Alex Flemming tends to look at his own work from two different points of view, even though they are always intertwined. On the one hand, artistic production must be politically forceful, with strong messages, whether it is about oppression and authoritarianism, religious extremism, environmental issues, sexual freedom or the sensuality of the body. On the other hand, art must be beautiful and seductive, even when it talks about these “cutting issues”, he says, “as much as I understand that this is not a unanimous decision of critical thinking”.
“My life has been researching color, material and the body. I am a colorist who has already used stuffed animals, Persian rugs, old computers, underwear, furniture and other surfaces to make my objects”, says Flemming, a São Paulo native who has lived in Berlin for about three decades. In your new series, Ecce Homo, exhibited at Galeria Emmathomas, the 64-year-old artist remains faithful to this trajectory.
This time, the material chosen was Brazilian industrial sinks of different colors – in pastel tones – from the 1970s and 1980s. On them, Flemming drew, with diamond points, human hands in various positions, proposing a metaphor between a biblical passage and current Brazil. The artist found, in the episode of the condemnation of Jesus Christ by Pontius Pilate, a connection with the “escabrous situation” in which Brazil finds itself, a direct consequence of “all of us having washed our hands”.
“It was not Pilate who washed his hands and let Brazil get to the state it is in, but the elites, including the selfishness of all political parties, the omission of institutions and the greed of the market,” he says. “I think that we, including those on the left, have to be self-critical. Because if things got to that level, we are also to blame.”
Regarding the choice of sinks, Flemming explains that he was always interested in using the material, found anywhere in the world – “from Bangladesh to Mexico, from Chile to Sweden” –, but practically unused in the history of art. After his first experiences in Berlin, “where there are only white sinks”, he sought out lavatories in Brazilian cities, as the idea was to portray a theme from his country of origin. He found purple, green, beige and pumpkin-colored sinks here, and on them he engraved his drawings during his artistic residency at Fábrica de Arte Marcos Amaro (FAMA), in Itu.
“Sinks of these colors do not exist in Germany. This has to do with a colorful, multifaceted Brazil”, says Flemming. Interestingly, for him, the shapes of these objects refer directly to two things: the Brazilian domestic altars of the farms of the 18th and 19th centuries and the old reel televisions of the 20th century.
Speaking again about art criticism and the difficulties for cultural production in Brazil, which should intensify under a conservative government, Flemming concludes: “I am exposing the most intimate part of my being, my soul, my thoughts. I'm very happy with people who like it and respect those who don't. But I create because it screams inside me, because it's my life. I mean, we cannot depend only on support, on public notices. Art is independent of parties and, of course, of the State”.
Alex Flemming – Ecce Homo Series
Until March 22st
Emmathomas Gallery – Alameda Franca, 1054 – Jardim Paulista (São Paulo)