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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Nadir Afonso

Procession in Venice, Nadir Afonso
It's always interesting to speculate as to the hemispheric dominance of the various artists I encounter in my seemingly unending pursuit of creative genius. If you're not familiar with the concept, I deal with it more fully in my book, Art THINK (available in the far right column). Although artists tend to be about equally divided as to their being left-brained (analytical) and right-brained (intuitive), I find it far more interesting to study the work of an artist who is obviously to the left of "center" (whole-brained--equally adept in both means of thinking). Perhaps that's because we tend to stereotype artists as being intuitive, and when I encounter those who are not so much, I find them intriguing. One such artists was the Portuguese painter, Nadir Afonso.

Gondolas, Nadir Afonso
Take a look at the painting, Procession in Venice (top) by Afonso. The artist calls his style "Geometric Realism," though in practice, both terms tend to be independently relative. That is to say, some of his works are more geometric than others with the same being true as to his realism. His palette tends toward basic primaries and secondaries saturating a stark white. The subject, if you've ever been to Venice, is obviously St. Mark's Basilica. His Gondolas (right) seems even more geometric in depicting the church of San Giorgio Maggiore as seen from across the main channel. Geometry is a branch of mathematics. Math being quite analytical, this period of the artist's work is therefore quite left-brained. His St. Mark's (top), in contrast, is somewhat less so.

The painter who became an architect, then a painter again.
Nadir Afonso Rodrigues was born in the rural, town of Chaves, (located on the northern border of) Portugal, in 1920. At the age of four, the young child made his first "painting" on a wall at home--a perfect red circle, suggesting his life's interest in rhythm and geometric precision. As a teenager, Nadir dedicated himself to painting, winning his first national prize at seventeen. From there he was sent to the bigger city of Porto (Portugal's northwest coast) to the School of Fine Arts, hoping to become a painter. However, as he was registering, Afonso took the advice of a clerk, who told him that his high school diploma qualified him to enroll in Architecture, which was considered a more promising career. Years later, Afonso admitted, the "mistake" he made in listening to the registrar made a tremendous difference in his art career.

Afonso's paintings from ;a favorite spot on a bridge in Porto
graphically illustrates the progression of his painting style.
Mistake or not, Nadir Afonso took up the challenge and graduated in architecture, even though he flunked the third year because some of his professors refuse to accept his style of rendering. Settling in Porto, Afonso began designing houses and other buildings, while at the same time painting the city around him under his other surname, Rodrigues. He took part in various art exhibitions until 1946, becoming a favorite with national critics. His oil A Ribeira (above-top) was purchased by the Contemporary Art Museum of Lisbon when the young artist was only twenty-four years old.

The work of Nadir Afonso from 1930-1960
Nadir Afonso was the creator of a unique body of work constructed within the context of international art. He was one of the most important Portuguese artists of the 20th-century. His was a path of personal learning and empirical evolution, during which he completed his education and established himself as a professional in the field of architecture. Arranged in thematic groups following a chronological order, the selection (above) reveals the surprisingly contemporary nature of his work in relation to the surrealist aesthetic, or kinetic art, as well as the break brought about through geometric abstraction. We can also see the interconnecting elements of Nadir's methodology. We can see repetition, inversion, a synthesis, and antithesis, all indispensable components in the purifying of forms. Afonso defends the geometric essence of art, the pre-conscious or intuitive skills used to order compositions, and the practical work as a guiding thread to a rational methodology. He considers the immutable geometric laws to be universal. They exist in nature and are essential to any attempt to attain harmony and perfection.

Sphinx, Nadir Afonso (geometric realism)
After WW II, Nadir Afonso left Porto for Paris changing his signature to his surname, Afonso. There, the artist managed to secure a scholarship from the French Government to study art and painting at the École des Beaux-Arts. Because his scholarship lasted only one year, Nadir Afonso began working with the architect, Le Corbusier, who, knowing Afonso's passion for painting, allowed him mornings off without cutting his salary. Afonso also worked for a short time with the artist, Fernand Léger.

Cais de Santos, Nadir Afonso
Paris was a world center of the arts but the fierce com-petition between artists proved too much for Nadir Afonso. In 1965, conscious of his social awkwardness, he moved back to his hometown of Chaves where he gradually took re-fuge in isolation, concentrating solely on the creation of art. He terminated the architecture practice and pursued his aesthetics studies based on geometry, which he consid-ered the essence of art. Nadir Afonso achieved international recognition early in his career, thus many of his works are in museums. His most famous are the Cities series, which depicts places all around the world. He was known to have painted into his later years and died in December of 2013, at the age of ninety-three. As of 2007, his Cities prints were selling for €1,500; while a gouache on paper, went for around €18,000. A large acrylic painting brings a price in the neighborhood of €55,000. His first oversized canvases, Seville and Pouvoirs Surnaturels, each sold in 2007 for €100,000.

In Boticas, near Afonso's hometown in northern Portugal,
is a museum named in his honor.


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