Michel Onésio: Interview 007
Feeling Oppressed, 2022, Michel Onésio
42 x 29.7 cm, Oil-based house paint on paper
1. (In reference to what you call 'the scribble.) Do you feel your works represents your current state of mind or has it changed since you began working on your scribble series?
In fact, the “scribbles” are a representation or a name that I decided to give to the drawings that belong to my past and the beginning of my perception about what my mind and subconscious were trying to bring back at that time because I never saw myself making realistic drawings or surrealists, which somehow represent some figures that are easy to see or easy to interpret (not wanting to generalize, but most of the realistic drawings I see represent an existing reality most of the time)!
That's to say that my mind is still there, but acting in completely different ways, bringing abstract expressionism, which is creating totally based on my feelings, traumas, what I live and see every day I wake up!
2. What drew you to work with the monochrome palette? Do you feel this colourway will change anytime soon, and if so why/why not?
It's hard to answer this question because there could be many factors that could influence my decision to just work with the monochromatic palette, that is because I was born in Africa and being a son of black parents... The story behind it is of what it means to be a black person in this world and to have to go through a lot of prejudice and slavery on the black people. But I don't just want to turn to that definition because I also understand that I have a passion for the colour black that sometimes defines the dark or a half-dark world, in which I am fascinated and sometimes I feel guided by obscure entities. And also for believing in duality, which is one depending on the other for its existence, as well as the “Ying & Yang”, the black and white, the black colour representing the shadows and the white the light, and always walking together to that one can exist.
So the probability of change is very small, but sometimes I try to explore a different palette of colours that are outside my comfort zone or what I think is good for myself only. I think it's always interesting to be able to explore and create something that can be different from the usual.
The monochromatic palette will always be a part of my artistic practice because I feel like there are a lot of feelings hidden in the shadows that need to know the light, but not be possessed by it completely, there will always be a lot of darkness in me.
3. What is art therapy mean to you, and why do you feel it may or may not be necessary?
Art is therapy and always will be. It was through her (art) that saved my life, from several suicidal thoughts, existential crises, depression, and anxiety. Art as therapy means freedom of expression in all possible directions that a professional in therapy or psychology can’t give me, but it can help to unlock the part that has been oppressed by my past and perhaps my present, which will influence the future! The freedom of expression and existing began when I let myself exist by being authentic with myself so that it could certainly be reflected among the others around me. I believe that creativity or being an artist exists in each of us humans, it is up to each of us how to learn to accept and unlock this part of our brain so that we don't need some external validation to grow and love ourselves the way we are and choose to be and exist in this universe.
4. How do you feel the arts industry is shifting to platforming artist that explores abstract art from countries other than the western world?
Starting this answer, I would say that there will always be room for each of us, it all depends on how we put our work out to be appreciated and valued! Abstract art is perceived as something out of the ordinary or that sometimes it makes no sense to try to understand it... It is also important to emphasize that there are different practices within the abstract, sometimes it is a somewhat distorted figure of reality and sometimes totally imperceptible gestures!
Nowadays the abstract is well received and valued, except in some corners of the world, like third world countries like mine. It ends up being taboo, in a way, but people are already starting to have an open mindset and acceptance of the unknown. Without letting it be left out that sometimes the abstract is sometimes interpreted as something practised by lazy people, but on the contrary, there are several studies and daily processes to find the non-existent, even if it is inspired by any other artist. Each work is unique and beautiful in its own way, loaded with many oppressed feelings and emotions.
5. What drew you to Anticlone Gallery, and how do you feel it best supports tour ethos and story?
Quite bluntly, I was introduced to Anticlone Gallery by a very close friend who already followed or knew that there is a gallery or platform that would perfectly match my work. So after that, I did my research on the platform before getting in touch, of course, to inform me more about the concept of the platform and the difference that my work would bring to the gallery, be it a gallery or a space that does not conform to common or certain social and artistic standards. It was very easy to be fascinated by the concept, by the artists who were there, and how the gallery and curatorship are done! Since then I've been so excited to be part of it and rooting for my work to be accepted.
It is very difficult to be an artist seen as black and living in Africa, especially in Mozambique, a country little known to many, and to have a gallery that supports artists from any corner of the world, regardless of race, beliefs, among others. It is something very interesting because it gives and creates space for several talented artists who work hard to succeed in their profession, in terms of sales, exhibitions, and international recognition. This is the best space to welcome and make sure that artists who still live in hiding and with so much self-doubt have a unique and futuristic opportunity!
