Portraits of Time
“Friction” by André Carrilho at Abysmo Gallery, in Lisbon
Artist André Carrilho recently inaugurated the exhibition “Friction” at Abysmo Gallery, in Lisbon, including images from his time in Macau
The impulse to illustrate never leaves artist and illustrator André Carrilho, be it from home where he gives life to many famous names from the world of politics and art, in the works that he regularly publishes in the press, or when he travels, drawing in his sketchbook, which he describes as “a photograph with an hour long exposure” where moving elements give way to static ones, fixed in the works of the artist.
Carrilho is presenting more than a hundred drawings in Abysmo Gallery, in the centre of the Portuguese capital, with the exhibition “Friction”, which follows “Inertia”, presented earlier in Macau. The territory again works its way into the geographies of the artist, who describes it as one of the places that he most likes to draw. The works of André Carrilho will also be consolidated into a book and published next month by Abysmo publishing house, alongside diary-style texts signed by the author himself.
What locations are in these travel drawings?
André Carrilho - I always pass through Macau and Hong Kong, they are obligatory places and the ones that give me the most pleasure to draw. Then I also went to New York, Paris, and London. In Portugal, there is Porto, Viseu, Óbidos and also International Douro National Park, which is where I usually spend holidays.
What is there about Macau and Hong Kong in this exhibition?
I had not drawn Hong Kong in the other book, because this is the continuation of a work that has already been exhibited in Macau, in the “Inertia” show. I had not drawn the city and now I went to draw those grids of buildings, with impossibly tall windows, neons, and things like that. From Macau we have Casino Lisboa, the bridge to Taipa ... This time I spent more time focusing on the nocturnal [moments].
Are all your travel drawings completely hand-drawn?
Everything. It’s practically the opposite of what I do for the press: I draw very few people and draw everything by hand. Everything is done on site, there is no prior sketch, nothing. Everything in the drawing is what I drew then and there. And there is no post-work either: it’s all done in an hour, an hour and a half, on the spot.
There is an important question of immediacy in these works, which also makes them quite different from what you do for newspapers and magazines.
Yes, it is as if these drawings were a photograph with an hour-long exposure, when everything that is in motion is harder to capture and I capture what is static. They are also like portraits of the time that I spend in a place.
To what extent does the place where you draw affect your style?
It has a little effect on the colour and the way I draw. For example, when I went to Ribeira do Porto I drew a bit differently, because there was so much to draw, I had to be more expressive. Sometimes I am very cautious when drawing, I make everything very tidy, other times I am totally expressive and I throw some ink around, looking for an impression.
Do elements usually grab your attention and inspire you to draw them or do you go to a place with an idea of what you want to draw?
I always have to see the place. I often walk around the locations for a day or two until I decide what to draw. As I spend at least an hour there, that hour is valuable. I can’t spend an hour in a place where I’m not sure of what I want to draw or find out that around the next corner was something more interesting. I have to first see how I relate to the place and choose the best spots to draw.
When you sit down to draw, do you know if that drawing is going to be fast or take longer?
Sometimes I think it’s going to take a little time and it takes a long time. Other times it’s the other way round, so I never know [laughs]. Another unique thing in this exhibition is that it marks the end of my travels. I got married, I had two children over two years, and my use of drawing as I travelled, to memorize and spend time with those moments, changed. That focus shifted to my children.
There is a great presence of your children in this exhibition.
Yes, this room where we are in is dedicated to the family, the births, the pregnancies. The drawings highlight my focus on moving from [worldly] geography to emotional geography.
This exhibition will also give rise to a book, correct?
Yes, it will be called “Friction, like the exhibition. “Inertia” was the tendency for bodies to remain as they are. When I was in Lisbon, I tended to stay in Lisbon. When I was travelling, I had a tendency to continue travelling and not to return to Lisbon. “Friction” opposes “inertia”, an external force that forces you to move from one state to the other and which has forced me to stop travelling. In this case, the cause was the family.