26/05/2013 | THE GENIUS AND THE MADMAN | A TARDE Newspaper, Salvador, Bahia

ART AND HEALTH – At the age of 70, the famous plastic artist from Bahia is now going through the drama of alcohol addiction and with his mental problem still untreated. “Not even Renato Russo goes by car”, in the words of Aurelino dos Santos, with a messianic look, rounded eyes and an emphatic voice. The words about the late vocalist of famous rock band Legião Urbana is just one of the senseless phrases of the great Bahian plastic artist who has mental problems. At the age of 70, a heavy drinker and extremely thin, the illiterate self-learner who has already had his pictures put on show in Spain and France is now living in conditions that are getting worse and worse, in his hut without mortar, of a total area of 35 square metres, in a small shantytown wedged up against the Ondina seafront. “Mario Cravo is a living shadow”, he adds, with his head firmly set in his parallel universe, mentioning one of the heavyweights of Bahian art. In those rare moments where he seems tuned in to reality, there is a risk of imprecision. “I like to drink (beer). I only drink two (cans) a day”, Aurelino ensured us when questioned by A TARDE about whether he was responsible for the empty cans strewn on the floor, around the house. “In fact, he drinks a lot more. If we let him, he’ll drink all day. It is beer, wine, Brazilian firewater made from cachaça… says his niece Sara dos Santos, 41, who shares with his uncle the hut without a ceiling and with asbestos tiles. Alcohol is not Aurelino’s only addiction. A compulsive smoker, he burns up almost two packs of cigarettes a day. To make matters even worse, he does not eat properly, something his wire-thin build only confirms. He stays away from fruit, greens and vegetables, preferring tinned food and processed meats. “The only good thing is that, at least, he drinks a lot of milk”, the niece plays down. Despite the evident state of neglect of her chronologically advantaged uncle with mental problems, Sara says nothing can be done: “He is stubborn, and does not like hospitals”. There is no precise information about what kind of mental problem he has, never having been put in the care of a specialist doctor. “The first step is an assessment, as there is a need to know the patient and his previous life, so that the extent of the problem may be determined. Only then can one reach the recommended treatment. It could be a case for outpatient treatment, or admittance to hospital may be required”, explained psychiatrist Fabiana Nery, during an interview to A TARDE. The lack of medical care and his alcoholism are, in her opinion, factors that make things worse. “A person with mental problems who goes years without treatment or who has never been treated may have a response which is limited to medication”. And she completes: “The use of alcohol makes the situation much worse, as it worsens most of the psychiatric symptoms”. INTERDICTION? The small room, without furniture and without a television, is the new stage for an artist that has had more productive and inspired days. If in the past Aurelino got to paint three works within the space of a month, now he needs the same time frame for only one painting. “Because of drinking, he is painting less and less every day”, his niece Sara says. “Aurelino has gone away. Normally, when this is happening it is because he is drinking. He knows we don’t like booze in here”, confirms Veranice Gornik, the owner of Prova do Artista, one of the art galleries in Salvador which resells the work of the artist – other important galleries such as those of Paulo Darzé, in Corredor da Vitória, and Roberto Alban, in Ondina, also sell his works. Veranice Gornik says she has already tried to help Aurelino. “But he won’t go to the doctor, no way”. Veranice understands that only one radical measure could be the solution: interdiction.” As a physical person cannot interdict him, but only his family, this is now a case for the State to deal with, because only interdiction can help him eat better and treat his alcoholism”, she suggests. His niece Sara and other close relatives do not plan to take the initiative. An interdiction, therefore, would only be possible through a third-party denouncement to the Prosecution Office. “It would be necessary to have a medical report about his physical and mental sanity, proving that he is unable to manage his own life”, lawyer Priscila Pinto, a specialist in Civil Law, has explained to A TARDE. In her opinion, a Family Judge could accept a tutor as being responsible for the dependant person – in this case, Aurelino. VAN GOGH AND GARRINCHA. On the other hand, some people do not agree with interdiction for Aurelino – and these include Emanoel Araújo, the head curator of the Afro Brazil Museum in São Paulo. Emanoel understands that each person has his or her own fate, and mentions the example of famous football player Garrincha (1933-1983) who took to drink after ending his career; samba composer Geraldo Pereira (1918-1955) who was a Bohemian; and Dutch painter Van Gogh (1853-1890) who succumbed to madness and shot himself: “Aurelino shall pay the price for his power of conscience or lack of conscience. This is the problem, there’s no way out. What is important is the artist and how we decode his work.” But, would Aurelino really lose the power to create art if he had psychiatric treatment? “His paintings do not bring out the disorganisation of the pathology that accompanies him. His artistic talent transcends, and works of art appear where craziness does not dominate”, writes psychoanalyst Urânia Tourinho Peres, in the catalogue that has marked the exhibition of Aurelino dos Santos in the Afro Brazil Museum (São Paulo). PICTURES BY THE ARTIST HAVE ALREADY BEEN SHOWN IN VALENCIA AND PARIS. A bus conductor in his youth, Aurelino started his career as a plastic artist in 1963, influenced by Bahian sculptor Agnaldo Santos (1926-1962) and encouraged also by architect Lina Bo Bardi. The geometrisation and strong colours are a constant element of his pictures, which are considered as primitive art. “He is an artist in a class of his own. His work is different from that of other primitive artists. What is figurative for him, is abstract for the public”, says the Bahian art critic Justino Marinho. If Aurelino’s wanderings rarely extended beyond the limits of Ondina, his art has known no bounds. There are some of his paintings at the Afro Brazil Museum, and his paintings have also been in exhibitions in Valencia and Paris – where the Cartier Foundation used a phrase of poet Fernando Pessoa to present him: “The myth is the nothing who has everything”. Marcelo Machado

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