Beauty and the Past: Barahona Possollo

Warning: This series contains some seriously explicit imagery and may not be suitable for work environments ou menores de 18 anos. Ok!

Born in Lisbon in 1967. Graduated in Painting, final mark of 18/20, from the Faculty of Fine Arts of the Lisbon University. In 1995 he accepted an invitation to teach at the Faculty. He had read Architecture at the Technical University of Lisbon from 1986 to 1989.
Since 1995 he has been co-operating with the Portuguese Mail in the production of originals for the printing of stamps, notably their commemorative series of the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama’s arrival in India, and also with the Portuguese edition of the National Geographic Magazine (first nine issues).
Present in the following collections: Bank of Portugal, Setubal Museum, Museum of Communications, U.C.C.L.A., The White House (Washington), Istituto per le Opere Religiose (IOR-Vatican) and many private colletions.
Barahona Possollo is the artist of ofical President of Portugal portrait, Anibal Cavaco Silva.

FL – One of the materials that is used in your frames and in some paintings, is gold leaf. Why does this color fascinate you so much?

BP –The ancient Egyptians liked gold because it was meat of desires, a silver in their bones. I think, in spite of the bones, I like the meat more. In many Cultures gold is a powerful symbol, ours is no exception; It is a supreme sign of spiritual and formal perfection. Above all, the peculiarity of the reflection / colour is very inspiring!

FL – In your work is clearly linked to eroticism. Like many artists who represented sexual acts or the naked, or imagined, saw, did, or read through writers such as Ovid, Voltaire and Maupassant, and I quote: Achille Deveria, Coubert, Peter Fendi, Rodin, Klimt , Egon Schile, George Grosz, Picasso, Dali, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Parmigianino, Dubuffet, Gerard Fromanger, Magritte. Do you consider that the spectator classifies you as a homoerotic, hardcore or erotic art artist, knowing that your art is not just about eroticism?

How have the audience’s reactions been since the beginning of your painting?

How has this affected you in relationships between friends and family?

Is it not strange that for more centuries to come, and however acknowledged the artists may have been for their contribution to the history of art, that there is a constant bias or prejudice associated with sexuality? Is not art a way to fight it?

AL – In Tantric Buddhism there is a branch that is Tantric Sex, a practice that consists in transforming sexual ecstasy into a “Spiritual Path,” in which Buddhists speak only in male / female relationships. Has your work ever inspired you this path of spirituality?

BP – Sexual identity is so colossally important to our society that it rushes to place a label soon, seeking to master something scary. Eros was always a god feared by all the others in the Greek pantheon, and quite rightly so. It is a vital force that both creates and sets fire. He is a giant with whom one must deal with great caution. Thus, the labels appear. In this case the homoerotic label does not dislike anything, as long as it is not reducing to a small extent, forgetting all universal issues that do not obey labels and that always intersect in the way. Sometimes I think the attitude is similar to that very common, for example, in the USA, when someone has visibly some African ancestor: it’s black! The difference is identified as a threat by the wasps, who consider themselves white, and sent to enemy territory. There is nothing wrong with being black. Just do not forget the amount of shades that are overwhelmed by this label, which for me, in the case of American blacks, is used repressively. I defend the theory that Eros, the drive of the Libido, governs all our moments, the most obvious and brutal forms or the most subtle and secondary forms. The Pleasure Principle, here established, is one of Life’s reasons, itself. What I fear are dogmatic attitudes, usually based on discourses of ignorance and hatred, which are usually the first voices to emerge.
The reactions of the public are, were and will always be the most diverse, and often unexpected, defying my prejudices about each particular person. I’ve been admonished by people I did not expect and I’ve received praise when I least counted. All this confirms the subjectivity and the healthy lack of linearity of the human being, being very positive this awareness.
As for the fact that Art can be a way of fighting against prejudice, sexuality and all other themes, it will always be like this, because there is a need to make a challenge. This challenge can be, sometimes much more effective and visible, if it takes the form of Art; plastic, poetic, musical, either. This is because when the word Art is mentioned, it seems that some higher instance is evoked and an “appearance”, an “emanation” of a “higher” scope is allowed, establishing a respectful silence.

I distrust and dislike all Manichean dualistic systems. Is Rarely the complexity of Life explained by pairs of antagonisms. The easy and rude definition of essences, which assume almost the role of adversaries, shivers me. I find Tantric very interesting, if you remove the male-female dogma. I do not know if what’s left is functional. Will be? If it is not, we can always imagine other more comprehensive and complex systems.

