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Macho Toys - A talk with Fábio Carvalho

Fábio Carvalho is a brazilian artist (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) that has participated of major mapping projects of emerging art production in Brazil in the 1990’s, when he began his career. Fábio Carvalho has already held 11 solo exhibitions and joined over 110 group exhibitions throughout Brazil and around the world. He has over 60 works in public and private collections. He is now in Portugal, invited by Vista Alegre Porcelain Factory, in an artistic residency, and has also been to Lisbon to the opening of a group exhibition, at Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, with his piece titled “Floreiro Archeiro”, part of the “Bordallianos of Brazil” project where 20 of the most important brazilian artists were invited to create a conceptual art piece based on the work of the Portuguese artist Bordallo Pinheiro, an emblematic personality of the portuguese cultural and political scene of the nineteenth century. Through his work, Fábio Carvalho brings up a discussion on gender stereotype. He question the common sense idea that strength and fragility, virility and poetry, masculinity and vulnerability can’t go side by side.

Link Entrevista

How living at Rio de Janeiro has inspired your work?
Rio is a very cosmopolitan city, and a very colourful and stimulating environment. Nevertheless, as a latin and catholic country, Brazil (and Rio de Janeiro is not an exception), is a very chauvinistic and gender biased country. Everybody thinks that can judge of what a boy/men or a girl/woman can or cannot do when it comes to clothes, play, behaviour, likes and so forth. On the other hand, we face a serious problem of urban violence. I think that all of this is reflected on my work.

What is your creative process like?
The most chaotic you can imagine! There’s no rule whatsoever of how a new work can be born. And there’s no working routine, I work when I feel that I need to. But even when I’m not actually working, I’ll always thinking about it in the back of my mind, and anytime, anywhere, something that I see, read or come across can be the starting point of a new piece.

In your series “Go ‘appily flyin’, on a bird’s beak” you use some Portuguese references, how they came across your work?
When I’ve been to Portugal in 2011 to create my piece on Bordallo Pinheiro’s work, I’ve came across with the portuguese embroidery “lenços de namorados” (sweetheart handkerchiefs). It’s so endearing and enticing, so naively feminine, that I’ve decided to incorporate its imagery and delicate poetry to my work’s discourse.

Do you believe that in the future the bounds between gender will be extinct?
No, I don’t think so. It’s part of what we are as a culture and as a society, but I hope that at least people will be allowed to choose whatever they want to represent them as individuals, without being criticized by the others. I hope that one day if a boy wants to play with dolls, or grow flowers, or a girl wants to play with trucks or be a fire fighter, it would be ok to everybody, without fingers pointing, humiliation and mockery.

As you look over your current group exhibition “Bordallianos of Brazil”, how do you feel about your own work?
I feel that my piece pays homage to Bordallo Pinheiro, his work and the universe that he created, and at the same time, is something that completely relates to my whole work. If someone isn’t aware about Bordallo’s work, the piece stands on its own. It’s Bordallo Pinheiro and Fabio Carvalho at once, as one.

What’s the coolest art tip you’ve ever received?
Always edit your ideas, so you have only one strong subject in one given piece, and not a clutter of ideas. If you have two or more good ideas, make two or more pieces, and be sure that they are all clear and straightforward, but at the same time, powerful and subjective enough to be open to a wide range of interpretation.