Fernando Braune was born in Nova Friburgo, state of Rio de Janeiro, in 1957.
As a graduate in chemical engineering from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), he simultaneously began to attend numerous courses relating to art history, art critic, and art philosophy. In 1983 he backpacked for 40 days with his photography equipment covering a large area of Brazil, traveling through all the interior of the northeastern states, returning to Rio to open his first solo exhibition “Aqui Brasil” (Here Brazil), at the Art Center in Nova Friburgo. In 1999 he was selected by the “National Portfolio Selection of the National Art Foundation of Brazil”, where he took part in his first photographic installation, using materials such as threads, fabrics and organic materials that worked with the photographic images. In 2004 he was invited to act as curator of the event entitled “Olhares Fotográficos” (A Photographer’s View) at the Usina Cultural in Nova Friburgo, which convened renowned photographers and visual artists from all over the country for presentations, exhibitions, portfolio critics and debates over visual arts. These events lasted until 2009.
Main exhibitions – Parallax Art Fair, London; Agora Gallery, New York; Color Art Gallery, Lisbon; Master in Contemporary Art, Florence; III Catalonia International Photography Biennial, Barcelona; Monteoliveto Gallery, Nice; Nice Acropolis Art Fair; Art 3F Mulhouse; AAF Milano 2015 – Milan; MONACO’15 ART – Monaco; AAF STOCKHOLM – STOCKHOLM; PAKS Gallery, Carrousel du Louvre (Paris); Spazio Tadini (Milan); Galerie Etienne de Causans (Paris); Latin American art – Milan; Duetto Arts – New York; Post Office Cultural Center (RJ); Federal Court Cultural Center (Rio); Energisa Cultural Center (N.F. – Rio); UFF Photo Gallery (Niterói – R.J.); Ingá Museum (Niterói); National Museum of Fine Arts (Rio); Federal Justice Cultural Center (Rio); Parque da Ruínas Gallery (RJ).
– “LATIN AMERICAN ART” in Milan, Italy (June 2016).
– “NAPOLES AWARD FOR CONTEMPORARY ART” (2014).
Represented in New York by “DUETTO ARTS”
Represented in Nice by “MONTEOLIVETO GALLERY”
Author of books:
– “Surrealism and Photographic Aesthetics”;
– “Cinema and Photographic Language”;
– “Grota’s Cherubs”
Fernando’s work has been published in several international magazines and art books and he continues his journey in the production of images, currently focusing on printing on cotton paper with direct interference on the images with pastel pencils and charcoal, which are followed through via computer, creating a parallel universe to the one we live.
When did you first know you would be an artist? When did you first start doing art?
Fernando: I was born and raised in Brazil and being part of this “melting pot” of cultures in my country certainly influenced me to the world of art. The desire to express me and to connect with a vast array of cultural diversity was undoubtedly the driving force to launch me into the world of art. From an early age, photography was the vehicle that led me to “travel” in a fascinating way by realities hitherto unknown to me. Therefore, I thought it would be through photography that I could position myself in the world, expressing my own realities.
Where do you work? What is your studio like?
Fernando: I live in a penthouse and my studio occupies the upper part of it. In fact, the studio per se is in a room, and when I need to paint something on the images or make some big projects, I can count on the space out.
You’ve traveled for 40 days with only a backpack and photography equipment, back in 1983. Tell us a bit more about that experience that resulted in open your first solo exhibition “Aqui Brasil”.
Fernando: It was from the impetus I stated above that I bought my first photographic equipment and left with only myself and a backpack on a forty-day journey through the immense Brazilian territory. Hitchhiking and staying in places where they would receive me, I walked as far as I could, meeting people all over, experiencing realities that I never thought I would face in my country. This experience was decisive for me not only because it turned into my first solo exhibition (“Here Brazil”), but it also gave me the motivation to move on, knowing and creating new realities from the realities experienced.
Always in contact with the most diverse types of communities, I realized that the realities lived and narrated are always in a tenuous thread between the rational and the imaginary.
These observations and experiments have determined the way I deal with the realities of the photographs.
Do you see your pieces from start to finish? Can you walk us through your artistic process, physically and psychologically?
