The artistic personality of Paulo Neves crosses with what we know of his biography. Born in Cucujães, a parish in the municipality of Oliveira de Azeméis, he always made a point of staying connected to the land and it is in the silence of the oaks trees of his property that imagination and sweat give way to an intense and regular production that is already a mark of the public space in mainland Portugal and islands, but also in Angola, integrating the most prestigious collections in Portugal, Angola, Spain, Belgium, Brazil, Italy and Germany. Exhibitions are more than a hundred, with the first individual in 1980 and the first collective in 1985. Curiously, Paulo Neves attended, not a degree in Sculpture, but in Painting at Escola Superior de Belas Artes do Porto and between 1978 and 1981 he lived and worked with several artists in several countries in Europe.
The work of Paulo Neves has always established a relationship with nature, creating a formal and compositional vocabulary that remains in the works in wood, stone, iron and in the variations in plastic and synthetic materials, giving him a coherence and constancy as a sculptor. Trunks, rings, stairs, shoots, nests, angels, panels, saints, slices. In Paulo Neves everything is what it seems: sculpture and matter. Sometimes poetry, iconography of emotions: biographies, energy, birth and death, heaven and hell. The matter in instants, in furrows, blows of perspiration, the artist’s hand, his sweat, strength and resistance that make overflowing such poetry, which escapes from nomenclature, for the exercise of forms and composition, in a symmetrical and repetitive movement of geometric rigor that creates in us illusory labyrinths to the perception of the look. Nothing is singular. Everything is plural and series, because experimental and imagined to interpellate space, to occupy it, not in chaos but in order. An architect of forms, he learned early how to read between the lines of medium and matter, in instants of creativity and domination of the gravitational force.
As a rule, there’s respect for the natural properties of matter, namely in wood and stone works, but there are also sculptures in which color takes place, in a vivid palette of variation between primary colors and those associated with pop art. However, Paulo Neves also accumulates in his journey works in which he was able to interpret social and politically delicate themes, adding to them a conceptual and narrative picture of enormous amplitude and intensity. In the last decade he has approached religious themes and has produced a set of works that makes an iconographic interpretation, on one hand, of the Catholic ideology, but also innovates in the aesthetic possibilities of the Eucharistic elements.
In Cucujães he writes reviews with his works that closes themselves in the surreal, but hyperreal, of the imagination of each one, in the disposition to see. I understood that it was not possible to know him without immersing myself in his universe. We wanted to invade Braga with these worlds in an individual exhibition of Paulo Neves, neither anthological, nor retrospective, nor with recent production, but rather the transportation, the translation, of what he had in the studio. We exclude the stone because in Braga we already find his works in the public space; the garden of Museu Nogueira da Silva host the iron sculptures; the Basílica dos Congregados welcomes a Christ and a clean iconography that we associate with images of female Saints and the gallery shairart dst is covered with woods, in a selection of works that comes from 1991 and arrives to the most recent ones, with paths to the sky, invitations peeking through the wheels and rings, suggestions of mandalas and sculptural sets with bronze details that pull us sighs. The spectator must walk the show as if it were an obstacle course. It is the beautiful on the white walls and the homogeneous light of the exhibition space, it is the simplicity of the figurative about the tricks and the exaggeration of the baroque and it is the sturdiness of the iron in the delicacy of the ordered garden that hides in the museum. Three structures of the city: dst group, Church and University. An artist: Paulo Neves.
Helena Mendes Pereira
shairart’s chief curator