Plastic Artist, Teacher and WOU Partner.
Born in Coimbra in 1976, he graduated in painting at ARCA at the age of 24.
From 2008 onwards he dedicates himself exclusively to painting and to his Nuno Fonseca Atelier studio.
In 2012, he finished his master's degree in Aesthetic Communication at the same University with the theme “In Art, painting and the living plant”.
From 2000 onwards he has had several exhibitions all over the country and abroad and has received awards throughout his career as a visual artist.
WOU: When did you find out you wanted to be a painter?
Nuno Fonseca: I have an idea of being very young and always having that desire. I didn't know I wanted to be a painter or an artist, but I knew I always wanted to do that: create, paint. I remember doing things with colored pencils and markers, but I also remember going to the garden to dig in the dirt to make sculptures. As I didn't have clay or plasticine, I took what I had in front of me to make things. I also remember the first oil painting, around the age of 10 and by chance I had heard about oil painting, I imagined it would be with kitchen oil with pigments. (Laughter) So I took some pigments that I had from my grandfather, mixed it with kitchen oil, and painted it. It was a weird thing but it was my first attempt with oil.
Later, in high school, I started to realize that this area existed and the possibility of becoming an artist, or a painter in my case, and I went there. In fact, there was no one in the family.
It was a lot for self-discovery, for what you were developing on your own.
Yes, maybe because when I was young I was a very shy person and it was a way for me to express myself, because I didn't express myself very well in words, I was always afraid because of personality.
WOU: Was it an art you made for yourself or did you like to show it to others?
I'm not sure. I know I felt good when people praised me. When they said “Oh, how beautiful!”, it made me feel good. That idea that we have that “Ah, the person is very good”, I think that these compliments at an early age, a kind of little ego pats for children, make them invest more of their time in this area, ending up becoming develop more. I liked people to praise me, but I have no idea I didn't do it for people to like it. I wanted to understand that, somehow create something I didn't quite know what and manipulate materials, papers and inks. I wasn't a boy to paint things very neatly. Although, now that I am older, I have been doing a little more figurative work, as a kid, I really liked abstraction.
WOU: How is the life of an artist, as a profession? What are the difficulties and advantages?
The advantages, I think, are doing something you like. Nobody is dedicated to a career as an artist if it's not something they really enjoy. It really has to be what's inside you, what you're thinking every hour, every minute – that's an advantage. The downside is that, in general, it is not a very stable and well-paid career within a standard. Obviously there are artists who get more recognition, others with less recognition. Many times it is also not just for their work but for a whole machine that can be around and helps with that, and not all artists have this machine or this ability to have the machine. This is a handicap that I see a lot in art courses, is that we leave there without being prepared for the world, for the job market. The artist is seen as that person who is not commercial and who is outside the world of normal commercial procedures.
In truth we create things to be sold, to be bought. And when I talk about knowing how to sell our work, it's not painting to sell but knowing how, where, who is our target audience, who is looking for what I do, who likes it, etc.
In that aspect I think it is difficult, because of that thing that everyone says, that there is little support. I don't know if it's just a little bit or if we really are too many and a lot of support was needed. Or if, in this case, the support was more like that commonplace of “instead of giving us the fish, give us the rod and teach us how to fish.” I think it was there, we realized how we can make a living from art – the commercial side of what it is to be an artist. I consider that it is also important and there is a lot of modesty, even on the part of the artists, in relation to this side. When you talk about being commercial and being an artist, it's almost like a heresy, and I think that's a handicap that happens.
“The meaning of these symbols…if I tell you I will have to kill you.”
WOU: Whoever looks at your paintings there is a figurative element that you almost feel like touching. What do you intend to convey with these symbols?
The meaning of these symbols…if I tell you later I will have to kill you. (laughter)
Sometimes, they are elements that help to catch the eye of the observer, help to open a narrative or to place the observer in the ideal place, intellectually, to observe my works. For example, this “N” that is here in this picture (Image 2), was a series made up of 12 works, 12 chapters, in which each chapter began with a letter. It's funny that the chapter started at chapter “N” and ended at chapter “M”. That is, it did not follow an alphabetical order and did not include all the letters. It started with the “N” because, not being a self-portrait but being me as a model, it was the one that started the chapter with the “N” of my name “Nuno”.
These figures that appear from the little pieces of paper and sheets of paper have a very simple meaning, which is that idea of the messages that remain unsaid, of everything that remains to be said.
