Artist

Ulisses Pereira Chaves

Ulisses Pereira Chaves
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Biography

Ulisses Pereira Chaves
1924, Córrego Santo Antônio – MG / 2007, MG

The greatest ceramist in the Valley of Jequitinhonha lives in the distant town of Caraí: master Ulisses Pereira Chaves, today 80 years old. His unique, original figures make him, in fact, one of the most important sculptors in Brazil. Landscape artist Roberto Burle Max – who understood the circularity existing between the upper and lower class cultures, and author of a collective work with universal scope – built on his estate in Barra de Guaratiba, Rio de Janeiro, a pavilion practically designed to show the works of Ulisses, which he had acquired over the years. Ulisses, serious and dignified, struggling to survive in an endemic region and leading a life on step away from extreme poverty, says that “ he belongs to nature always close to the sun, moon and stars”.

When his was a boy, he worked on the land, as he still does today, and raised cattle. He rightly does not like being photographed or filmed, “ because it takes away your energy”. Ulisses is son of potter Domingas Pereira dos Santos, who in turn is daughter, granddaughter of potters. From that information we can be sure that this trade in Caraí is almost three hundred years old. It was also only since the generation of Ulisses that adult men began working with clay, since in previous generations this was solely a woman’s occupation. He rarely leaves his little farm in the middle of the countryside, where he lives with his wife and has brought up his eight children. His wife , Maria José and his sister Ana , who lives next door, are also ceramists and were born there. Some of his children moved to São Paulo, others fell ill, and who live with him now are Margarida, an excellent ceramist, and his son Zé Maria. Ulisses has created around him a family workshop, whose members carry the trademark of his invention, but in their own different ways. Zoomorphous and anthromorphous figures, one-footed super-natural creatures, like Uromelo of the Greek – Roman tradition, others with numerous heads, minotaurs, werewolves, and in time new characters have been added to the fantastic images of Ulisses. When we compare his works from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, his search is clearly visible for an increasingly formal refinement, the conscience of researching the matter to give the plastic result. The latest creations of Ulisses, beginning in the 1990s, are the remarkable heads designed with incredibly few elements, the nose merging with the hairline that could be the helmet of a Homer warrior, and the mouth half-open emitting secret words of the pact made between man and nature. Is he Expressionist, Surrealist, or participant in a different experience, very naturally coexisting with the super-natural, considering it more genuine than the facts perceived by us in our everyday lives? On two recent visits to his small farm in Córrego da Santo Antônio, Ulisses clearly demonstrated his awareness of the auratic nature of the work of art, which he textually declares invisible because it is in constant mutation, and that he knows it to be irreplaceable and incommunicable unless by its own physical presence. Philosopher Eduardo Subirats refers to him in his essay “The ultimate artist”(2004). The work by Ulisses consisted of an entire module in the Brésil, Arts Populaires exhibition ( Gran Palais, Paris, 1978), take to the Museum of Art of Brasília the following years and then to the permanent exhibition of the São Francisco Culture Center in João Pessoa, Paraíba. His art works are found in the collection of Edison Carneiro Museum in Rio de Janeiro, of the National Coordination of Folklore and Popular Art of IPHAN, and in the Casa do Pontal, which exhibits the Jacques van de Beuque colletion.

Little Dictionary of the Brazilian People’s Art – 20th Century, by anthropologist and poet Lélia Coelho Frota




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