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Francisco Vidal - Faces In Amongst

Words:

Edd Norval
February 12, 2021

Francisco Vidal’s art is both representation and celebration. Born in Lisbon, the artist divides his time between the Portuguese capital and Luana, Angola. The faces we see in his paintings are those he sees daily. They’re people that are either portrait or composite of his life in Europe and Africa.

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Depicting fairly standard figures, in a raw and expressionistic style, the artist’s works are imbued with social and political connotations. Where the faces clash and contrast with his vivid backgrounds, Vidal still manages to keep the person as the focal point. 


A graduate of one of the world’s most reputable universities and having exhibited at the Angola's pavillion for the 56th Venice Bienalle, Vidal’s work marries both high-culture and the everyday. Parallels can be drawn with various abstract expressionist painters - particularly the culturally inflected works of Jean-Michel Basquiat. However, the Portuguese artist has managed to forge his own unique language of layered and intricate compositions. 


Developed throughout his career in art, Vidal’s most recent works highlight that the artist is evolving in a special way, moving from strength-to-strength. Not one to rest on his laurels, the pieces continue to become leaner - their messages clearer, the colours display a more impressive mastery and essentially, the overall impact seems closer to the artist’s intention.

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Commenting on issues as varied as colonialism, a reflection of his life spent between Angola and Portugal and popular culture, of which America - where the artist was educated - is undoubtedly king, induces a sort of cognitive dissonance within viewings. The evocative backgrounds, looking like an adverting poster or billboard, jar with the characters who are presented with no pomp or airs. 


Although Vidal has confronted the bloody Angolan war for independence, a sense of justice or righteousness aren’t present in his work. He isn’t dwelling in the past, but looking to the future. He’s celebrating what people are and, perhaps even more importantly, what they can become. This doesn’t mean the struggles people face are ignored though.


Just as the characters are the focal points in many of his works, they’re still painted vaguely, blending into the background as if a physical manifestation of the experience of alienation and loneliness. These are people you’d normally walk past. Vidal wants you to stop and look.

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The experience of a neither-here-nor-there diaspora, never quite at home, yet always longing for it, are depicted, but again do not characterise his work. Instead, they're one subject that Vidal seeks to encapsulate. We see the faces, even empathise with them, but they’re not begging for our acknowledgement. They wear defiance proudly and, no matter how loud the background is that they’re set against, they’re quietly telling us: we are here. 

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