Vitor dos Santos

Cartoons and Jam Sandwiches

July 19 - August 3 2014

When we were children our drawing held magical properties: a circle could be a sun, a face, a flower; lines were alive with possibilities. Vitor dos Santos’ new body of work seeks to recapture those magical-symbolic attributes of line. He has always considered himself “primarily a drawer, then a painter” but tells of how recent time spent with his seven year old cousin, Amelia, gave fresh impetus to this inclination. “We spent a lot of time chatting and sketching things. She would make up stories for the images and give some of the figures bizarre names. Attracted to the immediacy and symbolic nature of her drawings, I observed her intuitive mark making and colour choices. I liked the way the figures and objects had a floating quality to them, as if they were lost in outer space. This started me thinking about my own practice.”

The title, Cartoons and Jam Sandwiches, references certain recollections of Vitor’s own childhood. In the early 1990’s the dos Santos family migrated to Australia. Vitor was 9 years old and spoke very little, if any, English. “It was such a strange yet thrilling experience, especially coming from a small country town in Portugal to a huge city like Sydney,” he reflects. “Although I was initially quiet and withdrawn, this time in my life was fascinating and I love revisiting it. Memories come flashing back, like arriving home from school and watching cartoons and eating jam sandwiches with my younger brother, Claudio; playing outside for hours, making forts and using our imaginations to create alternative worlds.”

A sense of nostalgia permeates Vitor’s new works. The imagery in the old storybooks and vintage comics he collects from op shops has rekindled memories. Like many artists, Vitor is in the habit of carrying around a sketchbook with him. “When I travel sometimes I use it, sometimes I don’t, but at least I know its there, just in case. The sketchpad is a place where anything goes. There are no boundaries, no limitations. It is a place where the mind and pen meet,” he muses. “In this series I have been trying to approach the board as I would a page in one of my sketch books. When I start a painting I don’t really know what the end product will look like and this is exciting. It reminds me of a Hunter S. Thompson quote that I love - “buy the ticket, take the ride”. I have some direction but I am always open to the possibility of chance. Making mistakes is something I embrace rather than dismiss. This way the image creates its own history.”

Line is perhaps the most expressive of the visual elements and Vitor uses a childlike way of seeing to express an adult way of feeling. The goal is emotional resonance. In recent works, colour has assumed a greater importance as he explores new palette options. “Even though I studied colour theory at uni, my working with colour is very instinctual,” says Vitor. Within what he describes as “windows of colour overload”, his imagery takes form. Ever governed by impulse, Vitor allows the energy of initial markings to prompt the direction the work will take. Drifting “list-like in pictorial space”, his iconography evokes the fitful recalling of childhood days.

In the After School Cartoons picture, a multiplicity of schematically rendered Batman figures stand impotently, arms dangling, or surface and submerge amidst the tumult of paint. Toy-like planes zoom all around through stormy skies while the ubiquitous sardines from his Portuguese homeland navigate uncertain waters. Red conte-crayon and charcoal scribbled markings amplify the climate of unpredictability and apprehension of not only his, but our own times past, present and future.

Now Lismore-based, Vitor dos Santos has a Bachelor Visual Arts, Southern Cross University, Lismore 2007 and a Certificate III Fine Arts (Painting, Digital Art and Design, Digital Photography), Meadow Bank TAFE, Sydney 2001. He was a Finalist in the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship, Sydney 2008 and has presented solo exhibitions in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.


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