The artist Junior Santos seems to know that lights and shadows dispute the narrative of desire and the narrative of lack that completes us as people. In a similar, but absolutely different way, we are all vying with ourselves for ownership of our own lives. Thus, between the alterities of the soul and between the crossings of the external world, we dispute with ourselves our place in reality.
Unspeakable things surround our appreciation of the real – This is the artist’s challenge: Visualize and make seen things whose name never fully reaches the complexity of the felt feeling, the feeling that is felt.
The word anxiety is always poorer than the anxious feeling, for example. Even before we see and think about life, we feel what we live, and it is through this fissure that the symbolic organization of artists invades our experience.
Feelings are in the prehistory of the word that is said or not said. Thus, as a signifier of ourselves, feeling what we are without even knowing who we are. We live condemned to the prison of accepting as a summary part of ourselves what we could not express in verb, because after all, the spoken or unspoken word is our thing and that we share with each other, under pressure or freely, while our intimacy with anguish, that yes, is our thing and that we share only with ourselves, through the spirit, the flesh and the thought. And thought, whether conscious or not, is what finally brings together these two circumstances of being – Being and not being in the face of the question about oneself.
To be is to feel. Feeling is felt. And the meaning is impossible.
When overwhelmed by the most uncomfortable feelings, we forget that we are made of the same stuff as our peers.
So much for this, perhaps the art that is made through Junior’s explicit trace escapes the meaning, and extracts to the surface of the experience the signifier that the fortune of our afflictions can and should be achieved in a collective participle, said, shown, explicit and resolved while betting material – All this within a project of aesthetic sublimation.
We are all equal, because individuals within the same species that bring together our dissonances. In other words, this type of screen does not show the pictorial path of the feeling, but makes its spiritual effect feel in front of what we feel and are not able to show through the verbal codes.
Junior, more than knowing, feels and intuits with traits that, all of this, if seen without Rococo mediations and through clear and direct applications, will resolve a little – at least in the symbolic production of oneself and the other – some of the parts unspeakable of the loneliness that surrounds us when we are in pain (and we are always in pain, for spirit and body, word and silence, desire and lack, it seems to me, never produced a definitive agreement and never established peace eternally free from contradictions and raving forces).
What we all feel, but which, in times of anguish, we have difficulty in knowing that the other feels too, and to the same extent, often in the context of the PSYCHOSOMATIC project’s screens – is the main aspect to confirm not only the technique that expresses the profound of these feelings, but also the author and his social vocation, certainly held between acts of sharing, revelation and symbolic, subjective exchange.
To be equal, it is urgent to know how to reveal ourselves in the other. And Junior, an artist with an urgent expression, does not paint simulations, but produces, with few concessions to extra-creative values, aesthetic confessions – they are mirrors capable of reflecting two faces at the same time, even if facing only one face.
We often feel our deepest fissures of the soul in much the same way as others, although every pain is unique and every soul – in the last analysis, particular.
All the discomfort, even if kept in what we can’t or don’t know how to say, is too explicit. So, when I got close to the works of Junior Santos, I immediately asked myself what it is that someone feels when an artist who until then didn’t know us, and that we didn’t know either, translates in a painting the spirit of suffering that we ourselves had not even reported to the walls.
Many artists and thinkers claim that Shakespeare would have debated the possibility of suicide with himself, since Hamlet speaks legitimately and frankly about this idea, above all, using arguments that “could not” emerge “only” from rational elaboration.
Shakespeare did not bequeath any document capable of confirming our suspicions.
Junior Santos, I intuit and define, feeling or not each of these canvases, as Shakespeare would or would not have done at the time of writing his tragedy, whether or not each of these scientific reports in hand, will be confirming in this prospectus of images, his place of honor among the most important young artists of the beginning of the century in the Brazilian visual arts (especially in the context of those who use social media as a necessary gallery for the distribution of creative work).
Junior Santos is set like this, due to the choice of the motive, the pertinence of the repertoire and the sobriety of the form, alongside unique and markedly expressive artists such as Rodrigo Yudi Honda, Layse Almada and Ju Angelino (the latter responsible for the extraordinary work “Favela Estrelada ”).
Below are some questions dedicated to catching all the unsaid, if at all silent, about the production of the young artist Junior Santos:
MT – Junior, a provocation: What did you reject when making these paintings? What does your work run away from? That’s because I think the works are done a lot in our refusals. A work always has many decisions. Size, color, rhythm, motive.
