Interview with an Artist
José Alberto Gomes Pereira
José Alberto Gomes Pereira is the artist behind the VOICES logo. When we came upon Gomes Pereira’s art online, we were struck by the beauty of his drawings, and the way his images speak to storytellers. Now that we’ve met the man, we are convinced he’s as special as they come. Read on about José Alberto Gomes Pereira, and see for yourself.
VOICES: What drew you to your medium, your style, your voice and vision?
Since very young I have started expressing my feelings in words and traces. Drawing was my best way to say what I had inside. I always had my own way of drawing, very unique, and that was a thing that I kept and developed.
Black and white have the strength I need to express my ideas and ideals. I was touched by the words of the French Revolution “ Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”. Living in Africa, Mozambique, from 10 to 30 years old, these words had a special meaning for me. I was touched by the people’s soul, the way they lived, and their wish for freedom. My family education with a strong feeling of justice, my love for reading and philosophy studies led me to what I am now: A man that believes that men, women and children are all only one race ,“The Human Race”, without any kind of social, political or religious fundamentalisms.
I live now in Portugal, in a small village named Riachos, where I was born. I have always lived and made my life in big cities like Lourenço Marques (actual Maputo) in Mozambique, or Lisbon. After retiring I decided to come back to Riachos, 120 km from Lisbon. It’s a quiet place to live and the people always had a strong feeling of union. It’s remarkable that in a so small village there are 52 different Associations that maintain tradition and care for creation and innovation. The last one is NAR – Núcleo de Arte de Riachos (Riachos’ Art Nucleus) where I belong as one of the founders.
The traditions allied to the innovations are a great daily inspiration. From the fields planted with olive trees or cereals to the houses where there is always a plot and a garden…we can feel and smell nature just as it is and understand life in different perspectives.
VOICES: You have lived in other places besides Portugal. Where have you felt most at home, and where has your art felt most at home?
I believe that I felt most at home in Africa. I always loved big spaces where you always see the horizon line and can imagine what’s after it. The adventure spirit…the wish for more and more, and different. The unknown and the mystery…
On the other hand, even thinking that my art has some African roots and influences, I believe that it feels more at home in Portugal. I belong to this people and understand very well their needs and dreams.
My art is universal but I am Portuguese. When I paint or draw, I do it as a human being. I feel like one and think like one. Not as Portuguese. Art has no frontiers.
VOICES: Was there a time and place when you decided to become an artist, one moment when you knew this was your calling?
At the age of 16, still in Africa, I did my first wise, intentional and conscious drawings. This was when I had knowledge of what I wanted to do, but could not live on that and had to keep studying. Later I worked in Advertising Agencies as Art Creative and Copy Writer. When I returned to Portugal, in 1974, worked in the same area, in different places, as Art Director until I opened my own Advertising Agency.
My art work was always present and I worked on it every single day, as I still do: working and showing!
VOICES: Who are other artists who have influenced you, or whom you admire?
Nothing that I did or do would be the same if I had not lived in Africa so many years. We are the total of infinite apprenticeship that arrives from various origins. We filter them and take for us only what we want or serves our way. The choices I did for my art are the same I did for my life. This is the binomial art-life, life-art.
I worked with a few artists in Mozambique, such as José Júlio Ferreira, Malangatana Valente, Silva Tavares, and learned from them what I wanted for me — especially techniques, because the rest I had already inside me.
There are many artists that I admire, like Pablo Picasso or Salvador Dali. Also Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Lautrec and so many others. In Riachos, just talking about drawing or painting, there is an artist that I really admire, whose name is Manuel de Sousa Filipe and signs Masofi and is also one of the founders of the Art Nucleus.
VOICES: Can you please tell us a little about All Love Letters Are Ridiculous?
“All Love Letters Are Ridiculous” is one of the 18 drawings that I did, under the name of “Another Look at Pessoa”, as a homage to the great poet Fernando Pessoa, in 2008, to commemorate 120 years from his birth.
These drawings about Pessoa, his life and work, are like poems by themselves. It’s another way of reading Pessoa, written in another language, with another grammar and another visual effect.
Let’s look at part of the poem:
All love letters are
They wouldn’t be love letters if they weren’t
In my time I also wrote love letters
But in fact
Only those who’ve never written
This shows a man that rationalized everything, but we all know that you cannot rationalize feelings and live them at the same time. Either you think about them, and they will look ridiculous, or you live them, feeling in the moon…and doing ridiculous things, as well. Better feel than think. You will feel ridiculous anyway, but alive!…and love is the greatest of all feelings…
This drawing is a hymn to love!
VOICES: Can you please tell us about other of your works that are your favorites?
Talking of these 18 works, I could speak about any of the others and it’s difficult to choose one. Let me talk about one that I did for another artist, a woman that I admire. Her name is Chaline Ouellet and she lives in USA. The story of her parents and her own life inspired me to do this drawing that I called “Riding Life in An Old Red Bicycle”…what she still does!
The size is 72 x 42 cm, and tells the story of a brave family and a wonderful woman with a beautiful heart and a rich sensitive inside, that makes her work more for the others than for herself. Doing this drawing was for me like travelling through some other’s life and be surprised at each new moment. It was a pleasure for me to be able to reach the end…and enjoy it as I do.
VOICES: Thank you, José Alberto Gomes Pereira, for letting our contributors and readers get a glimpse of your art and hear your voice.
A gallery of some of Gomes Pereira’s works can be found in his Facebook album.