The ocean is a central theme to Eduardo Santos’ practice. Having grown up “where the river meets the sea” in Northern Brazil, Santos explores the multiplicity of coastal landscapes, intrigued by the energy and mystery of the ocean. Within this new exhibition, Eduardo uses his relationship with the sea to conceptualise a period of great personal growth. Entitled Mar Dentro, which means ‘Sea Within’ in Portuguese, the exhibition focuses on the natural cycles and endless mysteries of the ocean.
Produced during a time of personal metamorphosis, the works within this series are imbued with a sense of optimism. The artist explains that “the metamorphosis was mine, and this body of work has accompanied me as I’ve emerged from that journey.” Mar Dentro documents his emotions as he embarks on a new period of self-enlightenment.
Santos’ works possess palpable yet surprising links to the coast. Here, Santos explores layers of the coastal landscape that are not often appreciated. Many of the primal landscapes within Mar Dentro resemble pale sandstone and textured rock, weathered by years of erosion. Rhythmic lines echo the form of fossilised arthropods or sea anemones, as if the seabed has been imprinted onto the surface of the painting. Santos’ paintings create a unique impression of the seascape, as the artist approaches the sea from a subsurface perspective.
For the artist, this visceral imagery speaks to the endless mystery of the ocean. Despite a tangible link to the landscape and its fauna, Santos creates his landscapes purely from imagination, not consciously referencing things he has seen or experienced. This instinctual parallel to the natural world highlights the interconnectedness between nature and humanity. “As with everything in nature, there is a sense of connectedness to something larger than myself,” explains the artist.
Santos’ technique and materials also reflect a strong connection to the ocean. Like the coast, Santos’ works are subject to erosion and layering, each layer building like sediment. His paintings possess an incredible three-dimensionality that mimics the texture of the land. In order to create this depth, Santos mixes sand and earth pigments with paint, his paintings connected to the ocean both conceptually and physically.
A source of both calm and chaos, the ocean is a powerful force that is at the heart of Eduardo Santos’ practice. Created with a sense of hope and optimism, this series of visceral paintings transports the viewer to a primal and meditative space in their imagination.
IN CONVERSATION WITH EDUARDO SANTOS
OTOMYS: The title is strong and intriguing, does it pay homage in some way to your Brazilian heritage?
Eduardo Santos: The title for this exhibition is Mar Dentro, which is Portuguese for ‘Sea Within’. I have a great connection and respect for the ocean and in my art I explore its energy; the power, calmness and mystery. A storm may rage above with waves crashing against the surface, but the world beneath is calm and still, imbued with a constant tranquility. Mar Dentro is an exploration of the internal oceans within us, it explores the duplicity of the oceans, both in its physical and emotional state. Mar Dentro was created at a time when I had found a revitalised perspective on life, I emerged from a time of angst and felt stronger and more positive as a result. My work for Mar Dentro reflects the energy of new found optimism.
OTOMYS: In Brazil there is an acute sensitivity to levels of consciousness and spiritual energy. Over the years we have worked with you we are always inspired by your high levels of sensitivity and intuition. You don't paint 'en plein air' to captivate what you see - but rather within your studio, you paint what you think and feel.
Eduardo Santos: Oceans are an integral part of who I am. Like the ocean we all hold complex emotional layers, we are a sea of mysteries and curiosities. Yes, these complexities within determine my composition. When I was young, I spent most of my childhood close to the water in Brazil. My grandfather was a fisherman and I have clear memories of occupying my time while he was fishing; playing with clay, sand, water, rocks, creating toys out of whatever I could find. However on the other side of this relationship with the ocean, I was 6 when I almost drowned and a stranger brought me back to consciousness. From an early age I have respected the ocean and am drawn to it’s ongoing conversations with and within me.
OTOMYS: Your smaller monochromatic paintings are a change from your usual larger scale paintings - they are magnificent as a series and each one holds it’s own story.
Eduardo Santos: My work is always evolving, just as the alchemy of the paints and other liquids and materials on the canvas keep changing - with these small paintings I have used a great linen and played with the textures of the cloth and the mixed pigment, allowing them to integrate and ensure each piece is enchanting and unique.
OTOMYS: Your limited edition photographic works on photo-metallic paper offers your practice such diversity, this smooth luxurious surface is the counter opposite to your highly textured painted surfaces.
Eduardo Santos: Photography was my entry into art, I have always enjoyed landscape photography and it offers me a break from painting. In each of these works there are photographs of the beach - 012 WL and 05BL include photographs taken recently of the beach where my mother lives in Brazil.
OTOMYS: Thank you for your powerful and honest work, Mar Dentro is a thought provoking and powerful body of work.
Eduardo Santos: Thank You, I hope the viewer is touched by the intention of Mar Dentro.
Installation photography by Kate Collingwood