In the illustrations of Tomás de Castro Neves, bodies are entangled in one another, playing, embracing, grappling. It’s love and it’s war. It's complex physical relationships meted out in minimalist art.
Born and raised in Lisbon, by way of northern jewel Porto and Mexico, his sensibility is distinctly untinged by the national psyche. Sexually charged, his images are rarely overtly sexual, rather they’re subtle and passionate, a way for Neves to communicate the greatest oxymoron known to human life - the simplicity and complexity of love.
Expressing the complex theme in a simplistic manner is a smart way to go about striking at the heart of the matter, an approach that has done well for Neves. With hints of Cleon Peterson and ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, Neves incorporates a highly desirable aesthetic into his bold works.
With vague flashes of colour, Neves is able to add further flourishes of cerebral emotion to the already charged scenes, most of which centre around the themes of sexuality, sensuality and the physical incarnation of emotion itself.
His compositions tend to be central, drawing the viewer’s eye towards the centrepiece of his works which are a combination of hand drawn and digital renders. Neves seems fascinated with the theme of connection, whether with others or with oneself, a sense predicated on his use of repetition of characters - bodies becoming patterns.
Knowing his background allows us a clearer insight into his work. He isn’t trained as a painter, an illustrator, nor in art history, but in architecture. At its best, architecture is the most prominent and permanent display of material human endeavour. His departure to the immaterial - to senses and feelings rather than brick and mortar - is noteworthy.
Portugal has a rich architectural history, spanning various styles and centuries. Neves still works in the field, but has started carving a name for himself with his art. Considering his architectural education, it is fairly easy to see that the two aren’t entirely separate. The way his figures interlink, the repetition of form. It’s straight from the foundational principles of design.
Mostly male subjects, Neves explores primal and primitive depictions of man and masculinity. Shape, muscular structure, body hair. What defines masculinity in opposition to femininity? How can this be drawn back to its simplest forms? Neves is exploring himself, his world and the limits and opportunities of design in relation to this. What we have are his illustrations - simple, distinct, raw.
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