January 14, 2011

Of Brazil and Painting: Hosana Bezerra’s Artistic Expressions of Geometry

Point, line and plane play major roles in Hosana Bezerra’s paintings. His visual compositions show his passion for the geometry of natural and urban settings and the environment-at-large. They also show his love of Brazil, its cultures and landscapes. Before his focus on painting, he worked as a gardener and signage designer which remain strong influences on his work. Here he shares his thoughts about becoming a painter and the humanity that comes with it:

Can you please tell a little bit about yourself?
Where are you from? What do you do for a living?
First, I would like to thank Nate Burgos for this opportunity. It is my pleasure to answer his questions.

I was born in Recife. Recife is one of the largest cities in the Brazilian Northeast, and is known mainly for its beautiful beaches and the colonial architecture. Recife’s old downtown is one of best-preserved in Brazil, with historical heritage. I left Recife 20 years ago looking for better opportunities. I went to the capital, Brasilia, and have been living here since then. Nowadays, I make a living out of painting.

What is your statement about being a painter?
I describe my art as a research project. My work comes from that research and I use geometric elements to convey my ideas, emotions and visions.

What tools and materials do you use to work
on your ideas
and make them grow?
I am a perfectionist when creating colorful shapes and lines on the canvas. I usually start with sketches to work on rough ideas. Then I use a large compass (below) to create the contours and round shapes in the canvas. I had to create that compass from scraps since there was nothing of that size. I also use a ruler and pencil in the process of outlining my drawings on the canvas. The outline (below) is the secret to create my paintings and they provide great precision. People are amazed with the precision of my work and they want to know how I create my pictures without the computer. All are handmade. I don’t even know how to use a computer. The frame of the canvas is made of Marupa/Caixeta Wood. The painting surface is prepared with Elmer’s glue and plastic white paint so that the paint won’t sip through the canvas. This treatment is crucial to enhance the colors I use.

Bezerra’s compass in the news

Outline (above) of the painting “Convergence” (below)

What makes Brazil a special place for you and your art?
Brazil is an enormous country. I came from the northeast, from a state called Pernambuco, where I was raised seeing the cultural folklore and traditions that, most of the times, are very colorful and harmonic. I’ve always been amazed with Brazil’s natural resources and beautiful views. But Brasilia, with a well-balanced architecture and community, is also very special to me. Brazil is a country of opportunities, especially if you want to grow professionally. Many people are coming here these days, from everywhere.

Local newspaper featuring Bezerra in his neighborhood

Why does geometry fascinate you?
Geometry is like the stars in the sky. I look up to the sky and see nature, the size and the equilibrium between the stars. The stars are endless and geometry is like that too. It is very hard to repeat the geometry of things.

You worked as a gardener and signage designer
before becoming a painter. Has gardening
and signage design
influenced your work? If so, how?
Sometimes you are well-paid for what you do, but work doesn’t always bring satisfaction. I worked with textiles in Recife, and that industry was not doing well, so had to migrate to Brasilia. I didn’t have much education, especially in the capital where most people have a degree, so I had to start working as a gardener in the neighborhoods of Brasilia. It was a necessity that later became a source of ideas for my art. As a gardener, I was able to observe nature. Later, I also worked washing cars to make a living and that’s where I discover the art. I learned that there were art galleries inside the house of representatives and that was pivotal to realize I could also do that. As an artist, I do what I want to do, and everything contributed to become an artist.

How does time factor into your making of paintings?
Time is important. But more than that, it is about emotion. To be an artist, you need to be very sensitive. Nobody is an artist because she or he wants to. She or he needs to really like it. I don’t really like to paint under pressure, but if someone commissions a picture of 1 x 1.5m, it would take me 4 days, or at least 3 days, working from 7 A.M. to 7 P.M.

What is the most rewarding part of being a painter?
The most rewarding part is of being a painter is the public, those who appreciate my work. My life was very simple while growing up; my parents were manual workers. Today, I am extremely happy with what I have achieved. I am most rewarded with the compliments coming from friends and those who appreciate art. It is very rewarding, even more than selling.

Was there a part of your work that was particularly trying
and how did you deal with it?
It was very difficult for me to start my career as a painter. But I was determined to paint. I started with paint donated from friends and using scrap wood to create a painting surface. When I started, I was washing cars and I had to divide my time. After my first exhibit in 2003, people started asking for more pictures and that was the incentive I needed to continue. I stopped washing cars, not knowing how to make money, but was able to focus and eventually sell my work. I was not thinking of the commercial side of it, and I was not an adventurer. I was simply trying to make something that I loved. These days, things are much better. I have someone who builds my frames and I can afford to buy my paint.

How do you stay creative? Do you draw?
Or keep a journal?

First, you need to be good with other people. By living well you can find inspiration and be creative. I find happiness in my work, and I hope my work transmit happiness and organization. My life and art are very organized and I try to keep that way. In my atelier, I have a notebook with sketches, but sometimes I create new forms, shapes and colors directly on the canvas. It just happens!

What are some of your sources of inspiration?
There are many sources of inspiration in my work. Brasilia—its roads, architectural contours, monuments and artists such as Rubem Valentim and Athos Bulcão—was my initial source of inspiration. The northeast culture (the colors, regional flags, the Carnaval dresses and the artist Romero Britto, who paints rich, colorful pictures) is also a wonderful source of inspiration. But I have created my own style, and I can apply that style to other areas or themes, if you will. Adriano Galvao commissioned a painting about the city of Chicago, which is an amazing place, as far as I can tell, just by looking at pictures and books. The picture I created, “Marinas of Chicago” (below), was inspired by the boats of that city and the environment around it.

What is your advice to people who aspire to be a painter?
In life and art, you need to be persistent. But first, you need to have fun with it and you need to like it. Second, you can’t think of it commercially. Third, if it is something you love, you should never give up, especially if it is a dream you have. There is always someone who will help you along the way.

Bezerra shows his painting “The Four Elements” to Brianna Sylver of Sylver Consulting and who is a promoter of the painter’s work

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Big thanks to Adriano Galvao and Brianna Sylver for sharing their enthusiasm of Hosana Bezerra and his art, especially the painting “Marinas of Chicago”. Particular thanks to Galvao for interviewing Bezerra in Portuguese and translating it.

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Listen to an audio version of this interview in Portuguese.