Luís Canário Rocha (born in 1986) is from Guimarães, Portugal, and has an academic background in Painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Porto. The influence of the Academy and methods is felt in the virtuous trait, on the one hand and, on the other, in the process of experimental investigation.

Over the last few years he has been developing a set of artworks of strong neo-Impressionist influence, in particular of the American Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988). This environmental association is curious to the one who is considered the artist who invented the concept of urban art, now institutionalized. Luís Canário Rocha belongs to a generation of artists like Vhils, Hazul Luzah, Daniel Eime, among others, who apply the learning of the academy to the urban intervention, returning to the design and construction of the real privileged space. The street and the languages of urban intervention bring the palette, the words (full of social and political connotation) and themes alive.

The evolution that has occurred in Luis Canário Rocha’s work over the last two years also shows us the adhesion to one of the trends of artistic postmodernity: the de-sacralization of the media, using reusable ones. In this case, the works in and on wood of the series are highlighted. These imagined cities refer us to known scenarios of real or virtual travel, but undoubtedly involve us in the cosmopolitan and dense environment of our day.

In a critical perspective towards the future, the work of Luis Canário Rocha prepares to leave the space of the atelier to be returned to the urbanity to which it belongs. With an installation and site specific dimension, we are faced with a promising artist, capable of enthusing us and, at the same time, make us reflect. Undoubtedly, this is a path that deserves the attention of the market and the environment, the clues it reveals to us about the reactivated cycle of the art of urbanity, about the cities and about the Man that inhabits them.

Recently, as part of an AMIarte exhibition, at the cultural intervention center of the AMI, which was at set at Braga train station’s building, the public had the opportunity to see some of the artworks of this series, combining the dimensions and specificities of sculpture and painting. The creative process passes through the constructions in woods coming from old furniture, broken utensils, pallets and other objects consequent of daily human waste. We are accumulating things and cities are the product of this excess, of consumption, but also of its lack. After collecting, common to so many artists of his generation and similar to that which institutions and individuals do daily, as a way of survival, the artist’s hand enters in the construction of the object and in the painting that uses acrylic paint, spray and markers, crossing the universe of Pop, slogans (or publicity) that mark the city walls, and the palette of German neo-expressionism that seems to influence this young artist.

These cities are small and easily portable as memories of the ephemerality of days, or even as the regularity of travel, the greater desire and longing of the postmodern human being. However, each of them is enormous in effort and in the will to exist. Perhaps the reflection of the artist who resides in a city that is not capital, but which strives to exist in the context of globality, achieving it but remaining anonymous in the eyes of those inhabitants of the capital who, unable to leave their bubble, also do not engage it in their identities in definition.

The cities of Luis Canário Rocha are leftovers. They are remnants of other cities, forgotten, excluded, not fit into the system, lobby of the market, tourism and the so famous cosmopolitanism that is nothing more than absence and waste. His cities are the dreams of each of us, personal and unique, but equipped with skyscrapers, great domes and sea view. The cities allow a change, which begins in the interior and extends to a form of vineyard. On the other hand, they are also synonymous with nonconformity and, embracing one another, seek strength, power and dominion – of the artist about the future or, simply, the spectator about the artwork itself.

Three of these cities stand out, whose expansion is extended to the sub-series “Cidades de Bolso” (Pocket Cities), selected for the II Gaia Biennial. In each of them there is the individual fragility that is fought by the force of the collective. Ever. They could be the Invisible Cities of Italo Calvin, considering that in all of them there is imagination, story, gender, exchanges, memories, crimes, heaven, hell, life and death. However, in all of them, we tend to see others in which we have been and seem to be there, in that small painted wooden atlas by Luis Canário Rocha. They are not. But it is in this dimension that the artist loses the property of his creation, passing it to the public.

Finally, there is Bauman in the whole intellectual and constructive process of this proposal: these cities, with global brands and associated with distinct territories, carry in themselves the postmodernity’s net and, above all, the dichotomy of trust and fear which marks our experience of the places.

Helena Mendes Pereira

shairart’s chief curator