Saudade by Art Coelho ©
I have to show in pigment with colors from artist brushes because paintings have no words except what silence makes of them when solitude on rugged features of a face bleeds out its intimacy. A painter works by suggestion and makes from a blank canvas something immortal. The man in Saudade is behind a traditional bullfight arena barricade, but the drama in this work is the sadness in and around his eyes; and in his deep wrinkled lines that encircle his dark sockets and how the rest of his face has been carved into a long, hard life lived. Has time eaten away at his youth and middle age and left him with this unreasonable season of old age? His winter of Saudade? Perhaps his livelihood now has dimmed as family man and worker; and has delivered him into a place beyond maturity where old age no longer engulfs or tempts his buried passions? Is it because he faces today in this hot afternoon sun, behind this barricade, too strong of a flinching reality-mirror of his own mortality? Are the old man’s eyes saying the matador’s courage for him is stronger than the young men in the stands who are not yet seasoned by life? And is the old man’s passion foreshadowed by the time he has left on earth; does he excuse and distance himself from the roar of the crowd and watch only the red-cape courage of the matador that he knows through his own suffering? Is the matador’s daring renewing his old blood passion and taking him back to a place where something triggers him back alive again and helps him kill his deep-seeded haunting? Can too familiar ghosts be trimmed back as easily as the branches on a passion fruit tree? And what special feelings are found in the ancient man’s eyes that speak of love for the courage of the bull with blood on his shoulders from the picadors? Does he see himself as that bull that still has some passion left too spill in the dirt and soak up the ground when this spectacle is finished? Is his struggle on earth the same as the bull drenched with life’s blood? The bull is certainly flying the same colors of struggle that he had to fly when he found the courage to live life and everything dark that was thrown unmercifully at him. Maybe his living of life included the death of a child, the lost of a daughter to a husband that beat her; perhaps his tragedy included the lost of his faith in God; or a wife who cheated on him with a neighbor man he once loved like a brother but now hates so much that killing him would be as easy as dusting a dead fly from a windowsill. All this could be in the tragedy of the old man’s eyes because no doubt he takes all his personalized tragedy into that bullfight arena every Sunday afternoon and sympathizes totally with the bull’s fate because it is exactly like his own.
The old man’s hands say, have I not labored? The harvest I made is good enough to have survived life. Can a man do more than that? Need I speak when the scars of my hands can speak better than me of my wounds? The old man is here, watching today, in the arena because his faith in the matador is the same truth he has found in himself; and his only wisdom is that he will have to face life to the end with courage; and with a glorious feeling that he was involved with life as much as his spirit allowed him to live it to the fullest; and most important his victory in life is that he had the strong faith to plant deep every one of his passion’s seeds into a topsoil of solitude where not even death winking at him causes the slightest fear within his soul. If there’s one single vision about this Saudade painting that I can see as an artist that stands out, it’s that the old man’s grandest truth could be so profound that he believes when he wakes up tomorrow morning that everything WILL BE POSSIBLE AND NEW UNDER THE SUN.
As a painter I too am most concerned about the old man’s physical features on his face, hands, and slope of his shoulders in a relaxed and studying position. Why? Because every artist has a crystallization point where he hopes he can translate for the viewer some of his feelings, some of the original vision when he first created the canvas. The viewers, his audience has to see the old man’s mouth open and dark-have to in this darkness the way his mouth is twisted be stirred with their own individual passion. What they bring to the gallery that day of their own experiences in life will determine how they relate to my paintings. They have to be aware of the power of Saudade. They have to hear the old man saying, “If I told you about my sorrow, what good would it do? Can anybody ever understand another person’s pain?” The viewers must wonder and answer questions they pose for themselves: what thoughts have been triggered in their own feelings about this gaping dark mouth, and the way the old man’s lips are twisted; because if the viewers don’t figure out the old man’s sad soul, their own emotions will not be aroused; and they will not discover this cave of human flesh that seems to be reaching out. If I do my job as a painter with any real mastery, the truth worthy of the paint brushes has to capture and expose within my visions during the creative act what the viewers must feel deeply. This exposing the tragedy of it, this being able to move someone else’s soul besides my own; and more importantly there is something in this old man’s longing and solitude(saudade)that has too touch something in the viewer’s spirit with a tragic sadness, or I have failed as an artist.