Fernando: First of all, it is important to say that I started with analogical photography, wherein I used to do the whole process by myself. I had a lab, in which I used to develop and enlarge all my Black and White photos. Later on, I shifted to the digital photo, as I started to have some difficulties in finding materials to carry on with my analogical photos.
Nowadays, my process is to shoot the photos digitally and print them in B & W on 100% cotton paper, whose texture gives me the possibility of working with pencils and dry pastels on it. Then, I start an interference process with dry pastel and pencils directly on the images with colors that harmonize with the desired atmosphere. After these interferences, I scan the images and take them to the computer to work the intensity of colors arbitrated by me. After that I start a long and patient process of superposing one image over the other in the computer, to provide me the results I intend to, in accordance with each project. It is important to stress that my research in the art world is all about finding a new space experience so that the observer is provoked and sensitized by this new spatial experience, and thus, bring that experience to his/her own world (I will develop this theme with a little bit more detail further on).
How would you describe your style of work? Would you characterize it as a specific genre?
Fernando: As a matter of fact, I never thought of being inserted into any artistic movement. The way I do my artwork is the way I found I could express myself and communicate with the world. I really do not see anything special in my images. I use a very old way of interfering directly with the images, which was used at the beginning of the photographic process and the computer is used merely to reinforce the colors on the B & W photos and to superpose the images. It is more an experimental process than any sophisticated art process. Once I heard from an art critique that my artwork is ultimately a “contaminated photo”. Maybe he was right, as I do not find any better way to define it and, after all, it gives me all the freedom I need to communicate. On the other hand, I think this is the reason why galleries have no interest in my works. I have sent my works to some art galleries, without success. Nevertheless, I keep going, doing my art the way I know.
Who/what inspires you artistically? What artists do you admire?
Fernando: As a voracious reader since I was a child and being involved with the cultural world within my family, I think I have been inspired and influenced by an enormous amount of writers, artists, and filmmakers. Artistically, I think I am more influenced by filmmakers and writers than by painters, photographers, and sculptures. For sure, Fellini, Alain Resnais, Eisenstein, Kieslowski, Kiarostami, Glauber Rocha, Almodóvar and Peter Greenaway, have always had a huge influence on my artwork.
- Miró, Alberto Giacometti, Robert Rauschenberg, Cartier-Bresson and the Brazilian artists Arthur Bispo do Rosário, Leonilson, Tunga and Eustáquio Neves, have always had a lot of influence on my artwork, as well. I should never forget of Vicent Van Gogh. I think of Van Gogh in almost every work of mine!
However, on the other hand, I am deeply influenced by the reality around me, the inequality of our society, the lack of opportunities I see on a daily basis in my country. This is, in fact, what moves me on!
What subjects or themes would you say your work deals with? And is there a message you are trying to send with each piece?
Fernando: As a matter of fact, I have never been stuck to one subject per se. However, as mentioned before, without noticing, all my projects have some kind of social involvement. Almost all of my projects are related to minorities. As can be noticed, my images should not be considered as documentary, because, in fact, this is not my goal. Even though I love documentary photos, I work in a different direction, wherein the images comprise several layers, with the intention of ultimately removing the viewers from their comfort zone, to provoke thoughts, to activate dull areas, while working in the intricacies, in the gaps of the surreal world we normally disregard. I think it is crucial to our own knowledge, to our own capacity to understand our place in the world in which we live.
Your art is very unique. What’s the most challenging part of your artistic process? And how do you overcome it?
Fernando: For sure, it is the space. All my research is focused on Space. There are two different approaches in my thoughts that have been the core of my researches related to space: the first one is the space within the images per se (my procedure of overlapping the images in the computer) and the other one is the “off” space, the one which does not appear in the image. These are the two kinds of spaces that I always consider in my images.
As to the first one, I think that we are surprised by putting two different languages of images to dialogue in the same space of representation.
Two or more overlapping images in the same space of representation, producing partial concealments takes us away from the everyday rational reality, breaking the homogeneity of the look, not only because it interrupts the linearity and continuity of the look, but also by introducing new textures and fields that will alter our senses, pushing us to try new experiences. Each image now made of overlapping and interposition of images will produce a unique experience, as it no longer holds the concept of preconceived space by mathematical laws within the Euclidean theory of length, width, and height. Each image, suffering interference from others in the same space eventually usher in a disorganization of the ordinary visuality, creating from that “chaos”, a reality beyond that which we used to live, taking us to an experimental space, away from that ready space, which is given to us beforehand.
