Both a painter and sculptor who produces pieces that pack an exceptional visual and artistic punch, Henrique Oliveira uses a cheap material that is commonplace in Brazil: plywood, or wood used in hoardings. He usually weaves the subject of architecture somewhere into his work, marrying its forms, hollows and cracks, and his sculptures share common ground with collage and assemblage. More flexible than the wood of his first creations, plywood can easily be adapted to the spectacular organic shapes he designs. “My installations are more like living walls built out of flesh, damaged skin, or large paintings.”
Like tree trunks or roots torn up by powerful forces or fantastic telluric waves, Oliveira's sculptures are also paintings that seem to move before our very eyes, whisking us up into a fascinating swirl of forms.
Henrique Oliveira has chosen one of the big barns in the Farmyard of the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire to erect a hybrid, almost living work of art that seems literally to rise up from the stone walls.
He has designed an impressive spiral coiling around the framework and stairways of the building like a huge snake or a root that has been buried for decades in the stone and suddenly begins to grow impulsively, out of any control. The work wavers between animal and plant – its creator sees it as a reference to the snake in the story of Le Petit Prince, which swallows an elephant. But as with Gaston Bachelard (who wrote The Poetics of Space), for Oliveira the barn is the lair of the unconscious, and dark, unknown forces. For no one knows where the work begins and where it ends, or when this giant root or reptile will cease its inexorable growth.
Born in 1973 in Ourinhos, Brazil, Henrique Oliveira lives and works in São Paulo. Graduating from the University of São Paulo in 1997, since 2003 he has been developing installations in situ, for which he usually uses materials connected with the urban context – especially “tapumes” or fencing wood from hoardings collected in the streets of São Paulo.
As a spearhead of the young generation of Brazilian artists, Henrique Oliveira exhibits at regular intervals in Brazil, the US and Europe. In 2010, he took part in the 29th Bienal de São Paulo. He has been awarded several grants and won such prizes as the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (Washington, 2008) and CNI/SESI Award (Brazil, 2009). Concerning personal exhibitions, his work has recently been put on display at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Galerie GP & N Vallois, Paris (2011) and OK Center for Contemporary Art Upper Austria, Linz (2012).
In 2013, he was in residence for the SAM Art Projects, at the end of which he presented the monumental installation “Baitogogo” at the Palais de Tokyo.
His work is represented by the Galerie GP & N Vallois, Paris and Galeria Millan, São Paulo.