Sorrir e Chorar, Patricia Armocida, 2015

Sorrir e Chorar (smile and cry), presents two sides of the same coin. Smiling doesn’t only represent happiness, crying doesn’t only represent sadness.  Human behavior hides duplicity and various meanings, often incoherent, based on what we want to convey and what we have always believed in. 

Finok places the subjects of his canvases into visually striking contexts, creating patterns with wood, often layering different planes, punctuating the surface. His works expand on elements from Brazilian folk culture, weaving them with his own personal vision. The geometric patterns and textures are reminiscent of Pipas and Baloes, traditional folk handiwork made by overlapping pieces of colored paper.

Pipas are handmade fighter kites whose strings are coated with glue and glass shards in order to cut down opponents’ kites. Behind what seems like an innocent game actually lurks a violent nature which turns into a battle for survival. 

The creative force and desire to go beyond one’s limits through style and dexterousness can also be found in Baloes, paper balloons propelled by fire. This activity, now illegal as it causes feuds and fires, masks a poetic aspect: enormous effort put into something so fleeting, waiting for a balloon to fly for a mere 10 minutes before it disappears into the sky. This tradition has religious origins from colonial times and celebrates saints whose feast days are in June.

A universe of beliefs and devotional customs, present in Brazilian religious syncretism, is expressed through the religious masks and shrines that often recur in Finok’s works. 

Contradictory and coexisting feelings, opposing emotions that merge together in the artist’s paintings, sculptures, and installations, a reflection of a city steeped in contrasts like São Paul

 

Caleb Neelon, contributing editor, Juxtapoz

Raphael Sagarra ‐ Finok ‐ was born in 1985, the year that graffiti broke throughout the world. Over the past decade, Finok has established himself as one of the most prolific young names on the streets of the megacity that is the epicenter of South American graffiti culture. It’s a city whose artists tend to maintain a tradition of picking a color scheme for their street work and sticking to it: Finok's is green, yet in his rapidly developing studio practice, he expands from it to a full color palette. He fills his large‐ scale canvases with many of the tropes that have come to exemplify São Paulo. These range from densely patterned backgrounds, folkloric characters, and touches from contemporary urban Brazilian life, like kite flying, fire balloons, and the graffiti genre endemic to São Paulo and other Brazilian cities.

These tropes were all familiar to Finok from childhood. He did the things that every Brazilian boy does, playing soccer and flying kites, but his neighborhood offered alternatives. "My family moved to a set of buildings in the neighborhood of Cambuci," he explains. "I owe much of my life that place. There I learned many things. I played soccer, flew kites, and started doing graffiti there. I saw firsthand the right and wrong way. I think if it was not for that place, I might not look at the world the way I see it today. I have great friends there to this day."

By the late 1990s, Cambuci had become the epicenter of South American graffiti. "When I was little I remember seeing some artists painting my neighborhood," he recalls. "But I guess it did not come to awaken my curiosity about graffiti. I was more curious when one day I saw boys painting a letter using only a little paint roller on a wall near my house. Then I started getting interested in graffiti. And then I started to value and realize that what the graffiti writers did was very difficult." Finok learned from them all, as well as from the artists from all over the city (and increasingly, the world) who were coming to paint in his working‐class neighborhood of Cambuci.

Like graffiti, Brazilian kite flying has a playful side as well as one not so gentle. "Initially flying kites is just a pastime," Finok explains, "but kite flyers here coat the long strings with milled glass powder so they can cut off the kite of another flyer... When I put the kites in my work, I go beyond more than just a pastime. I believe 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." At the same time, Finok is careful to note, they reflect the human creative impulse. "All of these are elements and objects that were part of many lives, but many people also thought were just games. Things that were done by people were done who believed they could be very good at what they were doing and were able to see who could go further in life.

 

O Enterro do Galo/ The Burial of the Rooster, Lorenzo Pereira, Lisbon 2015

Raphael Sagarra, or simply Finok, grew up in a city considered to be the center of South American graffiti culture. In the streets and alleys of Cambuci, he was influenced by the growing street art culture.  There he made his first artistic steps in 2002, painting on the facades of buildings. By time, Finok went forward and, developing studio practice, emerged as exhibitor in well-known galleries, not only in Brazil, but in the United States and Europe as well. However, he never gave up of motifs and techniques of the artistic surrounding in which he had formed his style. 

Unique mixture of traditions, customs and beliefs characterizes the Brazilian popular culture. The influence of African voodoo art and the shades of different religions and beliefs shaped the artistic approach of youngsters painting on the walls of big Brazilian cities. He developed his own works based on perceptions of numerous traditions of the Brazilian society, sharing the same practices of colorful interpretations of different layers of the popular culture, often sharing some features similar to the caricature. Finok used green as the dominant color, respecting the tradition of Brazilian street artists in choosing a specific color scheme for the street works. Later on, he began to use all colors, with green remaining the most important one.

Much of the Finok’s work is dealing with interpretations of spiritual and religious manifestations of popular beliefs. With expressionistic characteristics, his works are often dominated by colorful geometrical shapes representing different elements of popular imagery. Trying to understand the human needs for belonging to a group by participating in popular spiritual or religious manifestations, Finok developed his own narrative on these popular practices. The Burial of the Rooster show will exhibit some of these works that will be particularly interesting for the Lisbon public, since Portugal and Brazil have similar elements in their respective popular cultures.

(...)

 

DespachoAnne Lopes, Sao Paulo, 2013

Using the principle of popular imagery related to Brazilian beliefs, Finok presents a profound look at the perplexity that the boy from the suburbs suffers   in discovering the wiles of the world. Later, as an adult, his wisdom and spirituality lead him to protect himself.

Despacho (“Order”), Voodoo, Saravá Ebó . Words of a religious nature that name some of the manifestations derived from the rich Brazilian popular culture Labelled profane by other religious groups , these practices have consolidated themselves into the population which takes refuge in them against the malign intervention of others, under the protection of the deities called Orixás .

Religious considerations aside, what makes a graffiti artist research these beliefs and make them the subject of his poetry? Finok answers the question with a vigorous and mature artistic production, bringing to the entire work an authentic significance based on his own experiences.

Comprising explicit or subjective symbolism, containing the perception of hidden threats and consequent guileful intuition of others, a good example is the kite shape, repeated in several works, which simply echoes one of the first disappointments experienced in life: " The glass impregnated wax of my friend’s kite cut the line that held my own ... "

Graffiti sustains the proposal, as it is a technique of free creation. However, Finok goes deeper by adding elements whose composition demands absolute domination of the method. Through the figures in the foreground, there is the focus on formal happening, the ritual action. The geometric field, sometimes rhythmic and difficult to execute, suggests permanent physical and spiritual struggles in their cutouts and interruptions. The Mediterranean palette of some works, or the same palette subsequently reduced by overlapping layers of bituminous paint of other works, offers a restless interpretation from its tonal contrasts.

The scepticism, the uncertainty and subsequent spiritual balance derived from such processes - are not easily distinguished in the images, but it’s strength is clearly perceived. The result is an anarchic joyfulness linked to ordination and enchantment as only great works of art provide.