National Museum of Azulejos
KATIA GUERREIRO - SINGER
What captures us is the look with which we sensed the child. Perhaps this is the quintessential nature of Bastien Tomasini, a.k.a. Gringo, a French artist who preserves within himself that substance that, in many of us, is being eroded by life. His enthusiasm has the voracity that we only find in childhood: a desire to do, to experiment, to have, a joy in creation, and a perpetual curiosity about the world.
But what brings O Gringo to the azulejos?
Basically an outsider's perspective, one that comes into contact with a different culture and sees it differently. For Bastien Tomasini, the core of Portuguese culture is reflected in Fado and azulejos. A sonori- ty that reflects the Portuguese soul, a surface where the history and taste of our people resonate. Although we can say that these are not original correlations, O Gringo's look, refined by photography, which is the materialisation of his vision, goes further. Captivated by the fluidity of the body, by the expression of the gesture, by the density of the look, he imprints on the azulejos possibilities of fusion with those he portrays and, thus, the potential to create narratives, stories that the skin only knows when ancient patterns appear on it, like tattoos that emerge as memories of past experiences.
The beauty of the figures portrayed by Bastien Tomasini, in their gestures that refer to fashion, dance or theatre, gains depth, pathos, when associated with motifs used in Portuguese tilework from the 17th or 18th centuries. The sudden and unexpected drama of this mixture evokes a musicality that he feels is translated in Fado, the music of destiny, that shapes each image and allows the creation of a narrative where passion, love, melancholy, and also with saudade, an almost untranslatable word that dwells at the core of the Portuguese soul.
When Bastien Tomasini approached us to exhibit his work at the National Museum of Azulejo, we were captivated by his vision of who we are and his enthusiasm for telling a story that could be ours. His idea of digitally printing images directly onto tiles in high
definition seemed interesting to us. Although he is not the first to do so, his proposal aimed to enhance the objectivity of the representations, introducing photographic hyper-realism as a language, to the detriment of traditional painting. On the other hand, his proposal aimed to incorporate another element, turning the images on the azulejos into a sound discourse, representations of Fado, for which he invited two fado singers - Kátia Guerreiro and Telmo Pires - to be portrayed and their images used in the project, to embody that sensoriality in the photos and
the story he wanted to build.
This ability to integrate the other's gaze, even when that vision is about us, has always been one of the aspects that made us different. The plasticity with which we integrate the new and embrace the exotic, is something that makes us unique. Portuguese culture, in its discretion, in its subtlety, does not impose itself, it is felt, it occupies space, gradually, a flavour, a murmured sonority that becomes stronger with time. These characteristics are present in O Gringo's work and it was precisely this ability that intrigued us.
The azulejaria (tilework), that ever-changing expression in Portuguese territory, constantly adapting, integrating new concerns and changing aesthetics, is, in this first quarter of the 21st century, sensing a search for renewal. This is evident in the introduction of new languages, in the adaptation of contemporary concepts transposed onto azulejo, that mirror that reflects who we are and what we feel. O Gringo's proposal goes further, introducing what for many will be unacceptable, those who find comfort in what is known, in traditional languages. Those will tend to be suspicious of this conjugation between photography and ceramics, but this fusion is an expression of our time and, who knows, one of the paths that could succeed in the future.
The proposal of O Gringo goes further, introducing what for many will be unacceptable, those who find comfort in what is known, in traditional languages. They will tend to suspect this combination of photography and ceramics, but this fusion is an expression of our time and, who knows, one of the paths that may succeed.
If most Museums are responsible for preserving memory and protecting the expressions of the past, the National Museum of Azulejo is responsible for the present, but also for the future. Azulejo is a living expression, with a history, but, above all, with a future and it is up to us to make known what has been done, but also what is being done, as this capacity for reinvention is one of the most extraordinary aspects of this artistic expression, a reflection of the potential that we bring within us as
individuals and as a people.
Therefore, I want to express my gratitude to Bastien Tomasini, a.k.a. O Gringo, for this sharing and for his vision and enthusiasm for azulejo and our culture. This gratitude extends to Gustavo Tomasini, agent of the artist, who consolidates the path that allows him to fly. It is precisely through Gustavo Tomasini that this exhibition project has a dimension that we appreciate very much. The possibility of involving children with special intellectual needs to work on pieces that O Gringo will print on tiles. On these tiles, color and form will be integrated by these children, associating their visions of the world and the chromatics of their affections with the artist's gaze.
Speaking of color, we express our gratitude to Carlos Matias and Kenitex for populating the walls of our museum with paint.
We thank Kátia Guerreiro and Telmo Pires for giving image and sound to the tiles and leaving their voices on them.
A word of appreciation is continuously necessary for the excellent team of the National Museum of Azulejo, which always represents this institution, elevating it and making it a reference. Although thisgratitude and esteem extend to everyone, individually and collectively, it is necessary to highlight those who dedicated themselves most to this project: its commissioner, Dora Fernandes, for her commitment and enthusiasm from the very beginning, establishing dialogues and maintaining fluid communication between all the participants; António José Cruz, for his rare ability to unify languages and visions, integrating them into a product where all voices harmonize; Norberto Luís who, with the support of Paulo Catarino, concretizes all the projects we dream of with confidence, giving them rigor and charm.
To Fado / The fate, for bringing us from so many different places and pasts, uniting our paths at this moment, giving us the privilege of being together and materializing dreams, consolidating affections, and bringing a little laughter and joy to this place.
ALEXANDRE PAIS- Director of National Museum of Azulejos