René Tavarès inspires himself in a renaissance heritage reinvented by the people of São Tomé and Príncipe that once became a symbol of resistance to the former Portuguese colonial dominion, Tchiloli. This renaissance heritage is considered nowadays as one of the richest cultural traditions of São Tomé and Príncipe, being its application to Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity currently pending.
His thoughts start therefore from a reference to São Tomé and Principe colonial history and get mixed with the present reality, lived by the artist in several European and African geographies.
René Tavares translates in dashes, lines and blots, a personal synthesis of his own identity, always in process (“unfinished”). Setting himself in constant movement between past and present references. Interested in deepening the permeability of frontiers among stories, languages and techniques and in sharing that exploratory path. He is an artist that reflects throughout his work his own experience of contemporary dislocation among the several post-colonial contact zones.
Lately his work has taken on a political component / cultural, through which the artist draws attention to everyday reality, especially African and in particular of his country, Sao Tome and Principe. Impartially he intervenes in the development of the socio-political mind-set, not driven by a desire for political discourse, but because the politics is necessary and naturally inserted in every day’s reality and consequently in the art.
Born in Sao Tomé and Principe in 1983, René Tavarès is Graduated in the National School of Fine Arts of Dakar, Senegal, he participated at the same time in several workshops in Teia D’Arte Art Center, in São Tomé. He has held exhibitions in São Tomé, Lisbon, Paris, Bordeaux, Brussels, Amsterdam, Luanda, New York and amongst other cities. In 2011 he attended the master's degree in Art and Heritage Science at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Lisbon and participated in the collective exhibition "Africa now" in Washing- ton, organized by the World Bank.
In 2015 joined the Lumières d'Afrique international exhibition at the Palais Chaillot, Paris - France. Most recently he was nominated for the "AFRICA'S MOST INFLUENTIAL NEW ARTIS- TIC TALENT | FNB, Joburg Art Fair 2018.
He works and lives between São Tomé and LisbonMore
By Miguel Justino, Art Advisor
René Tavares... Story-teller.
Sight is possibly the best manifestation of the soul. René Tavares, plastic artist, lives in São Tomé & Príncipe and resides in Lisbon, Portugal. This ambiguous description of one’s place of residence perfectly captures a particular notion of home: that of home as the world, and of the world as the place one calls home. A vast and colourful place. A meeting point, and a point of departure.
I have recently had the pleasure of residing and working in an African cou- ntry. I had wanted to step on that land. To feel it on my skin, in my eyes, colour for colour. So we landed, and so we felt. There was no room for illu- sion, the feeling struck immediate. We were back and so much was clear: that nobody arrives there by mere chance or circumstance. Africa is the last refuge of a disappearing motherhood, a connection to our inception. I felt profoundly at home, in communion with the rest of humanity.
None of this is new, I know, but all of it is missing in each day that passes, every bit of that emptiness confronting us in the direction and dimension of our small personal bubbles. Mentally, physically, I yearn to go back. Africa is a prodigious mountain that sweats life and breeds horizons. Everything there is pathos in smiles, action and life, even if these are cons- trained to dress in our skins. In contrast here we breathe a morbid, glutton obesity. Let there be a Live Aid in Africa to rescue Europe.
The contemporary influence of European languages and textures is evoked in the theatrical adaptation of “Le déjeuner sur l’herbe – 1863” by Édouard Manet
I am interested in the historical charge of all this, the travels and migra- tions, the miscegenation and its consequences, proximities and counter- points, the pulse of a continent. I am interested in its colours, in its faces and clichés. I am interested in the artist behind the art: René. A smile is enough to feel the pulse. It carries generosity and loyalty. And the thankful expression, the skin, warm in colour, the affection, the proximity transmit- ted with each word, all of this is Africa too. René Tavares is an explorer, an active defender of his cause, of Africa, and of his people in São Tomé. A defender too of other causes and histories he carries with him. He studied in Dakar, where he graduated, then in France, with its visceral connection to that ex-colony, Senegal, then Portugal, where he resides, but not where he lives.
Painting, as a point of departure, connects to a renaissance inheri- ted theatrical representation, a progeny of this movement that became a symbol of resistance against Portuguese colonial opres- sion: the Tchiloli. An appropriation of European culture that birthed a cultural phenomenon in São Tomé. Mixture is at the root of its processes. Diversity that forms and moulds what it portrays. Yes, profoundly African. In vocation and synthesis; in the depictions of day-to-day life on the islands; in a painting that evokes miscegena- tion.
But a story-teller as well, profoundly European, marked by the mul- tiple cultural crossings that shaped him. René Tavares is a migrant with a privileged vision.
I write this from a comfortable, European view point. I feel the privi- lege of observation as I follow the lines and their interpretation with the synthesis and genetics of free and critical eye. The work of René Tavares is also the life of René. It pierces barriers and time, circumnavigates his world-home. It breathes the air of an attentive reporter accomplice of his own causes, of daily life and of life in general. It is a rather wide painting.
He makes use of proportion. Like a window into reality, pinpointing facts and occurrences, his screen captures people, their lives and backgrounds. And so the political system and its players are also frequently represented. On his stage move the actors that shake Africa and the themes that harm the continent are also have a part: racism, corruption, greed, ecosystem collapse and migration. It’s a critical painting, and this is no doubt one of the strong compo- nents of his work. But dance, music, close ties and affection, each a fundamental trait of that African geography, comprise the stronger and living link. There is life beyond Europe, although there is also a life made of Europe. René Tavares knows that he is of the world. There exists in him an all-encompassing predisposition to embrace and to celebrate in colour, in any way possible. His painting expo- ses a keen sight, reveals an attentive soul, and leaves us in a communion of stories, his stories and our own.