That's why they often appear blank. White papers appear only glued together and that's everything we wanted to say and don't say. But in any case, regardless of whether I want to use figurative elements, I never compromise the entire aesthetic construction of the work by the elements. Many times I summon elements that may not even bring a direct meaning but that only help the aesthetic side of the work. For example, the cloud (lower left corner of the frame) that is held by a ribbon or branch of the tree that passes through the drawing. Sometimes they end up bringing a different meaning from what I was expecting into the work, and I end up absorbing and accepting it. In painting I work a lot through dialogue, I don't have an initial project where I make a drawing and say “I'm going to paint this like this”. Normally, I dialogue with the support, prepare the support, see what is happening and from there it starts to be born. There may be an idea, a theme, but what will appear on that screen will depend a lot on the dialogue I will have with the support itself. Therefore, there are elements that do have some meaning, and there are others that are because aesthetically I need them and then I evolve the theme from there.
“I paint to exorcise my demons.”
WOU: What inspires you the most to paint?
What really inspires me are the people and the support itself (screen). I will always seek a lot of inspiration in the human being, in the relationship between people, in walking on the street, in the way people move and think. Sometimes even in what people write on social networks, the different realities. Society itself, in the things that happen and shock me. And then, very, very much the dialogue with the work – it's an essay. I paint to exorcise my demons. I end up being there talking to myself and the support, trying to resolve issues and thinking about how things happen in a therapeutic way.
I remember in this series of works, some of them addressing personal questions, for example: “why did that happen?”, “why did I feel that way?”, “why does that person feel that way?”. I am inspired by this imaginary conversation or by remembering those situations, and I will seek elements, denser and less dense atmospheres to envelop the work. But I can never free myself from the aesthetic side. This does not mean that the aesthetic side is pleasant for everyone, sometimes they can even be quite dense and dark works.
WOU: How would you define your way of painting in percentages: 50% intuitive, 50% rational?
I would say it's about 90% rational and 10% intuitive, in the sense that I like to control everything. Even the spontaneities that happen, like the drained ones, I let them happen but they will only live, so to speak, if I assume that and if I think it's really what I want. I'm not an automatic painter, who grabs, paints, makes… and that's how it goes. I go looking, I don't have an initial project, but I'm in real time, in fractions of a second right after the gesture, analyzing what's happening and controlling it. So I would say how much more rational I am than intuitive. Although there is a lot that seems to be intuition, it's actually just letting it flow, letting myself be in a free way painting or analyzing things so that my rationality, the one I don't control, doesn't overlap. But I think I'm much more rational in that aspect. In painting, I can consider this because I don't let a drip, a stain, a brushstroke pass without being inspected – “that's how I want it and that's how I'm going to let it stay”.
WOU: Three objects you can't dispense living with.
Brushes, support and paints.
I was happier without a cell phone and computer than without painting.
WOU: If you could travel back in time and spend time with an artist, which one would you choose?
I think I would choose Rothko. (...)
WOU: Where would you like to see your paintings on display?
At the Guggenheim in Bilbao or at the Palace of Versailles. (...)
WOU: What do you need to paint?
It's funny, because I've been thinking about it a lot. I'm increasingly feeling the appeal of transforming myself, of purifying the things I do as much as possible and starting to take the figuration away and be more and more abstract. Although on my journey it has begun
I did with abstraction, even before joining the course I already liked abstraction, in the first years of the degree it was also very abstraction and only later I moved to figuration. Now I feel again the appeal to become just abstract, just paint, just color, without this idea of the figure that somehow excuses or distracts the observed. I think I need to go there, I need to explore. Of course it's nothing that hasn't been done, but for me, I think that's where I needed to go again.
WOU: What advice can you give anyone who wants to be a painter?
If you want to be a painter or an artist, my advice is not to get carried away by the idea that you can't be commercial and that being commercial is bad. Not exactly being commercial but that selling is bad. It does not mean that the person is a “commercialoid” and that he paints to sell and is not authentic, but it is necessary to free himself from this prejudice that still exists a lot and realize that: “Okay, I am an artist, I like to do what I do and I do it in an authentic and honest way. Who am I going to show this to and how can I make money from it? The more money I earn, the more I can invest in my own career and the more I evolve.”
Who paints just to paint, to spend a good time, the advice I give is to come learn with me. (laughs) Come to the studio because you spend a lot of time here and we are fine, we dismantle a series of questions, even for those who want to be an artist.
Above all, it is not being afraid and grasping, doing, seeking and releasing. be authentic. “If this is what I want anyway, this is how I do it. But if I want to do something different and I can't do it, ask for help to get it done, learn. Sometimes it happens that we do things in a certain way, but it is because we can't do them as we would like and we don't have the courage or strength to go and learn. There's no harm in not being able to do it and you should dismantle this idea that you have to be born with a knack. Just want to do, paint, create anything – “If I know how to create, I will create and learn from me. If I feel like I have to learn from someone, I will learn from someone without fear and without shame.”
The advice I give is for people to free themselves from this idea that they were born without a “way” and cannot learn or be happy in the arts.
You can also find other works by the artist Nuno Fonseca .