Barahona Possollo, Y, 2008
Barahona Possollo, Meretseger, 1999

Barahona Possollo, Autumn Faun, 2006

Barahona Possollo, Pungent, 2013

FL – Is there any prejudice regarding the male, female, or any other gender representation of animals in the art? Is it not because people are uneducated, have little knowledge of history, react in a negative way and fear of difference or what is new?

BP – Prejudice toward the nude is fuelled by a fear, wisely instilled in the morality of power, a fear of sex, eroticism, and its disruptive force. Two tragic attitudes are distinguished here: on the one hand, the oppression of women, with the consequent devaluation of their own forms of sexuality, results in a leaching of the female nude; is not so easily seen as offensive unless it is very obviously sexual, and infringes upon the ideal role of the “virgin woman”. The position of male privilege, on the other hand, led to the exacerbation of the dominant male’s sexual role, with an inevitable focus on what the tradition says to define the male: the penis. The penis assumes a position of “inflated” value, in my opinion, beginning to tyrannize, in a fascist way, all human behaviour. From the envy of the penis, which causes so much violence in the competition for size, to the sin that happens to be the mere figuration of a penis, even in situations of total naturalness. Unrest is inevitable. While women have applied an overwhelming aggression that cancels them and sends them either to the submission or to the bonfire, men have demanded a schizophrenia, in which the penis is almost individualized and worth more than the person to whom it belongs. Man has to behave to the height of the tool he wears … A complex and perverse grammar of compromises and fantasies, these “counter-natures”, are designed to better keep the herd within the fold. In this panorama of cruel stereotypical simplifications, even greater sin is not to fit into any officially accepted category. This is the case for all forms of hermaphroditism and transsexualism, which, with serenity, reveal an endless range of varieties, a diversity that, even statistically, shakes the frontiers of the conservative definition of genders.
To paint someone naked is, from the beginning, to stir the murky waters of human fears and passions. It always has a meaning; even if the reason is very simple, someone will always clothe you with your ghosts and start panic. The projections are instantaneous. By immediate identification, be it speculation or the compromising contrast, in the face of a naked few people remain indifferent. This whole problem is, of course, a matter of great interest to the Arts, which pursue emotions like bees in search of nectar.

Barahona Possollo, The Mighty Horned One, the monkeys Moth and Barahona, plus the Infernal Dog, 2009
Rock drawing from Ti-m- Lalan, Fezzan, 5000 B.C.

Barahona Possollo, Oedipus Impudicus, 1996

Fresco of Priapus, House of the Vettii, Pompeii, 1000 (Wikipedia)

Barahona Possollo, Dyptich, 1993

Hoffnung I, Gustave Klimt, 1903 (Wikipedia)

FL – Turner, Dali, Caravaggio, as well as Waterhouse, did paintings depicting Narcissus and Echo. But unlike these works of the artists I mentioned, in your painting on this history of Greek mythology, he looks at a reflection that shows the ugly and not the beautiful. What did you want to show with this image reflected in the water?

BP – It is a theme that also thinks about the problems of communication and the border between the “I” and the “other”. In this painting, the perception of Narciso’s reflected image is deformed for us, and we are left wondering what it is that he sees in the reflection that fascinates him so much. One asks “what can we communicate to others, being condemned to our vision, incommunicable in its totality? …” I believe that the myth of Narcissus well illustrates many psychological problems and even ontological, interesting and rich.

Barahona Possollo, Echo and Narcissus, 2010

FL – What can you tell about these works?

BP – This painting is an allegory of Truth, in the form of a self-portrait. In the center there is a mirror, which makes the picture difficult. I thought it might have been better if I were firing the camera myself, that I would realize that there is a mirror there. This picture is intended to be an interactive painting, in which each observer will complete it in a unique way when contemplating in the mirror. The observer and all the three-dimensionality that enters and matches and completes the symbolic intention, forms an indispensable part of the picture. This painting is not complete without someone contemplating it. The whole iconography of the painting is directed to the theme very precisely and can be easily decoded, but the key to the plot, which gives it the true purpose, is the presence of the observer. Normally it can be said that the observer is the one who justifies the Painting; without the public, Art has no reason to be (forget the cases, many, in which Art plays a religious or magical role, where it gains independent existence, after being executed). In this case, the observer, himself, completes the physical work; belongs to the painting. The second painting is an allegory to the sense of sight, in a still life that collects several related objects, from amulets to an engraving of Santa Luzia.

Barahona Possollo, Nuda Veritas, 2002

Barahona Possollo, Allegory of Sight, 2001

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Francisco Lacerda

Francisco Lacerda

Francisco Lacerda born in Lisbon, Portugal. Francisco is a Queer Art culture critic and director of Pois. He is a specialist in luxury and art, and writes for Pois since 2018.

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