Interviewing IVO

IVO was born in Lisbon in 1959. Between 1981 and 1986 he obtained a degree in Painting from the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Lisbon and began to exhibit his work.

During his artistic training, he also attended a Painting course at the Centro de Arte e Comunicação Visual, besides a basic training course in Drawing, Painting and Engraving. He also worked as a Visual Education teacher in Luena (Angola) and at Ar.Co (Lisbon).

He was also involved in a programme between the Southern Arts Association and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation for four months, in 1987, in Winchester, England.

In 1988, he was the set designer for the play O Gigante Verde, staged by Águeda de Sena.

He has participated in 70 group exhibitions since 1983 in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Holland and South Africa and 29 individual exhibitions since 1987, including at Galerias Quadrum (Lisbon).

He co-founded Grupo Homeostético, in 1982, participated in its five collective exhibitions, and in its 2004 retrospective at Museu Serralves in Oporto.

Now, he has an exhibition at the Associação 289 gallery, in Faro, entitled Sal Centrípeto.


Joana Carmo – How did your interest in art come about?

IVO – It was in his adolescence at the age of 15, right after the Carnation Revolution of 1974. At that time, there was truly little information, very few galleries. I had a friend whose mother had many good art books and it always interested me to check those. Then, I started visiting exhibitions at Gulbenkian. I started to draw and experiment.

Then I entered Ar.Co, an art and visual communication centre, when I was 19. At the time, it was different from today’s Ar.Co, as it was in the beginning and only existed for 6 years. It still looked a lot like a cultural centre and exhibited many films, for example, the German Expressionists and others, quality and independent cinema for laughably low prices.

At Ar.Co, I was able to develop my ideas and experiment. I had plenty of freedom to do good and bad things.

At the time, I was enrolled in drawing, painting and engraving. But sometimes I did sculpture or saw what photography classes were like. And occasionally there were free courses. For example, I took a course with Ana Hatherly. She had a programme on RTP 2, totally unusual in Portugal, as it showed incredible things, from the Bauhaus theatre to more contemporary things.

There were also particularly good exhibitions.

In 1979 or 1980, Vostell exhibited in Portugal, he who had belonged to the Fluxus group. That day, there were no classes, we went to the inaugurations, something not done in the school of fine arts because it was deeply conservative at that time.

It was good.

JC – Can you talk a bit about your formal practice, motivations, themes and the way you use different techniques in your work?

IVO – We always try to find something that makes sense at work and I’ve been going through phases. Our motivations changing. My painting, in a way, always had some intensity and I tended to build three-dimensional objects.

In the 80s, I started to make some works in which I combined painting and objects, something that was close to Rauschenberg’s combine paintings.

There were periods when I painted more in oil, now I use more acrylic. I like oil because of the material.

I use various techniques because the technique for me is a medium. When I joined Ar.Co, I tried the liquid paints, including watercolour or Chinese ink. I even learned to make some paints and did exercises to understand and master the technique and the language. Basically, painting is a language. It’s very difficult to talk about painting because painting doesn’t use words.

I started by doing figurative painting. Then I made a painting that was a tension between the figurative and the abstract. Now, I’m leaning more into the abstract, I think.

We’re always learning, we never really know what’s going to happen, we have a vague idea. And I only finish the work when I feel satisfied, when I think it has a meaning.

JC – Do you think the lockdown changed your work?

IVO – At first, it was extremely hard to work. Things were going badly, and it took me a long time to finish what I had to do. Life totally changed. I have to teach and now I have to work more on the computer. It was hard.

But not anymore, I’ve gotten used to it, but it’s a strange situation nevertheless.

You were one of the founders of Grupo Homeoestético. Why did they consider it important to revolutionize art?

We lived through a very good, spontaneous decade, not only in culture, but in all areas. In the 80s, more cultural events emerged, more galleries, more things.

There were very few people making art in Portugal. There were some galleries. There was the Quadrum, an excellent gallery, and others, but it was all very sporadic. There were very few artists and our generation was lucky enough to live through the Carnation Revolution, which changed everything. It was a breath of fresh air. The constraints of the past no longer existed.

I was in Angola for a year drawing and this was especially important because I reflected and drew a lot. It was a period of maturation, the loss of innocence, the transition to adulthood.

I was in an area far from Luanda. I saw very authentic dances and music. I had contact with extremely poor but authentic people, and that was important for me.

When we did the “Continentes” exhibition, I worked with Africa, of course.

Then, I went back to Portugal, with even more motivation to paint. When I arrived in 1981, Picasso’s Guernica had just arrived and I immediately took the train to go see it.

Who are your greatest references in art?

In Portuguese poetry, Herberto Hélder.

I love jazz since I was 16, and I attended the first contemporary jazz festival in Setúbal. It was very advanced at the time and we had workshops with incredibly good musicians worldwide.

In painting, I like it since Lascaux. I like the painting of cave drawings, they’re authentic, meaningful things. I like Goya, Rembrandt, Turner, Monet, Arte Povera.

On a national level, I like an extraordinarily little-known 16th century painter, André Reinoso. I also like Amadeo de Sousa Cardoso, Paula Rego, Álvaro Lapa, António Sena, Pedro Chorão.

Do you have any exhibitions coming soon?

I have an exhibition scheduled at Artistas Unidos in November, but I don’t know if it will be postponed.

Joana Carmo graduated in Languages, Literatures and Cultures, having subsequently attended a postgraduate course in Art Markets and Collecting. Currently, she is a senior technician at Museu Zer0 (a digital art museum that is being installed in the interior of the municipality of Tavira) where she coordinates the Educational Service and Publics.

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