Ugo Fernando Sébastião proposes a pictural body of works marked by a mix of post-punk aesthetic and religious iconography. Before everything, his work is the one of a gleaner, word he uses himself to describe his approach. As opposed to a painter, his research doesn’t start in a sketchbook but on the internet and Google Images, from which he builds his own library of screenshots that he watches carefully. Later on, he selects some details and parcels that only him can benefit from. Anchored in his time and his generation, Ugo explores the learning possibilities that new digital interfaces brought. Whereas he qualifies himself as a « fake-painter », considering that going through Photoshop takes him away from a conventional approach to painting, he approaches it with an singular and personal eye that swings between contemporary painting, technologies using contemporary tools and a quasi archeological treatment of Art History.
The artist questions himself on the dissolutions of art pieces and the persistance of certain elements and certains figures in his apprehension of Art History. It’s in between the homogenized colors of his computer screen and his job as a fitter/installer that Ugo Fernando Sébastião discovers his subjects and dissects them.
On Google Images, he scans the « forgotten » paintings of the Italian Renaissance era as Fra Angelico or the French classicism with Philippe de Champaigne and extracts details to which he will give a second breath. With a millimeter crop, he takes them out of their context and present them to us in a neutralized way, allowing every visitors to have their own unique and personal reading.
« Persistant Shapes », first solo exhibition of Ugo Fernando Sébastião, presents a body of works crossed by Art History and the questions our society is currently going through. The artist studies with the same distance the paintings of the roman Baroque times and his Instagram feed. This distance, he imposes it to visitors with the use of monochrome and an ultra-glossy varnish that force us to get away or closer to his paintings. The notion of contrast is primary in Ugo’s work, it is present in his subjects and his way of treating it but also in each visitor’s approach. The artist forces us to wake up our sleepy eye so used to receive images in a continuous flow.
If Ugo Fernando Sébastião's practice is principally pictural, the artist doesn’t hesitate to push the medium outside of its supports. He is challenging the notion of materiality of an artwork by thinking every one of its aspects: supports, framing and hanging. It is by handling national artworks that he developed a real physical relationship to painting. By extracting outside of their context the figures that interest him he reveals a certain materiality to the painting.
Ugo Fernando Sébastião approaches the pictural medium as a form of performance. His role as a painter is defined trough the metaphor of the mask, a symbol he uses on one hand for its different representations in the history of painting and on the other hand for the filter it brings to the reading of his work. He also uses it in the way he treats his images, filtered and masked, they are a form of alteration of reality that bring us to a performative reading of the painting.
What we remember from Ugo Fernando Sébastião’s works is this position as an artist that scans Art History and picks up from contemporary resources to propose a practice inhabited by its past and its future. Ugo is one of the artists that draws in the entire possibilities of their practice and even pushes the notion of medium to be redefined.
Text : Violette Wood