Junior – Thank you very much. Really thanks! I’ll answer you… When I thought about creating the PSYCHOSOMATIC project, well, it actually came about in a much more spontaneous way. I sat down and thought “I’m going to paint feelings, emotions, psychosomatic illnesses”. I was having a bad time. I was going through crises, anxiety and depression. I suffered from this for a long time and found an escape in art. I thought my way of dealing with it would be to put it down on paper. That gave me a snap and I thought something bigger could come out of it. It was born as an escape. My biggest denial? The first thing that crossed my mind was the conflict with the technique. I wanted something loose, momentary, that would pop up right there, without thinking too much about it. Without following trace, shadow, shape, in any technical way. I didn’t want to think too much, I wanted to feel more. Something more sentimental than rational.
My first conflict was this: not thinking too much, so that the technique would not drown out the expression. I think that when there is a lot of technique, in an exaggerated way, the art becomes cold, more technical, less expressive. But of course, I was also scared of the audience’s reception when I shared the project. I’ve seen people say “who are you to talk about this subject, to deal with it, you don’t know what each person feels inside of themselves”. So, I didn’t want this… How can I say? I let art speak for itself. If a person suffering from depression or anxiety looked at my work I would like them to think “damn, this is really the way I feel, the painter is not alone in this”.
MT – Perfect. I read something from you that said that, in your point of view, which seems to me to be technical, when we see our problems, that dimension gets closer to a healthier feeling… About recognition.
Junior – Recently, on the internet, I was talking about what certain art of my project meant, and in the midst of several comments, a psychoanalyst replied offering me treatment. She thought like this “if he so vehemently addresses the problem that he suffers, through art…”
She offered me an online treatment, which is part of a social program. Therapies, at a distance, due to the pandemic. So, I think that explaining the problem helps us to express ourselves better. Letting out thoughts that affect us. So, when the human being is able to understand the problems, he is able to express and thus seek other results. To sum up: when we notice these fissures and voids within us, they require self-knowledge, an internal search. It requires us to look in the mirror and recognize failures, and if these “failures” are psychosomatic problems, they are diseases that affect quality of life. I think it’s necessary for us to be able to identify this through peaks, behaviors and sensations.
As an artist, I had the sensitivity to put this on canvas. I explained every scream I felt internally. I made the scream sound. How I did this? Creating my demons through screens. Taking each one and giving it a look. That’s why I say you take your demon out of the dark and put him in the light, the battle goes toe-to-toe. It is necessary to look in the mirror!
MT – I understand that the artist is a producer of symbols, a translator of the invisible. And when we produce these symbols and distribute them, now, in the digital instance and at the speed of online, we lose control of that. Anyone who goes to the museum wants to see art, but on the internet, this audience is convulsed and appears in a less mediated way. In this context, did any comment come up that brought another angle to the work? Did you, in the face of some strange comment, want to review or confirm what was being done?
Junior – It’s a very new thing. For a long time, my family and friends have been closer to my work. Strange people were just people from my city, or people I knew consumed art, even if I wasn’t intimate. About 4 years ago, when I started on the internet, there was an impact due to the sense of novelty. People from even other countries! So, it was all a confirmation that I’m on the right path. Comments and criticism have always been positive. Now, in psychosomatic, a good part brought identifying comments. About me shaping what they feel. It is wonderful. To top it off… I think the “best” feedback I got was from an American woman who had a psychosomatic tattoo. It’s amazing. You see the power in your hands. Any artistic medium. The artist has the power to touch people, change thoughts. You need to know how to dose this very well, you know?
MT – As the expression of your work takes on a public dimension, people start to want a pet artist, who always produces those same symbols that represent them in the way they like. A symbolic addiction. Great artists and authors always say that people demand characters from the past… Do you disown them? How do you communicate with this desire? Within that… how to paint the same symptom twice with the same artist? Varying the technique, changing the symbol? I have the impression that your images are a bit definitive, because they are testimonials too, inscribed in your way of being and feeling…
Junior – About the audience, I’m worried. I’ve seen a lot of artists limited by this, being driven by the audience, by the numbers. The artist realizes that he only has reach when he does a certain thing, and this can end up putting the artist in a cast. I’m a little against it, but I think the artist needs to be faithful to the audience. A writer, for example, creates a character and the audience is always asking for that character – I think it’s valid for the artist to create stories that the audience asks for, but I also think the audience needs to see the artist’s other productions. Just as I am open to listening to the public, I would like the public to be open to the artist’s new proposals.
