Over the last 3 months in Lisbon, Portugal I've been very fortunate to spend time with local Carcavelos artist, surfer and all round great guy Mário Belém. Mario was gracious in hosting us on a guided art tour with Stephanie Gilmore 6 weeks back and since then we have enjoyed some very good times together exploring the nights of Lisbon and the surf of Portugal. Mario is a prolific street artist in Lisbon and is becoming renowned for his dynamic depictions of societies contradictory messages with his typical cheeky humour.
I interviewed Mario this week about his new solo show "Conto Interrompido" to be presented at the Underdogs Gallery in Lisbon from 30 November 2017 - 13 January 2018
About "Conto Interrompido"
A solo exhibition of confusing, complicated, contradictory, ambiguous messages.
We're all supposed to speak more or less the same language yet sometimes we understand bugger all nothing of what the other person is saying. In his first solo exhibition at Underdogs, Mário Belém presents an ensemble of works that invite the viewer to reflect – in an amusing way, free of any crap pretentiousness – on one of the greatest paradoxes of the present reality: communication breakdowns in a world where information reigns supreme yet suffers from its own excess. Clearly playing with the confusion, the complications, the contradictions, and the ambiguity which we frequently come across in face of the visual and oral discourse – of both individuals and formal systems of communication – that surrounds us in our day-to-day, the artist showcases here an entirely new body of work composed of an array of visual narratives materialised in pieces of various dimensions that are somewhat halfway between painting and sculpture in wood, a medium which he has been favouring in his recent artistic practice.
*The title plays with the similarity between the Portuguese words “conto” (tale; story) and “coito” (coitus). “Interrompido” means interrupted in English. It is therefore a play on both Interrupted Tale and Coitus Interruptus.
Hi Mario, how would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Can you define your art style, please?
I am first and foremost an illustrator. Painting, sculpture, muralism all come as a consequence of that.
What is your preferred form of communication?
Drawing, an image can convey so many ideas in a nutshell.
Where is home and what does it mean for you?
Home is where it all begins. I'm very very veeeeery grateful for my house, my garden and my farty old dog in calm Carcavelos!
What did you eat for breakfast?
Fruit and granola with some yoghurt
What defines the spirit of adventure for you?
Putting yourself consciously out of your comfort zone.
How did you first become a recognized street artist in Lisbon, Portugal?
Still working on that one :)
Again - hard work is the key
Lisbon has embraced the street art scene. When and how did this happen?
Lisbon has two great things going for it’s street art scene - good weather most of the year and a lot of grey walls.
In Lisbon city hall, as well as in some of the neighbouring city halls, there is a department for street art. They are active in several areas. For example each year they organize a high impact event which takes place in a different social neighbourhood in the immediate suburbs of the city. 20 to 50 Artists from Portugal and abroad are paid to come and paint large murals there. This has already had some editions and the results are immediate, not only do these neighbourhoods become more colourful, but there starts to be an extra dimension of visitors and even tourism, mostly people become proud of their neighbourhood again.
Besides that this city hall dept (They’re called GAU - Galeria de Arte Urbana) help artists to paint large murals all over the city, mostly with the permits (which are insanely difficult to handle) and with the support of lifts etc.
What or who are your 3 favourite street art pieces or artists within Lisbon?
Crossroads by Sainer from Etam Cru in Areeiro
The untitled shrine by Calma in Mouraria
The big portrait by Vhils in Alcantara near the station
Your show “Conto Interrompido” commencing this week at the Underdogs Gallery in Lisbon is inspired by?
The whole show is about our growing inability to communicate in the age of excessive communication.
This show includes a lot of sculptures in wood with your painting. What is the dominant theme of the visual narrative within this collection?
How we stopped reading whats right in front of us, and most interestingly how we interpret whats right in front of us in the way that most suits us.
How often do you showcase your work in a gallery?
I've been doing a solo exhibition every year.
What do you love about showcasing your art on the street as opposed to a gallery and vice versa?
Street - I try to always leave positive messages when I paint on the street… people already have too much shit to deal with.
The best thing about painting on the street is the scale, you can do extra-extra-large versions of your work.
Gallery work allows you to be much more intimate, you can express yourself in much more twisted ways.
I also love the process of imagining and building physical pieces that pop out of the wall.
Where is Mario’s next travel adventure destination?
I would love to go back to South East Asia.
And I definitely want to work on an extended mural project here throughout Portugal next year.
Thanks, Mario. We look forward to enjoying your show for many years to come.
Rua Fernando Palha, Armazém 56 – Lisbon, Portugal
Opening reception with the artist: Thursday, 30 November 2017, 7pm – 10pm
Exhibition open from 30 November to 13 January
The gallery will be closed from 24 December to 1 January.
Gallery opening hours:
Tuesday to Saturday, from 2pm to 8pm
Press and sales enquiries: email@example.com —
About the artist:
Mário Belém (1977) worked as a digital illustrator and graphic designer for several years, yet the desire to get his hands dirty with paint again and focus on his artwork proved stronger. Today he works with equal skill on both the small- scale pieces he creates in the studio and on the large-scale murals that have earned him a leading role in the burgeoning Portuguese urban art scene. Over the last few years he has been solidifying a distinctively personal language – colourful and playful – where he frequently juxtaposes images and words, composing visual narratives of a magical nature that are rooted in a balance between the familiar and the unusual and that explore various subjects inherent to communication, popular culture and the present human condition. Working mainly the medium of painting on wood in compositions of a sculptural nature, he has been presenting his oeuvre in both the public space and in solo and group exhibitions.
Underdogs is a cultural platform based in Lisbon, Portugal that aims at creating space within the contemporary art scene for artists connected with the new languages of urban-inspired graphic and visual culture, fostering the establishment of partnerships and collaborative efforts between creators, cultural agents, exhibition venues and the city, contributing to establish a close relationship between these and the public. The Underdogs project rests on three complementary areas: a gallery; a public art programme; and the production of original and affordable artist editions.