Finok, the São Paulo native artist, is reinterpreting Brazil's tribal past by utilising the country's historic visual languages and belief systems to construct his own personal narrative interpretation of what it means to be Brazilian.
Finok, or real name Raphael Sagarra, draws on a historical scale of images ranging from the old tribal customs of his country's ancestors up to more recent, personal memories like his childhood. One thing he remembers of his youth, something that was fun at the time, but that ended up a highly symbolic image in his art, was kites. Flying them as a kid was, along with football, one of the few things that he could remember most of his peers enjoying.
Despite the activity seeming benign, his adult perspective has restructured his perspective of the kite and its place in his formative years. They were light, free and fun, often decorated with bright colours and patterns. Yet, there was a side to their games that emerged slowly in his conscience as he grew older.
He remembered the good days, but also remembered other people in his neighbourhood rubbing the kite strings with milled glass as a way to erode the strings of other kites, unwilling to share the sky with them - it was an airborne battle for skyward supremacy. It also left a lasting mark. The regular motif of a kite in his work isn't as innocent as first appearances would show. Finok states, "it’s different from playing soccer, where the loser of the game can in 5 minutes keep on playing. But with kite flying, if I cut your kite down, you lose the kite, you don’t have anything to play with any more. Game over. It’s a preparation for what comes in your adult life.”
The folkloric characters stem from Brazil's indigenous people. Finok began painting in the VLOK crew with Os Gemeos and Nunca, two artists that share a lot of common ground. Between the three of them, their evocative styles have created a contemporary portal into Brazil's past. Artists in Brazil traditionally chose one colour to represent them, especially in early tagging. Finok's was green and its his prominent use of this colour that most distinguishes him from his former crew members.
Considering the themes of his works, the murals are often interactions with his environment and the people of the city. The social conditions predicate how the work will turn out. It's a reactionary process that works alongside his surroundings. The colours, characters and tone changes from place to place. This is the beauty of working on the street, especially with this thought-process. Finok is very sure when distinguishing his work between outdoor and the gallery - it's not only the methodology that changes.
In his gallery work, rather than observations, he takes a more in-depth look at Brazil's complex and intricate cultural tapestry. With more time, for both himself and the audience to interpret the works, he can work towards examining life, offering his own insights and heading towards some conclusions.
The richness of Brazilian life, for Finok, is the mix. This goes beyond the simple mixtures of cultures and ethnicities, but the way the country has adopted these mixtures and used them to reimagine and reinvent their cultural identity. To be Brazilian isn't to come from one place with one idea, but to encompass many. It was growing up around people and understanding their customs and behaviours that was a formative influence, just as much as the art he consumed as a child.
Although graffiti and outdoor remain integral to his outlook and process, the time in between walls, more reflective moments spent drawing in books in waiting rooms, bedrooms and stations find their way onto canvas. It wasn't a progression as much as two symbiotic parts of the same artistic curiosity.
It's through Finok's eyes, as one of the most prominent artists in Brazil, that we can see the country's past, but more importantly, how integral that past is in shaping the present. Once the present is accurately perceived, then the only place is the future and the likelihood is that it will be a brighter one.
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