To interpret what it means to be a traveller – in present day terms – is a multifaceted exercise, put in the spotlight even further by the geography and culture that define the point of departure and that of arrival. Human “latitude” is what you find between the distance travelled from the beginning to the end. For many, it’s an agent provocateur that creates a field of artistic and intellectual experimentation where the force of innocuous space takes us to all sorts of exchanges and the construction of new concepts.
Moving countries is another form of becoming a traveller – creating a myriad of new sensations where one sees the nation from a distance, and seeks other ways of living in a situation of permanence.
Whatever the situation, we have the current human condition, in a global, globalising society, where both human and territorial frontiers appear, in many cases, to have dissolved altogether.
The artist, as a traveller and man displaced – has a dual perspective. Some develop their artistic careers by living here and there, in foreign parts; others construct international relations – making one place the axis of their journey, and using “nomadism” as a form of existence. This is where we find António Alonso. His permanent journey has not yet finished. It is constant – geographical, social and human; consolidated by his work.
The artist sees himself as a “Portuguese born in Angola, not an Angolan who lives in Portugal”. It’s a politically sensitive position. With Angola, we’re talking of a country with a recent colonial past and consequences that are still raw. For anyone who knows Alonso, it’s an experience that overcomes all contradictions and creates a dialogue with his relationship with Africa. In Africa, the influences that coloured his life were nurtured – creating the building blocks of his artistic journey.
The works of António Alonso are strong with explosive colour, filled with forms and rhythms that have come from the experiences of his personal journey. He lives through it all like an African artist – not taking us through any intellectual discourse, because that’s not his way. His world is ruled by other doubts, and other certainties. Alonso accepts that he lived his childhood on another continent, and that this past has left its mark on his creative process – allowing him to release his colours of Africa, just like the “moamba” he serves up at home every now and then!
In one of the meetings that preceded the construction of this exhibition, Alonso explained: “this (exhibition) presents different forms of sensations and visualisations from a planisphere created more or less by chance…” It was by the force of this “chance” that he travelled to Latin America, Cape Verde, Japan and New York.
In these places, he experienced a world of emotions – rediscovering his roots: mangoes and avocadoes don’t just exist in Angola! His passage through the tropics was, in a way, a new encounter with Africa – influencing the creation of a series of paintings that are the backbone of the first part of this exhibition.
Descending the river, in his picture Amazonas, the waves vibrate within the spatial constraints of the surface available. This leads us to other geometries – to the vibrations of Trópicos de Capricórnio: a series of paintings that come from his travels through Latin America and which marry the horizontal with the longitudinal, uniting opposites and playing with themes closing in on Africa.
In Cape Verde, in a Creole environment, António Alonso spent time living with «Os Rabelados». With the same intensity that this artistic community embraced him, he went on to develop the nucleus of works made out of recycled objects that he “transformed”. In Lavadeiras pintadas (Painted washing machines) and Máscaras de Lata (Masks made of Tin) he shows some of the faces of his Africa.
Another series is dedicated to his recent passage through New York – a city like other large centres where so many activities are played out on different levels in a metropolis “on the move” that never sleeps – another form of jungle, peppered with huge buildings and wide windows. It’s a landscape that lent itself to a series of paintings where Alonso mixed many artistic languages – even bringing in the linear figures that he used at the beginning of his creative journey. Also in this series comes the intervention with city maps – charting symbology in the highways of an urban geography that he’s trying to unravel.
Moving on to a Nipponic universe, we see the harmony felt during his trip through Japan – taking in the large city of Tokyo, and discovering, with fascination, new artistic techniques and solutions. Between rice paper, paintbrushes that take him to new heights and metallic paint, he creates pictures that consume hours dedicated to the memories that remain after a journey.
For each journey works as a catalyst for his artistic energies – resulting in frenetic on-going production in a circular studio, which he built himself in the countryside just outside rural Barão de São João, a picturesque village not far from Lagos. It’s a village where, curiously, many travellers have chosen to stay. A point of multi-cultural contact, interpreted by the different nationalities that one finds during the social merry-go-round that plays out in public and private spaces within the village.
Alonso’s is an artistic life that has grown from a relaxed political position – but he’s not naïve. He chronicles the globality of his “microspace” – never forgetting the fact that his Africa has still to be resolved; is still a challenge – geographical and emotional.
And while he wrestles with that, other Africas appear among journeys, and travellers – just as one can see between the lines of this exhibition…
Journeys and Other Africas was an exhibition that took place in the Palácio da Galeria/Tavira in collaboration with “Laboratório de Actividades Criativas” (LAC) in Lagos. It’s the result of the work of an artist who, in the last few years, has produced a huge number of paintings influenced by his feelings and experiences while travelling.The works of António Alonso shows a …” force made up of explosive colour, forms and rhythms, aesthetically defined by the experiences that influence his artistic decision making”. The artist also considers that having lived his childhood in another continent influenced his creative process and sowed the seeds for the colours he uses in his various Africas.
originally published here