Well, human beings change, so feelings change. If I try to paint the canvas “Anxiety”, I won’t get the same, with the same technique and the same stroke. I’ve seen great artists reproducing their canvases and they never had the same essence. What rules the artist is the essence, something almost mythical. Dalí and Magritte reproduced several of his paintings, they always come with something new, the work always comes with something new. So, I find it difficult to reproduce faithfully. My anxiety attack will never be the same as yesterday. The timing is different. In fact, I wouldn’t try to reproduce a work. I think the unheard is unheard of. It’s unique. That’s something I wouldn’t mess with.
MT – Perfect! Your speech is very consistent. You have a lot of reference, you end up being very aware of the production, the result and the appreciation. You know how your work interacts. Congratulations! This kind of place is rare in the speech of such a young artist. Junior, were you ever anxious or worried about working on this theme? Feeling has been over-assisted in some areas, so anguish is no longer something that can be worked out symbolically and free from responsibility. His work has a lot of legitimacy in elaborating things that are very dear to the subjects, and things that health areas have watched very closely. Did you look for references or was it all associative, symbolic, freely?
Junior – Great question! Look, I was a little worried about the reception. When it came to doing it, my reference was closely linked to a psychologist friend. I talked to her and said that I was studying the topic, outside the sensory part, the sentimental one. Nothing is truer than painting anxiety at the time of anxiety. It’s one thing to force something, it’s hard to represent it well without knowing it. Going through the problem you convey that with a stronger essence. When I wanted to start the project, I thought it wasn’t enough to have the feeling. I wanted to understand all sides.
The feeling, the “academic” part. I went to read, watch movies, psychoanalysis… Clockwork Orange. So, this friend helped me a lot. She is about to graduate in the area, in the city of Bebedouro, a city close to mine. She said “depression is like that”, “anxiety is like that”, “dopamine” … So, yes, I had external references. A student who gave me a lot of approval. It was feeling, expression, an academic part, even without being an expert. I’m not an expert. I’m an artist. I can tell by art. The German expressionism movement in cinema, which was very relevant in the 1920s, was also a reference.
MT – I think you were very clear and concise in your answers. Your argument is very accurate and precious. It’s nice to see you have a presence in front of the work. The work is put in its place and with it you debate from a very special place. Congratulations indeed! I want to leave a final intuition… You have an obligation to continue painting, it is a found and well resolved place. But… where are you going?
Junior – Thank you! It’s a rare opportunity to talk about my work, about art… for the Deus Ateu to put this people’s art in the world… Now, where do I go? Where will I go… What is life? LOL
There’s a phrase, I think by Picasso, that says he doesn’t know what he wants from art, but he knows what he doesn’t want. I’ll adapt: I don’t know how to go, but I know where I want to go. I don’t know how to follow this path, but I know where I want to go. I want to go to people’s hearts, for my art to speak to them. I intend, more clearly, to get galleries and exhibit. Bring people to see the works. But I want to reach hearts. [With] my work to bring something positive. I think I can say I would be satisfied. For that, I need to go further. Grow up.
MT – Thank you! For the courage to expose himself as a creative. Revealing what is between you and the work. Your vigor is legitimate. His speech is poetic yes, but poetry is one of the most concrete things. I always say that the fourth state of matter is the verse! Poetry is almost never hallucinatory, almost always a clearer way of seeing. Nelson Rodrigues said that prophets see the obvious, and their leftovers are obvious, but I hadn’t thought about them before I saw them. You are one of those prophets!
Thanks for reading our interview.
,About the artist:
Junior Santos, twenty-four years old, is a professional visual artist, illustrator and comic artist. Self-taught, he never graduated in any of the areas in which he works professionally, with the exception of cinema. He graduated in acting and cinematographic art from the “Verzini School of Interpretation and Cinema”.
He started his professional career at age 19 working as an illustrator and conceptual artist for films, drawing and creating storyboards and characters. Two years later, he migrated to comics and created his first comic book “A Rua da Luz Vermelha”. In 2019, at the age of 23, his comic took part in the online contest created by the comic book platform “AGAKE” in which he was champion. Currently works illustrating books, short stories, record covers and comics.