RICARDO BARBEITO

ARTIST

Interview April 26, 2020

You were born in Funchal where you graduated in Fine Art and currently live and work in Lisbon. Tell us a bit about your journey so far and what you do.

Whether at my parents’ home or that of my maternal grandparents, I was around dogs, chicks, hens, pigs and rabbits. As an adolescent I even had a den just for me, in an outhouse in my parents’ garden, which was called “Selva’s Club”. I think that was the first logo that I did and it was a serpent painted on the outside wall, forming the words selva (jungle) and club, or something like that, like when you draw without lifting the pencil. The inside walls had jungle and savannah scenes. If I remember correctly, there was an elephant, a snake wound around a trunk, perhaps a giraffe and vegetation – my first “fresco”. 

I was about 14 or 15. I was already at secondary school, doing science, because I thought I wanted to be a veterinary surgeon, but as I didn’t put in enough effort I ended up doing Biochemistry at the Faculty of Science of the University of Porto. I was in Porto from 1998 to 2000. I quit. I liked biology and chemistry and so on, but I wasn’t delivering the goods. In the meantime, after chopping and changing, I ended up getting into Fine Art at the University of Madeira, after doing the Biology course.

During the course I went on Erasmus to Valencia. I finished my degree and started teaching and giving classes in plastic expression. I did a Master’s with a project in public art and was a production assistant at Porta 33. 

Then I came to Lisbon, moved out of my comfort zone and since then I’ve been turning into a Jack of all trades, alternating my activity between various odd-jobs, art residencies and classes.

Why did you decide to follow a career linked to art?

While I was in Porto, on 30th May 1999, on the night that FC Porto was commemorating being penta-champion, I got the news that my mother had suddenly died. I was 19. I think it was that “having the rug pulled out from under me” that made me decide to follow a career linked to art. 

Ever since I was 6 years old, I used to say that I wanted to be a vet and that lasted until I was 18. I didn’t go straight to college and started drawing and doing graphite and charcoal portraits, from photos of my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents etc. Whenever I showed anyone the drawings, they would ask me “Why don’t you go into art?” and I would reply “I don’t want to go into art, I don’t want to make this my life”. In the end that wasn’t really the case.

What was your experience like as a Fine Art student in Madeira and do you think that has a direct influence on your work?

It was really interesting. During the first two years it was a novelty, seeing as my secondary education was all in sciences. 

During my degree I did the Erasmus programme where I had the opportunity to get in touch with a reality that is completely different from Madeira, as I was able to explore techniques, processes and means that weren’t possible to explore in the facilities of what was then the Autonomous Art and Design Section of the University of Madeira. I don’t think the experiences as a student have a direct influence on my work, but I think the general nature of the course enabled me to explore the idea of an expanded field and that is in fact noticeable.

Your work speaks a lot about the relationship that exists between “memory” and daily life, art, life and identity. Tell us a bit about this concept of memory and the relevance for you of the connection with the past.

Where would we be without memory?

In works such as  “Agora Tu, Agora És Tu” and “Ir À Serra, Nunca Me Foi Permitido” you use memories and stories of your family as a starting point. Do you consider your work to be autobiographical?

Yes, but not completely. It could be considered autobiographical because they are works that reveal stories about my family and inevitably end up revealing my origins, but they are not stories about me. I think it’s something denser and I only realised that during the creative process of the project “Agora tu, Agora és tu”. My mother’s sister is an aunt-mother to me, and she is the one who tells the vast majority of the stories. One day she came up to me and said that she thought all this project was my way of getting to the memories of my mother, it was my “elephant in the room”. Maybe she was right, maybe this way of seizing the memories of my aunts is a subconscious way of finding out more about my mother’s childhood. I don’t know.

You were selected for our 5th residency season at Thirdbase. How did you learn of the residency and what led you to apply?

I learnt of the Thirdbase residency through an artist I knew who was doing the residency, Boga Mustafa, in the 2nd Season I believe. So I did some research and decided to apply because I thought it looked like a great way of putting into practice a project that I had on the back burner, which is liked to a series of works of the Ursus arctos barbeiticos, started at the Red Bull House of Art in 2012.

How have you found the studio experience up to now?

It has been a very gratifying but really intense experience.

Tell us about the work you’re developing for Thirdbase.

The project is inspired by the banality of Portuguese paving and the legend of the foundation of the city of Lisbon and the seven hills, evoking the individual and collective imaginary world of the city and its places. It’s a series of works ranging from drawing to installation, including objects found, photography and sculpture and which as a whole make it possible to create a cartography of the memory or archaeology of the pavement, through which the three-dimensional understanding of the city is complemented by the urban visual texture.

In view of the current state of public health emergency due to SARS-CoV-2 the studio activities and the residency have been suspended. How have you managed your life in isolation and how have you adapted to working from home? 

It has been a daily challenge, that’s all I can say…

Do you think the current situation will be reflected in your future work?

Without a doubt! The current situation has simply confirmed a project that I imagined in September, which talks about the need to come down. 

What concerns or expectations do you have for the near future?

I don’t know, there are so many, many concerns and expectations.

Thank you!

https://www.ricardobarbeito.pt/