The artist José de Guimarães and the Alphabet
José de Guimarães is an unavoidable figure in the history of Portuguese plastic arts. With more than 60 years of career, he has a vast and remarkable work in painting, sculpture and other creative activities. Travels across Europe, Africa and Asia defined his career by encouraging the development of a universal language. For several decades, each of these cultures enriched their production, emerging from this intercultural interaction the creation of the alphabet. Discover in this article how the artist José de Guimarães created this creative and linguistic element.
José de Guimarães
Who is José de Guimarães?
José Maria Fernandes Marques was born on November 25, 1939, in the city of Guimarães, entered the Military Academy and studied Engineering at the Technical University of Lisbon in 1957, thus leaving his hometown. The following year, he began his studies in the field of painting and drawing with Teresa de Sousa and Gil Teixeira Lopes. He attended the engraving courses of the Portuguese Engravers Cooperative Society, where he met Hogan, Júlio Pomar, Almada Negreiros, Bartolomeu Cid dos Santos, among others.
He left for Paris in 1961, when he came into contact with Fauve painting, which ended up influencing him in the future. It was in this year that he adopted the pseudonym José de Guimarães , in honor of his homeland. The following year, he traveled to Italy, where he saw the works of Miguel Ângelo, Morandi and Giorgio de Chirico. In 1967, in Africa, he joined a military service commission in Angola. It was there that his interest in African art began, thus beginning his foray into the world of collages. During his stay in Luanda, he also published the Manifesto to non-conformist painters - Arte Perturbadora - where he stated: “Get closer to life and use the materials of our time. Give beauty to steel, aluminum, concrete and plastic.” Later, he traveled to Japan, China, Mexico and Tunisia. It was from these paths in search of new artistic realities and the influences of 20th century art that José de Guimarães collected data and diverse perspectives for the creation of his works.
“His career would be defined by the discovery of distant and unusual regions, from Africa to Japan, from Mexico to China. Each of these cultures encouraged him to develop a universal language and transmit an imaginary universe that, after all, revives the memory of Portuguese History itself, made up of enriching relations with distant countries".
Alphabet of José de Guimarães
Fascinated with the power of the word in tribal societies and ethnological study, between 1970 and 1974, while in military service, José de Guimarães created “The Alphabet of Symbols”. This set of 150 works between painting and sculpture, which unites the real, the pictorial and the imaginary, represents a complex system of codes developed from the pictograms used by the ethnic group of the Ngoygos in the enclave of Cabinda, together with Portuguese civilization. This creative alphabet practically approaches the illustrations present in ancient maps at the time of the discoveries, in which monsters, plants and mythological figures that appeared in unknown parts were represented.
With this alphabet José de Guimarães proposes a new semiotic reading of the world by reinterpreting various symbols, which were once hybrid, abstract or geometric. There are no letters represented, only drawings that represent stories from the artist's imagination and the culture of the Ngoygos in the Cabinda enclave. In this way, this alphabet creates an experience of interculturality with elements decomposed by the vision of two cultures. José de Guimarães produced an element of communication for the world, no words, only drawings. Its advantage and fascination is the freedom it instills in the spectator's thinking, allowing each drawing and symbol to be interpreted with different possibilities, stories and issues at an aesthetic, philosophical and even identity level. When analyzing the creative production of José de Guimarães , we realize that this communication element was the starting point, as it is possible to identify several symbols of the alphabet in his fascinating pieces, whether painting or sculpture, as in “ Ilha dos Amores ” , “ Circus ”, among others. Discover the different parts available on the P55 with alphabet symbols.
"Ilhas dos Amores" by José de Guimarães