6. Do you care to inform the viewer of your past present or planned future. Also, do you feel it is necessary to have a full understanding/bio information on an artist before a viewer attends an exhibit to see an Artist's work? (if no why)
I am happy that today I realize that the art or artistic world is complex, and I will always thank my past and present for always looking for authentic ways to create and explore my creativity. In the past I just thought that art, painting and drawing were just about drawing the perceptible, which is, being a real artist. I spent a lot of time pushing myself to learn all the techniques to be a realistic sketcher/artist. And my present perception is different and much more authentic and fascinating to me, this consisted of researching artists who practically created abstract expressionism, and letting my subconscious get carried away by what is my passion. Learning from the best makes me even better because I can study and try to improve or add what was not thought of by that artist at that time, letting my subconscious guide me, of course!
Art expresses itself, I believe that is the artist's job, to create the magic and let the spectator interpret it without labels. This is the only way to create a unique perception every time we look at abstract work, it shows us and informs us about something new each time we place our precious portals (eyes). The description of an artist can sometimes kill the work of art itself, but it is important to emphasize that the autobiography or information can encourage the spectator to be part of an exhibition or be so curious to see the artworks made by the same artist. So this ends up forming a perfect couple and a starting point for the artist's perception, and then the others/viewers!
7. What do you wish to represent or what do you intend your legacy to be?
This question is extremely difficult to answer, but I believe I always wanted and want to be able to be someone who represents freedom of artistic or personal expression in everything I do to this day, and my work has
always been centred on that. And also being able to make my community, country, continent believes that it is possible to do or think about something different that is not only based on our roots, but is, exploring more about our roots and being able to go further, believing that it is always possible to be what we create and dictate to ourselves.
My legacy would be practising this, to make people feel free, to live intensely, feel true freedom, seeing that there is always love, for themselves first and then for the next. Always be authentic and true to yourself, so that we are transparent with each other! Inspiring a community is no easy task, but it is possible when we are vulnerable and human to others! My works will probably live forever, but the most legacy will be the one I leave in each mind of those who cross my path, even without any kind of relationship!
8. When parting with your work, how do you feel, is it a sense of departure of your emotion on that canvas/drawing or is it a sense of sharing that section with the Art collector? (elaborate as you feel fits)
I'm not going to lie, in fact, it is, and always will be very difficult to see one of my paintings being sold or acquired by a collector, because each work or painting is like a love affair. Sometimes or many times I end up creating an attachment to them, which makes it much more difficult to sell, but when the awareness that this is a profession that needs to be nurtured or invested in order to be able to create more works that may be of interest to collectors, I turn them available! Knowing that I don't create to sell, these are emotions and descriptions of each moment of my personal life, which are certainly priceless! But it's always fascinating to know that someone liked and would buy the work for aesthetic reasons or because the work can influence their life by looking at it every single day.
9. What do you want your work to be remembered or known for being?
This answer will be extremely direct. I want my work to be remembered or known as a point of freedom and self-acceptance! The world is standardized, and de(constructing) it will make it much more interesting, as things tend to evolve every day!
10. What is one of the most important factors you would like the viewer to know about you and your work, after exploring/discovering you as an artist.
I would like the viewer to be able to perceive or be aware of my emotional pain and the mental disorders that made my works exist! I would also like the viewer to know that I live and have lived in a totally traumatic environment that influences my artistic practice, the vulnerability of being able to create without fear and being able to share the same works with the viewer!
I lived in many doubts about myself and was always afraid of my true potential.
11. What is your current state of mind on the art industry from your perspective?
My current state of mind around the art industry is, being able to experience change and more acceptance and recognition of black artists in the art industry, leaving aside the privilege of white people. Because most cultural spaces have more respect and appreciation for a particular race or skin colour, which means nothing in the arts!
There is very little recognition about black artists, who don't have an involvement with white people so they can jumpstart their careers. The world and mentality in the art world are evolving, but still at a chameleon's pace! We, artists, want a world for everyone, regardless of skin colour, race, religion or beliefs, the world belongs to all of us and we should all benefit from it, deserving the same opportunities that are given to others with privileges!
“The art or art industry is very well accepted, and I can't complain that I don't see it happening, but it needs to be broader and more receptive!”
13. What does Art mean to you?
Art for me means life, the air I breathe every day I get up. Art allows me to access the various layers of my brain and physically represent them. Art is art, the true feelings of an artist!
14. What do you foresee your creative path and future to be?
I've always had a feeling that my creative path and future as an artist will be bright as I put a lot of effort into making it come true for myself!
