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Then and Now - Nunca's Artistic Journeys

Words:

Edd Norval
March 27, 2018

Equally as informed by the past as the present, Brazilian artist Nunca (Never) juxtaposes the societal and cultural signifiers of the contemporary Brazil that he inhabits, as well as the historical and tribal heritage that informs everything that has come since.

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His images utilise earthy colours to pay homage to his homeland's wealth of nature. Vast areas of woodland and forests dominate the Brazilian landscape and act as home to many indigenous people. Over the past few decades, with our increasing consumption of goods like palm oil and paper, greed has encroached upon their lives - killing them or driving them out of the land that they used to call home. Some have tried to make their lives work by adapting to the harsh metropolises of Brazilian cities. It's this cultural clash that Nunca deftly captures.


Although simplistic, influenced by more esoteric and archaic forms of art such as woodcarvings and other tribal methods, the images portray very complex and disturbing messages. Contemporary Brazil has drugs, gangs and corruption. Everywhere does, but not like this.

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Nunca has been a name in the graffiti and street art world for some time. The evolution of his work has been clear. Haunted by the ghosts of his ancestors, it would be wrong to see his work just as progress - it's as much about become more acute and articulate, getting to the bottom of what makes someone Brazilian.


Being such a huge, multicultural country with roots in many disparate civilisations, Brazil struggles to define its true essence. Yes, there are people, there's football, there's feijoada, but these are only components of a deeply complex identity.


An anthropologist of the streets, Nunca preserves the memories of his country's forefathers by depicting them on walls. The Brazil of today is being confronted with his images - he's telling the people not to forget, not to take their culture for granted and to follow his example of digging deeper and finding out who you really are.

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Beginning as sketches, his work is often created on a large scale, manifesting predominantly in muralism. This transfer from page to the wall allows him space for artistic improvisation and a chance to feed off of the energy of the environment.


That energy is often transformed into an outwards force via the expressions and postures of his characters. To Nunca, we are in a new world, everything is moving forwards and quickly. We are fully-equipped and ready, although we don't really know where we're going. The tribal figures, with stretched ears, adorned with ancient jewellery and eye-catchingly proportioned skeletons, glare at us with eyes that seem to follow us wherever we go. They seem to be telling us that we are all guilty.


The contradictions that he spots in everyday life comes through in his art. In many ways, the art has a satirical nature, although the ire is aimed at society and its apparent hypocrisies. From his beginnings in street art he has spent his career examining ways of life that are all but gone, a gatekeeper of lost souls and a storyteller of former cultures. He has a transient role in art, one that in 100 years will be taken up by someone else, but instead of ancient civilisations, they'll be depicting us. He's the lone torchbearer of his countries troubled past - to forget it, or him, would be at their peril.

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