This text comes from a visit to the artist Chico Santos, who received me on August 9, 2016; we've been wanting this conversation for a long time, like someone looking to meet an old friend.
He received me in his studio.
There were glass domes with little houses (a main element of his work) as if they were species of animals brought from an unknown continent, they were arranged on a shelf, there was a woodworking table, sacks of waste piled up, hollow modules. These elements occupy every place that is somewhat creamy or so it seemed to me that day, the result of a thin film of dust common to environments where time is not registered only through clocks. We sat down in front of his garden and the conversation ran loose, perfect and full of silences – the artist thinks a lot to talk, which made me think too.
The installations that will be present at SESC Presidente Prudente: Errant Domos, Fructus Domos, Locus and Oppidum Domos, all have small-format houses made of fiberglass, resin or polyethylene and seem, at first sight, playful objects, from a childhood permanently displaced. Their different configurations require the delicate perception of those who come into contact with them. They form large groups, sprout tiny ones on abandoned trunks, they seem to walk through space. They are always white, or almost white, always delicate. The artist, almost in opposition to it is dense, expects from himself a knowledge that makes him more autonomous in the making of his works each day and makes him reposition values, keeping himself free from the seductions of comfort. These works are all carried out in his studio and without the help of other professionals, based on an intense and solitary research on the chemistry of the materials and necessary procedures. By developing this knowledge, the artist creates the particular understanding he has about the origin of his houses. Understand the body they will have. Chico wonders what they would be like if they were born naturally? Where would they be born? Where would they die? Thus, its anatomy is defined and the houses adapt to the characteristics of the place where they appear.
They grow slowly – the artist pays attention to details as if creating a doll and in the end expects a behavior from it. As Geppetto did when creating Pinocchio.
Returning from Seattle, where he recently held an exhibition, he noticed something that bothered him: the Americans wanted to know more about how the work was done, making them more interested in technical issues: why aren't they made of bronze, why aren't they big, the which for the artist is less important. When he assembles his installations, Chico is interested in the extended time that small works demand from people, in the perception of details, in how they become figures in the world. He doesn't use bronze because he wants his works, as living figures, to end, "the works don't have to be eternal", suggests the artist, arguing that the ephemerality interests him to the extent that his perception is in accordance with his own life . According to him, his work also dies, passes, even if it lasts a long time. Large works, which would function as a kind of visual show, do not interest the artist.
As monuments to the little things, the most immediate delicacies, their little houses are neither good nor bad, they are what they are, with two or more sides, and how everything that is sown can grow and become this or that. Like a fungus that can either cause a disease or be its cure. They are in accordance with the cycles of birth and death of nature and thus guard the unfathomable mysteries that animate every living being.
The Glibi Animation Studio is one of the references the artist mentions. I remembered seeing My Friend Totoro very enchanted. The Totoro that gives title to the production is a kind of diversion/deviant/fantastic animal that allows a girl to find her way back home, making the journey a magical experience. The intensity of the narrative takes place because the unexpected is its structure. I was thinking about what we can discover about reality, when under closer scrutiny it opens up and offers itself as pure mystery. What places do we go when we follow the paths suggested by our most honest perceptions? What mysteries do we reach through the silences? What will our objects of fellowship tell others about us when we leave?
Chico Santos' houses are objects/animals of the same lineage.
The observation of human types interests the artist, the emotions they exchange are material for his work. In the same way, everyday life, relationships less mediated by expectations of impressing and more open to exchanges, feelings that are established when someone offers a little of themselves to the other.
I asked what the artist wants with his work, he replied that there is always an expectation of change. He and I agreed that life is matter, that everything we create sustains our life, he told me then that he has the desire to make real what is not yet, what does not exist...yet.
Their houses can arise from the affectation caused by a person with whom the artist had contact, and if this person is happy, it interferes with how the house presents itself.
Finally, I think that the artist Chico Santos is exercising his power over time, creating perceptual alternatives. It may not be a great power, but there is an honest desire to dance to your own music and make your own life count.
PS: The artist is concerned with the residues that his work produces, he maintains a worm farm in his backyard, where his cat also lives and some others that come from the street until there and are being taken care of by his companion. There is an ecosystem being developed and I noticed a balance being established in these relationships.
Text by Danillo Villa