MEET THE ARTIST: Hugo Castilho

MEET THE ARTIST: Hugo Castilho

Hugo Castilho creates an intimate universe, by combining his taste for fantasy and drawing with line relief. Based on the surface, the drawing, modeled and painted, emerges as a three-dimensional work. In this meeting, life is celebrated in an inclusive, ethical and humorous way, by embracing humans, animals and nature as vehicles of figurative expression.Hugo Castilho born in Setúbal in 1995, graduated in Visual Arts - Multimedia variant in 2016, at the University of Évora and, in 2021, completed a Master's Degree in Painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Lisbon. He individually exhibited his artistic work in 2017 and 2019 at the Espaço das Artes of the Casa da Cultura de Setúbal, and in 2022 at the Arte Periférica Gallery at the Centro Cultural de Belém. Collectively, he exhibited at Zetgallery in Braga in 2019, and at Drawing Room Lisboa at Sociedade Nacional de Belas-Artes in 2021, represented by Galeria Arte Periférica. Currently, he is focused on producing high-relief paintings and writes non-fiction novels. Learn more about the artistHugo Castilho in this interview.

Tell us how this passion for the world of art began.

My entry into the world of art will forever be linked to my grandmother's slip. In the summer of 2016, I finished my degree in Visual Arts - Multimedia variant, at the University of Évora, and after a journey of short temporary jobs, I started working part-time as a logistics operator (which I hated). One day, in late autumn of the same year, when I returned home from the night shift, my grandmother was not there. My mother had told me that she had slipped in the bathroom and broken her femur and, therefore, was in the hospital in Setúbal. During her recovery, her already weak state of health worsened with two successive strokes, and it was in this context of uncertainty and anguish that I, just twenty years old, started to paint.

Since I was a child, I've always had a passion for the world of cartoons (this was my dream profession), but I can't say that I've ever felt the same for the world of art. What led me to paint was, in essence, my grandmother's slip and her consequent loss of vitality. Me, unable to go back in time and somehow prevent this from happening, and also emotionally disturbed by my professional path (or lack of it) - since my animations were a bit disheartening -, in a certain off duty, as I zigzagged through the rooms of my house, I entered the pantry and found two cans of enamel paint inside. Both cans - one with green paint and the other with blue paint - were in a corner of the small partition as if they had been lost, or even hidden (years before, they had been used to paint one wall in my mother's room, and the other in the my room). Although I had taken the Visual Arts course at secondary school in Setúbal, and my degree had been linked to the artistic field, I had never really liked the aspect of painting and you can count on one hand the times I painted with acrylic, watercolor, gouache or oil. However, at that moment and without really thinking why, I grabbed the cans; I looked for some brushes (for the first time since secondary school) and some mdf boards (which I had purchased for a college project and which I had never completed); I put everything on the floor of my room and started painting.

Since that meeting, I never let go of enamel paints and, gradually, the activity of painting took up more and more of my free time on breaks, alone in my room (whenever, of course, I wasn't keeping my grandmother company in the hospital and later in a long-term care unit). In this sense, I'm safe to share that painting (and the art world) literally slipped into my life as a therapeutic way to entertain myself. In 2017, a few months after that meeting, and after my part-time job contract ended, my routine was reduced to two occupations: taking care of my grandmother (who had recovered minimally in the meantime and returned to the comfort of my home), and doing what, so far, has turned out to be the greatest discovery of my life: painting. 

How does your creative process work? What are the elements that inspire you?

With the conclusion of the master's degree in painting, by FBAUL, in early 2021, the theme of my artistic work, perceptible in particular by its figurative discourse, has focused on my life: either through memories of a real past, distorted or fictional, plunging nostalgically into my experiences as a child, and remembering the days of the different seasons playing in the fields with my friends; or in domestic family environments with loved ones who have not been here for a long time; whether taking my current daily routine as a reference, which takes place mainly at home, in the company of the three elements that most inspire me: my mother, my grandmother and my cat; but also by the intensive consumption of films, music and literature. And, externally, for the essential walks through the Sado Estuary, where I can study, with the eyes of someone who wants to create, a variety of animal life forms, which are also busy with their daily tasks of survival. As such, whenever I want to design new pieces, I just sit down at my desk and start drawing, digging into my memory the content stored over time. After scribbling many drawings, it is common for some to catch my fancy and it will be those that I will later use as a study and transpose them to the physical support of the pictorial canvas: first sculpting and then painting.

In your art pieces, you create an intimate universe, by combining your taste for fantasy and embossed design. Based on the surface, the drawing, modeled and painted, emerges as a three-dimensional work. How did this interest in three-dimensionality arise?

I believe that the interest in the three-dimensionality of my work was awakened by the free classes in ceramics during the Master in Painting. However, the desire to work with matter already existed, even if I had never explored it visually. In this case, it seems to me that the stop-motion animation cinema genre, where real models are used to create the characters and scenarios for the production of these films, had a relevant influence on the desire to make the pictorial canvas emerge from the basic canvas. my own characters, by assigning them prominence with the volumetry of matter. As if they came to life.

In your works of art, life is celebrated in an inclusive, ethical and humorous way, through vehicles of figurative expression: humans, animals and nature. How do you feel your work affects the viewer?

I don't think about it much, but sometimes they make me smile in sad moments.

In your “atelier” you work on several projects simultaneously: how many works do you currently have “in progress”? Are there any that are presenting you with specific challenges that you would like to share?

At the moment, I don't have any set of works in progress, as I was working professionally outside the artistic field for the seventh time - the latter as a store operator in a shopping center -, and as expected, even if it gave me some stability financial monthly, the more than nine hours a day of work stuck there, prevented me from having lungs to breathe or brains to create whenever I returned home and entered the atelier. This is what happens when you want to be an artist and only have the sale of your artistic work as a source of income, but you don’t have the “talent” to come from a family with the right assets and contacts within the “national artistic scene”. . But now that I've given up that job, I hope I'll have the energy - while I still have time - to get my hands on smoothing putty and enamel paint again.

Which artists have you inspired?

Artistically I feel more influenced by the work of filmmakers like Wes Anderson, Jim Jarmusch, Pedro Almodovar, Majid Majidi, David Lynch, Eric Rohmer, Andrei Tarkovsky; and especially for the animations by Hayao Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli) and Chuck Jones (Looney Tunes). Music is the form of art that accompanies me every day and it seems undeniable that it also ends up contaminating my artistic work. Among the musicians I've listened to most recently are: Bill Evans, Aphex Twin, Brian Eno, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Frank Zappa, Yo La Tengo, Fleetwood Mac, Radiohead, Leonard Cohen and Kevin Hayers. I only sporadically investigate the work of other visual artists. When I do, it's on the internet, and I particularly like looking at Japanese painting; discover works by artists considered naïve by contemporary elites; and rediscover works by Picasso, Matisse, Henri Rousseau, Van Gogh, Munch, Hopper, Brueghel, Hockney, Bonnard, O'Keeffe, Frans Snyders, Peter Doig, and the sculptor Henry Moore.

You are a young artist, do you have any advice you would like to share with young people who are taking their first steps in the world of art?

Create what you feel you have to create and not what others think should be created.

Finally, which artist do you dream of working with one day?

None, as I particularly enjoy being and working alone. In addition, I produced alongside my friends and fellow artists for two years in my master's degree in painting, and sharing the studio with them was already a unique dream that I never thought I'd want, much less come true.

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