Today I still consider myself an emerging artist, with a very long way to go, but sometimes when describing my journey, I feel like I've been in this for a long time, because of the battles I have to face daily to achieve my goals, as an artist and a human being!
Above all, I hope to be one of the most important artists with good recognition and value at the national and international level, leveraging expressionism in my city and country as well!
15. How has your journey been as a young creative, man, human living during the pandemic?
Initially, it was very difficult to be living this new reality, which ends up being the new normal! As a creative, man and human living and witnessing this global virus have been a huge challenge because I had to really learn to be a master of myself and assume my own responsibilities, reinventing myself in the artistic environment and as a human being who is inserted in a society. I remember that I had a lot of relapses in the beginning, and I panicked many times knowing that some opportunities would no longer be available to me, as an artist, it affected a lot. Being a young man who goes through and went through depression and anxiety to the extreme at this level, I almost didn't miss being in contact with other human beings, I was always in my corner, reflective and most of the time creating something new inside my head so that I could materialize in the best possible way!
I also consider that this is a very creative time, as the time is quite ample due to some government restrictions here in my country, and this allows me to put my mind on international places, and do research on opportunities that can help leverage my career even though I am not present in these same places, as many digital or online opportunities have arisen in the midst of this pandemic! Personally, I was able to experience COVID-19, at a very complicated time in my life, where I had to take care of my mother who had uterine cancer at an advanced stage. And during the time of the pandemic, I was able to live my mother's pain due to the illness, until the moment of her physical loss. My creativity underwent a great change at that time and with all these battles I had to face at the time of the pandemic
16. What is one word you'd describe yourself and one word you'd describe your art as?
17. What needs to change in reference to the arts industry?
The art industry should for me be more receptive and encompass all types of artists, media, from any corner of the world, regardless of race, colour, religion and beliefs! Create a mechanism of opportunities in which we can all be part of the same industry because art is vast and every day an artist is born in every corner of the world!
18. What would you wish for your art to change and what does abstract art mean to you?
I hope my art impacts every human being by creating breadth in artistic terms and mindset, around what art really should represent in this world!! Abstract art for me means complexity, knowledge, meditation, repetition, rhythm, dancing with my feelings and demons, concentration, freedom of expression in personal and artistic terms, the discovery of the beyond of the normal or of what is already known and determined or dictated by the human being! The abstract makes me seek many more answers, and each time I interpret it, it is a new discovery and a new message that comes from my subconscious, which is a collector of information that I cannot consciously think and practice.
19. Why is your fundamental inspiration behind your art?
My fundamental inspiration is the ability to keep my mind broad to understand and study what fascinates my being, as a human being and an artist who looks for answers in various places, learning from others exploring more about what for me is absorbed! The environment I live in is also a
big influence on my art, so many traumatic moments lived by me, from my childhood to the present day! As well as my perception of my being, which is kind of obscure and for always thinking that my place is in the shadows, living hidden and having few interactions with humanity, but this comes from my mental state in a way, I always thought that the world rejects me and my decision was to be a lone wolf and let myself be possessed by the dark entities!
20. What do you see as the future of Art in Africa? (Where you are based).
Firstly based on where I'm living and practising my art, I consider myself one of the few young artists bringing what abstract expressionism really is, and maybe the only one accessing this kind of inner, complex and super intense expression! A lot of people don't understand or try to understand my expression and artistic practice, because it's something so spontaneous and random, but it brings immense intensity.
Having the privilege of being one of the young people introducing this to my community is a huge responsibility, as some artists from my city and generation see me as an inspiration and someone who brings something futuristic to the history of Mozambican and African art! Art in my locality still needs to improve a lot, as it is still something that is undervalued, or maybe I'm wrong.
I don't feel the support for the culture that comes from our government! The opening for new creatives is still very scarce, as well as for the old school ones. Art is still seen as a simple hobby and not a real profession, so there is no value if you decide to be an artist in Mozambique! Without wanting to devalue the effort and dedication of some cultural places, I am very grateful for their existence and for always trying to bring the artistic diversity of our country! One thing is real, art is still taboo in Mozambique, and young artists are trying hard to change that and bring international recognition to Mozambique!
Shaped Feelings, 2022, Michel Onésio
29.7 x 42 cm, Oil-based house paint on paper
African Exorcism 2022, Michel Onésio
29.7 x 42 cm, Oil-based house paint on paper
Dry Lemon, 2021, Michel Onésio