Big Trash Animals, his series of large-scale sculptures, depicts animals made out of discarded and recycled materials. Through portraying animals made from the materials that are responsible for the destruction of their habitats, Bordalo II draws attention to the problem of waste and pollution, and its effect on the planet. His works are built with end-of-life materials: the majority found in wastelands, abandoned factories and industrial estates. Damaged car bumpers, used tires, garbage cans and household appliances are just some of the objects that can be identified within his vibrant sculptures; even more so in his latest series of ‘half and half’ sculptures which bring his specific choice of materials, and the message behind his work.
It was nice seeing Bordalo II putting his work up in Aberdeen and be able to catch up with him about his highlights from the 2018 Nuart Aberdeen Festival. For him Nuart is more than a Festival, it’s kind of a movement. It was great to be back with this great production team, in a different country, he says, as he was part of the line up for the 2017 Nuart Stavanger edition.
I was very interested in his artistic background as he initially comes from the illegal graffiti scene and wondered how did he move onto environmental art. ‘Well, graffiti is my background, but I want to keep it separated from art. Anyway, all the time I spent in the public space back in the days gave me some comfort about how to deal with murals, streets and the whole outdoor environment. Environmental awareness is something that has been part of me for a very long time. So, when I present a new artwork, it would become a reflex, and the environment issues had already shaped my artistic approach, he explains.
Bordalo II’s early works are very different from his recent productions. I wanted to find out more about how it had evolved from the early days. He explained that he can easily find a connection or an “evolution”. When producing a new artwork he used to paint the whole thing, and step by step he began to realise that sometimes the paint takes away some interesting textures and original colours of the scrap materials used. But in the same way, sometimes the paint helps to add expression to the materials, so right now he is mixing both ideas and infuses it in his creations.
During the screening at Nuart Aberdeen he mentioned Bordalo The First, his grandfather, who was a painter. He certainly influenced him as a person and as an artist. It triggered a reflex as the artist that he is today. He also gave him a lot of tips about painting, colours, backgrounds, and perspective since he a very young age.
I guess artists find inspiration from different elements during an artistic journey. For Bordalo II he finds inspirations in everything we see, even if its art or just life experiences that inspires us, but if he had to choose a person, he will definitely say Sebastião Salgado who is a Brazilian social documentary photographer and photojournalist.
Animals are mostly the main subject in his work. Bordalo II elaborates and explains that animals are the direct way to make a portrait of nature, they have expressions, movement, feelings, and act in a way that resonate to us and that we can understand. ‘If I wanna touch base on the environmental issues, animals are the best subject to explore, paint and shape, with this same materials that are responsible for the whole nature destruction – the trash, the pollution, the waste and the contamination‘ he says.
Bordalo’s interventions are not about turning trash into something beautiful it’s about the message behind it. ‘The beauty of something is the bridge that makes us stop and look. But then, it’s the content that matter, it’s about creating images of victims with what kills them’ he explains.
So Aberdeen officially has its own unicorn made from recycled materials. When chatting about his piece completed for Nuart and specifically created for the city, he says ‘even if is a mythological idea, if we think about that as an idea, even the ideas or tales are affected by our acts’, he says.
I have seen him progressing on a daily basis on his installation. He made it look so smooth when it’s absolutely not an easy job! I wondered where did he get the trash from? It came from abandoned places, he says, from recycling centres, car body shops or even from the streets. The piece, titled ENDANGERED DREAMS, is made entirely from end of life materials gathered from Aberdeen and the surrounding area. This artwork obviously alludes not only to the threat that pollution poses to animals but to the human race, our dreams, customs and ideas.
Each artist paid tribute to Scottish’s history, Bordalo II choose to paint a unicorn which was first used on the Scottish royal coat of arms by William I in the 12th century, perhaps due to the popular myth that it is the only animal capable of killing a lion – the national animal of England. When Scotland and England unified under the reign of James VI of Scotland in 1603, the Scottish Royal Arms had two unicorns supporting a shield. When James VI became James I of England and Ireland, he replaced the unicorn on the left of the shield with the lion to show that the countries were indeed united.
I have seen him cut, drill, paint, assemble to finally put all the pieces together. I was intrigued on his creative process that he describes as a freestyle process. He got the materials cut it into panels, and then used an image as a sketch and reference in order to assemble piece by piece until it turns into the image he is looking for, he explains.
Since our last discussion, Bordalo II has been travelling to a few places including SF, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Make sure to follow his pages for more on his latest projects.