Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Franco ponders on his art and the flaws of modern Macau

Posted by Kimberly on July 3, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
July 03 2007, page 4 (826 words)

The gallery can hardly be called that, with the smallest space possible and an overhang just begging for tall people to bump their heads on.
But for local artist Joaquim Franco, the small enclave on the second floor of the La Bonne Heure restaurant is ideal for showing his latest pieces of work.
Defying description, they tend to leap from Pollock-styled splashes to a more serene and simplistic use of colour.
Joaquim prefers to mix techniques, using a blend of painting, drawing, collages and prints, calling his art “abstract figurative.”
“I feel it is more interesting. It goes like this; I have an idea for a new work. I try the best way of arriving at my objective.
“Sometimes I may use prints, sometimes only collages. It depends on the image that I want to get. “But I feel much more interesting when I mix all these materials,” he says.
His first exhibition was in 1978, but since then has been involved in several more, including Biennials, with about 18 exhibitions here in Macau.
A Portuguese from Lisbon, Joaquim has been resident in Macau for 18 years, having come through his work in archaeology.
“At the time I was doing that and my art work but working in archaeology to survive because sometimes it is difficult to get money just in painting,” he says.
Despite only a ten-month invitation, his decision to remain in Macau beyond that time has not been regretted until recently.
“I like Macau but I am a bit tired of it now,” he says.
“Because Macau is really small and has changed a lot and in my opinion has started to be a little bit boring.
“I’ll tell you one thing. When I arrived in Macau we had about ten discos. And now we have one. So if you want to go out after work to relax with your friends to have a drink together, you don’t have a place to go.
“So it’s boring in this way.”
Just as deplorable in his view is Macau’s cultural facilities.
“It can be better. What I think is Macau is a very small place, it’s true, but Macau has a lot of money.
“So I think we can do better than they do. Of course if you compare Macau with other cities in the world, other countries, of course Macau has a lot of things.
“But in terms of quality, I think we can do better,” he says.
The gallery was proposed to the owners by Joaquim, who felt that the space could be utilised more effectively, but in his opinion, could be more warmly welcomed.
“If you compare with Europe and Brazil, all around the world there are places like this; a restaurant with a gallery, they are all around. In Macau it’s a new idea. The people don’t feel comfortable with that.
“This is our fourth exhibition here since last December. People come when the exhibition is open but after that, they have dinner, sometimes they come up but mostly they don’t come up to look, so it looks like the people are not interested.
“What I remember from before is that people were more interested in these kinds of things,” he says.
He also remembers the drawings he used to make in archaeology. He refers to them as “very precise, millimetre by millimetre.”
“When I tried to draw something my hand was very precise. So I tried to destroy this because I wanted something more expressive,” he says.
This expressiveness as remained constant over the past fourteen years, even if his techniques have changed.
“I feel more movement and intensity was needed in my earlier work [his larger paintings]. “Nowadays maybe my studio is now small…[he laughs]. Maybe there is that connection too because I no longer have the space for big canvases,” he says.
But it’s not just the practicalities.
“I change somewhat the colours I used before. Before I used just the primary colours and I tried to reduce the materials I used.
“After that I started to develop other ideas and now I make more cleaner colours. I’ve started to arrive at something more cleaner, more simple,” he says.
Yet this simplicity isn’t always clear when attempting to derive meaning from one of this paintings, something he feels all his paintings possess.
“I prefer to keep this meaning for me and let people look and feel,” he says.
“Take a romance book, for example. You can read it and have your interpretation. I could read the same book and feel other things. With paintings it is the same.
“Sometimes I put a name, sometimes I don’t. I realise maybe if I give a name for the painting then people are going to focus on this.
“But going back to the idea of the book, even books have names so you read the book and you get your own interpretation. Sometimes the names can guide people but sometimes not,” he says.
Joaquim came to a decision some time ago to dismiss regular work and focus solely on his art, “I’ve wanted all my life to have this opportunity,” interspersing this with giving art lessons.
“I give some lessons to kids, to teach them to paint and to do some techniques,” he says.
Deriving inspiration from real life, Joaquim admits that his paintings involve a slow process.
“So I have an idea, then I start to make studies, drawings and then I develop the idea until I have something to give me the final painting. I make several drawings but I can change.
“So even with the study when I start the work itself, sometimes I change,” he says.
Some of his more interesting pieces of work revolve around the idea of music in a more spiritual sense, using the cello as a means of expression.
“I think the music is important in our lives so I started to paint several pieces about music.
“And I chose the cello because in the symphonic orchestra the cello imitates the human voice, so I tried to paint the cello’s music and its colours.
“Not painting the instrument but the sounds of the instrument because for me it’s about sound. I have to represent the sound.
“So I don’t paint people, not normally,” he says.
Asked why this is the case, he says, “it’s not difficult for me to paint people. I just don’t feel interested,” although he declines to comment beyond this.
Unlike some painters, Joaquim has no thought as to what people do with his paintings once their leave his studio but admits to brief bouts of tears.
“I never think about that. Some of the paintings I don’t want to sell.
“Sometimes I cry when people go out of my studio with the paintings. Sometimes I feel nervous,” he says.
But moments when buyers express their feelings for a piece of his work are worth remembering.
“Someone bought a painting from me and they took it home. After two or three months, he came to me and said, ‘your painting is so beautiful, so nice in my room. I am very happy with this painting in my home.’
“So I feel very happy,” he says.
Joaquim’s works will be displayed at La Bonne Heure restaurant’s gallery until July 15.

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