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Sunday, 23 Feb 2020

TUNGA: Antônio José de Barros Carvalho e Mello Mourão, Brazil

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94rf4Sidestepping canvas and easel, in their place utilizing different objects, Tunga is one of the most important Brazilian artists of recent decades in view of his interesting, audacious artworks that opened a new way of art perception.

The French poet and essayist Paul Valéry wrote in 1932 that there are two categories of artists: “On one hand, there are those who in the vein of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot, aim to associate us to their happy image of a beautiful day; on the other hand, those like Delacroix, Wagner or Baudelaire and others intend to use their means to elicit a more vigorous action on our senses, to subdue our souls by sensory means, to reach and hold that weak and hidden spot of every human being, and to utterly govern and deviate our organic depth and core.”

94rf7With regard to these reference points, the Brazilian artist Tunga undoubtedly belongs to the second category of artists who by means of their creations incite to go beyond visuality, to break down conventions and arouse consciences.  In fact, their artworks are part of a conceptual ambit that merges nature and culture, enhancing breaches and junctions between life and art by means of assorted materials in order to achieve physical realities that generate astonishment and perplexity.

Tunga and also Brazilian-born Cildo Meireles are the most important plastic artists of these latter decades.  Their interesting creations have opened Latin America to a new approach to art perception, by sidestepping canvas and easel they make use use of different objects whose only interrelationship is an idea and a purpose to be materialized.  According to art critic João Mourua ''the artist’s function is to challenge and even to destroy certain relationships, such as the use value and the trading value of a merchandise, geographic borderlines, art history and history as such, and to proceed like this inverting a meaning in order to present an alternative construance.”94rf5


This is how in his works he combines sculptures, photographies, movies, music and videos, based on diverse materials, especially iron, wire and glass.  His artworks are actual brainstorms, outbursts of colors, solid and liquid objects, connections and segments of diverse textures.   He also uses magnets to create highly seductive atmospheres.  Literature, history, art, attraction and duality are some of his recurrent themes.  One example of his production is Siamese Capillary Twins (Siameses Capilarios),(1989) where male siamese twins are conjoined by their hair.


Tunga is the assumed name of Antônio José de Barros Carvalho e Mello Mourão, born in 1952 in Parnambuco, Brazil.  In 1974 he enrolled in the Faculty of Architecture of the Universidade Santa Úrsula. He emerged as an artist who expressed himself in a different language, when at his first individual exhibition at the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Modern Art his combination of genres and disciplines stirred up commotion in view of the audacity and energy of his proposals.



Sculpture for Tunga is a combination of forms and enigmatic figures, whose unconventionality and fabulous proportions intrigue spectators and disturb their deep-rooted perception. He also says that his art is part of a normal process of modern art, which in Brazil grew vigorously at the hand of Flávio de Carvalho, Oswald de Andrade, Heitor Villa-Lobos and Glauber Rocha, as well as of two of his nearest referents: Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark.



Tunga considers that each word in itself is a fruitful ground for approximation, and in consequence, poetry is the fountain of the arts and contemporary art created the groundwork and the possibility of physically bridging the gap between reality and fiction, between what is sensory and what is oniric.  He also averred that his work is impregnated by certain erotic hues, a concept he adopted from Duchamp as well as the idea that Eros is life. ''This pervades all my works”, he said according to the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal a couple of years ago at the exhibition of his production at the Alejandro Otero Museum of Caracas.



His complex and creative language has transformed him into one of the most international artists of his country, as a result of the number of exhibitions of his artworks in Italy, Japan,  France, Germany, England, Portugal, the United States, Ecuador, Venezuela, Cuba and other countries. He also has been awarded a numerous prizes and recognitions, as for instance the Medaille de Chevallier des Arts et des Lettres, one of the most important decorations awarded by the French government.

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