With regard to the “off” space, I have the following reasoning:
I do believe that a photographic image will self-sustain, will be prolonged in time, not according to its technique or its compositional features, but when it is able to mobilize people internally, making the spectator, once in front of such photographic image, take a step in the direction of the unknown, by having his unconscious activated. It will be this unconscious “lapse” that will make him/her enter a state of mobilization since it will be when the spectator will, in fact, harmonize with the photographer. After all, in the exact moment of the Photographic Act itself, that moment in which the shutter is activated, everything is unconscious. However big the rational control over the subject matter being photographed maybe, the Photographic Act happens in the dark, it is the only moment in which the photographer sees nothing over what it is being photographed, since the shutter, when activated, in the photographic act itself, makes the mirror to rise, making the photographer blind in the face of the photographic image.
The synthesis of the photographic act comprises, therefore, exactly of this smallest fraction of time in which everything is of inconsistent form, holistic and at once, without hesitation.
I understand that all this matter is in tune with the discussion of space in photography. The mobilization in relation to a photographic image supposes extrapolation of the mere space explicitly represented in the support. It would be extremely reductionist to see or analyze a photographic image exclusively within its representation’s limits, once the photograph itself, for comprising always of a partial image of the world, induces us to see what is beyond the eyes, it invites us on a trip to beyond the explicit reality of the image represented.
After all, photography is, before anything else, an abstraction of a universe that is present in the photographic act, but excluded from the represented space. It is this
inexorable characteristic of the photographic image of being a continuum of the world that makes it extrapolates the limits of what it is explicitly representing, conducting us, naturally, to the abstraction of what once was there present in the photographic act, but excluded from the representation.
I understand, therefore, that the “off” space, that is, that which was outside the representation, when instigating the spectator’s unconscious instance, in many cases has greater importance than the image itself being represented.
What is your favorite artwork you’ve done so far if you can choose? 😊
Fernando: It is difficult to say which is my favorite image, but maybe I have a favorite “Project”, which is called “Cherubs of Grota” (Grota is a civil society non-profit organization located in the shanty community of Grota do Surucucu, in the city of Niterói, State of Rio de Janeiro).
Summing up, I photographed a huge number of Gothic churches, bathed by beautiful stained glass windows in several small towns and villages of the French Riviera (at that time I was doing an exhibition in Nice). Then, When I came back to Brazil I started to work with the “Grota String Orchestra”.
Upon returning to Brazil I thought I should shoot them in black and white and so I did, once I decided that the stained glass windows, with their exuberant colors, would be part of the final images. Then, I made lots of prints in B & W on 100% cotton paper, whose texture gave me the possibility of working with pencils and dry pastels on it. Therefore, I started an interference process with the dry pastel pencils directly on the images with colors that would harmonize with the desired atmosphere. After these interferences, I scanned the images and took them to the computer to work the intensity of colors arbitrated by me. Then, I started to superpose one image over the other.
The outcome of this project was an art book, lectures, and exhibitions in some galleries and cultural Centers in Brazil and abroad. I still have close contact with them. For sure, this is my favorite project, that I hope will never stop, regardless of any other project that I am involved with.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
Fernando: I have just started a new project called “IPINYA”, which is the word “separation” in “Yoruba” (languages spoken in Nigeria and Congo). It deals with Shoes from the black people of the “Grota Community”. I will transform the shoes provided to me by them into artworks. One foot will be in the art scenario (hopefully in galleries and Cultural Centers) and the other foot (after being painted and transformed into an artwork) will be left in the streets of Rio. This is to reinforce the metaphor of the slaves who came to Brazil from Africa. The slaves left their roots (relatives, friends, …everything) to cross the Atlantic Ocean towards the hardest life ever, losing all their contacts. They never went back to see their world again. The shoes I will be working with will never be worn by the same person. They Will be separated forever.
It is also important to point out that shoes were the symbol of freedom in slavery in Brazil. The slaves were forbidden to wear shoes. Thus, the first thing they did, just after receiving their freedom was to buy a pair of shoes.