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26/06/2012 | Samico Igniting Imagination | Caderno 2

Samico igniting imagination. An artist who brings together ancestral stories and popular culture is now among the country’s most important engravers. 26 June 2012 | 3:08 a.m. CAMILA MOLINA - O Estado de S.Paulo – “Is it cold out there?”, asks artist Gilvan Samico, who came to São Paulo to inaugurate, at the Estação Art Gallery, an exhibition of engravings that have made him “the most famous Brazilian engraver of all times”, as not only defines writer Ariano Suassuna, his friend within the poetry of the Armorial Movement. Samico, who has just turned 84, is a “bit softened”, he says, with an illness which he has been treating – but then, already in the second minute of our telephone conversation, from Olinda where he lives, the artist starts to play and joke, and talk in generous terms about the vast path he has trailed. Wood cuttings by Samico are rare, not only due to the fact that this artist only carves one, or two at most, works per year. “What makes Samico’s art into a great form of art, raised to the highest standard of graphical or pictorial creation, is that his search is by no means limited to the realm of literature or the erudite art known as such, but also has success in its original construction of a powerful invention which is supplied both by ancestral stories as also by popular culture”, defines critic Weydson Barros Leal, in one of the texts within the book “Samico” (Bem-Te-Vi Press, 96 pages, R$ 190), which shall be launched today, with the presence of the engraver himself, at the opening of his exhibition at the Estação Art Gallery. This exhibition shows a set of 16 engravings by Gilvan Samico between the 1990s and the 2000s. There is also a distinguishing factor, which is the presence of two painted wooden frames (from two wood cuttings which have out-of-print editions) created by the artist, in a way to present his meticulous profession. “I do not know how to do anything in a hurry. Before I know it, the year is over. In most cases, I only do one engraving a year, but recently I have managed two. Don’t you see that I am becoming a child again?”, jokes Samico. “If this way I am able to get the quality I seek, we shall conform to this. There are people who say I am lazy: I am slow”, he continues. “Currently I am working on a frame, these that I often design”, says Samico, who would like to engrave only using pequiá-marfim wood (Aspidosperma desmanthum) "This wood is light-coloured and also hard, and cuts well. However, I do not have it, as it is now in danger of extinction", he says. "I have arranged a similar substitute, a wood which here in the Brazilian Northeast is known as yellow satin (amarelo-cetim), like the fabric". From his home on São Bento Street in Olinda, Samico always asks for “simple questions” and refuses to be called “Sir”. “I work with two possibilities: the first is to create something based on a legend or something that I have already read; the other is the creation which does not depend on this, something more personal”, the artist says. Biblical stories, for example, are mixed with references to the Popular Novelist of the Northeast which Suassuna recommended to him in the early 1960s – which would be the path of a mixture between the erudite and popular culture, the base of the Armorial Movement in the 1970s, under the leadership of the writer and of which Samico was a “first-rate star”. However, “the personal thing”, says the engraver, “is something I do not seek anywhere”. “The title only appears once the engraving is ready”, he says – and many of them start with the word Creation and are then accompanied by an explanatory subtitle. His work is figurative, a kind of construction based on an “architecture of dreams or a semiology of the fantastic”, as defined by Weydson Barros Leal. This is an engraving that “ignites imagination”, Suassuna says in the preface to the book “Samico”. Light. Born in Recife, Gilvan Samico really wanted to be a painter – today, he jokes that he does not know if the world lost a painter or gained an engraver, or if the world “did not gain anything”. “I have always prepared myself to be a painter, but I have entered a group that invented an engraving club, something that already existed in Rio Grande do Sul, and others who had concerns in this regard. The fact, however, is that here there was an important popular tradition of engraving on wood, also for practical reasons”, says the artist. Graphic art is also more intimist and Samico could work in a corner of his house. On receiving an award for his engravings – one of the awards, given by Aloísio Magalhães -, the artist became more and more committed to it. In the 1950s, Samico moved to São Paulo and the meeting with engraver Livio Abramo was the first “yes” and “I want” of his career. Then he went to Rio, where Oswaldo Goeldi became his master. “My engravings up to the late 1950s were very nocturnal, but I found them lyrical. I consider expressionism as highly pessimist and there was a time when I wanted to get away from it. This is something European, of the cold, of countries that were at war, melancholy, something odd. This is why I am afraid of São Paulo”, Samico disarms. He also jokes that he is a Gemini, an antagonic being and a pessimist by nature, but who did not want to base his works on “human dramas”. “The night load started to worry me and, in the dialogue with Suassuna, back in Recife, he suggested that I passed over the popular art here. This hit my head like a slap." At the time, seeking a “Brazilian niche”, Samico let light enter his work. “I went to the core of the sun”. Since the 1970s, the cordel theme started to soothen, and the personal side gained more and more ground in his creations. Today, Samico passes a sentence: “My engravings are now neither day or night. They represent the afternoon, a milder tone.”




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