painted doors. The graffiti and the Pixação on these buildings were a magical experience. The dangerous way the “pixadores” artists climbed the buildings to write their political and aggressive messages inspired me. Walking through the city was like visiting a museum. During a short period, I had the tag “ROD” but those days of “pixo” didn't last very long. After that, I moved on to graffiti. Both pixação and graffiti were for me a cycle of research to find the human face.
WW: When you were a child, due to the vision impairment, you saw the world in a different way than the rest of your peers. How did this health issue inspire you later in life and how does it transfer to your art?
Branco: Everything happened in a natural and imperceptible way, everything was recorded in my memory to be edited later. My vision problem never inspired me, just made part of me. When I started to use glasses and visit a doctor from time to time, I started to understand about my childhood universe. When I was a child everything had more contrast, borders, mixed forms and had so much poetry in all of this. My work always had a strong relation with these childhood memories, I started to give new meaning to these memories and rediscover this universe. My work is the result of my childhood world and my experiences, and actual vision.
Ww: You are known for your street art, but for your works on movable surfaces as well. Do you prefer working on the canvas or the wall and why?
Branco: I like to work in both supports, the difference between them is not only the size but the environment around them and how this affects the creative process. In my atelier, it's just me, my research, and the music I like to listen to while I’m painting. On the other hand, when I’m painting a mural, I receive influences of the people passing by. While painting my last wall in Mexico City, the city's influence was really strong in the process. The faces and the local culture inspired me a lot. I made a portrait of a man who was passing near the wall, and an indigenous vase that I saw at the anthropological museum. I expressed in my wall my enchantment about the Mexican culture and the entire urban context I experienced there.
WW: The portraits of people you depict are magnificently colorful and carry a distinctive abstract feeling. What inspired you to paint them in this way?
Branco: Francis Bacon really inspired me, the first time I had a chance to see his work closer, his paintings touched me in a strong way. The expressionism movement it's a big influence also. The aesthetic of those influences has shown me a way where I added the colors of my culture and of my country.
WW: Speaking of portraits, some of them are of people with no eyes, in one of them a person is wearing sunglasses, and in some of them your subjects carry the sadness in their eyes. Can you elaborate a bit on this? Why are they sad?
Branco: The most curious to me is that sadness never existed in my work construction. Sadness was never a way to paint, if my portrait reflects sadness I don't know how to explain. I feel more like a deep regard. Around the eyes or no eyes in my paintings, I don't want to say something about blindness or any physic aspect, I want to express something more abstract. I started to abstract the faces of my characters; the eyes were just a small dark point or sometimes nothing. This reflects my thought about a personal feeling that I became a result of all relations and experiences I had. I started to imagine all those faces together in the same person. All those faces together became completely abstracted, but they are all there mixed. The portrait of the only boy with glasses was a guy from my neighborhood, Grajaú- southern São Paulo, whom I met when I lived there.
WW: It is very interesting that you use photos from the identity cards of your subjects as a basis for the portraits. Do these photographs carry a certain symbolism?
Branco: I like identity cards photos because we never feel comfortable to take this kind of photos. We have so much life and expressions in our face and when we going to take ID pictures we erase all of this in front of the camera.
WW: You choose to depict the people you know, your friends, neighbors, family members, and acquaintances. Does the fact that you personally know these people help you in your artistic process and how?
Branco: Once, a photographer friend of mine advised me to use people that I know as subjects for my art. Because of the natural and close relationship with people around me, the construction of my work became a lot simpler and fluid. Also as an exercise of seeing us through the look of people that are a part of our lives.
WW: Your art has been around the world, and you are known as not only a painter but a muralist as well. Where are you feeling most comfortable, in your home country Brazil, or somewhere else in the world if we are talking in terms of muralism? Do you think that street art and especially murals are appreciated enough in Brazil, and how does the situation there compare to the rest of the world?
Branco: I really enjoy traveling and discovering other cultures. My work provides me that experience, and I am very grateful. It’s also a pleasure for me to paint in Brazil, but we don’t have many mural projects here. This kind of project is recent; we have many buildings in São Paulo but they were more used for advertisements. That reality started to change when the government banned the advertisement in the streets of São Paulo and we have now a great mural festival called Obra Festival. This project aims to spread the culture in our city.
WW: In the end, can you reveal to our readers what is next for Rodrigo Branco? What are your plans for the future?
Branco: Nowadays I’m trying to construct my work in a different way, I’m learning other techniques to improve my work and also preparing my next exhibition. Always looking for a big wall to paint!
All images courtesy of myFINBEC.