Filipe Rocha da Silva builds large paintings depicting extremely small, almost invisible figures. He has long been fascinated with patterns, including imagery composed of small particles that when seen up close are comprised of human figures. “The nanoscale humans that populate da Silva’s works can be looked on as resembling both brain cells and individual neurons, according to the artist, or the complex patterns of pandemic diseases and computer viruses…” writes Brandon Taylor (After Constructivism, Yale University Press, 2014).
In his multi-layered paintings, built up with a plurality of materials, there is a strong Asian influence ascribed to Chinese painting. We can also find traces of Western medieval painting, pointillism and 20th century art. He sometimes consciously quotes from art history, reinterpreting mannerism and the Renaissance, by overlapping his characteristic calligraphy composed of a multitude of small human beings.
More recently, it is his labor-intensive wool drawings that incorporate or depict similar patterns using solely the precise line of wool thread. By using this very specific technique, based on traditional secular weaving crafts common in Portugal, the overlapping human figures dissolve their forms and shapes of reality. Fertility Landscape depicts a wild forest scene, populated by tiny figures throughout, textured by the wool threads in all directions and divided in varying colors that change each time the needle has to be fed. As in his previous works, it is a world where the collective human presence is at times overwhelming, but nature persists and dominates.
Filipe Rocha da Silva (b. 1954, Portugal) currently lives and works in Florence, Italy. He completed undergraduate studies in Arts Plastiques et Sciences de l’Art at the Sorbonne, Paris, France (1973), Fine Arts, Lisbon, Portugal (1980) and Studio Art Centre International, Florence, Italy (1982), earned his MFA at Pratt Institute, New York (1985) and his Ph.D. in Visual Arts at Universidade de Évora, Évora, Portugal (2005). Recent solo exhibitions include: Textile Drawings, Fundação Arpad Szenes Vieira da Silva, Lisbon, Portugal (2016) and Wool Drawing, Art Projects International, New York, NY (2015). His work is represented in major collections, including Centro de Arte Moderna do Funchal, Madeira, Portugal; Centro de Arte Moderna, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, Portugal; Museu da Cidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal; Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Fundação de Serralves, Porto, Portugal; and Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Union Fenosa, La Coruña, Spain.
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