Sometimes things just work out. I had arranged to drop in and see artist Nuno Viegas (also known as Metis) one afternoon. I got a little confused and assumed that we would be meeting at his exhibition along the seafront in Quarteira (at the Praça do Mar Art Gallery), when in fact he was actually expecting me at his studio where he was busy preparing for his upcoming exhibition in Lisbon in June. This was just as well, as it gave me time to properly take in his work. As it's one thing to simply scroll through his pictures on Instagram (@nunoviegas.pt) and quite another to see them for real.
Because ‘real’ is what they most certainly are. All of Nuno's work has a 3D aspect, and if that's not enough to persuade you that his creations are really ‘floating’ there in mid air, they even cast a very convincing shadow as well. As I made my way around the gallery I found myself sorely tempted to ‘reach in’ and either pick up a paper aeroplane, shake one of the floating hands, or even poke my fingers into the deep vacant eye-holes of the apparently invisible men wrapped up in their incredible ‘T-shirt masks’. I was fairly certain that either my hand would go through the wall, or the man would say “ouch” (but of course, I resisted the temptation).
Nuno is very busy and didn’t have time to create new stuff for this exhibition, and so instead has chosen to fill the gallery with his favourite art pieces that he’s held on to over the years and that chart his evolution as an artist. But I also noticed that it wasn’t just Nuno’s work being exhibited and that various other artists' amazing paintings were also on display. I was beginning to understand that this is the concept behind this exhibition, and indeed, why it is called ‘From Fan to Fam’. You see, he has also taken the opportunity to display the work of other artists of whom he was a massive fan of, and who, when he went off on his travels he actually met, became friends with, and now considers part of his family. As I said in the beginning, it was good that things worked out this way as by the time I phoned Nuno and made my way to his studio (where I should have been in the first place) I had myself become a huge ‘fan’ of him .
Nuno is a super cool and mellow dude. He took a break from working on his latest canvas and we sat down amongst his paint, pens and spray cans for coffee and a chat. Nuno told me that he grew up in Quarteira, and although his passion for graffiti started when he was a teenager, it was never his plan to become an artist. He was originally studying Computer Science at the Universidade do Algarve, and he was quite a way down that road when he decided to change tact and to study Visual Art instead. But even this, Nuno said, wasn’t painting and was more to do with photography and video installation work.
However, on a side note, all this learning about computers and techno-wizardry has, I would say, served him well. Determined as I was to uncover the tricks of the trade and how he brings his creations to life, I got him to share a little of his process with me. He told me he relies heavily on technology for his work and showed me how he first takes photos in real life of the pictures he wants to create. This allows him to see what his vision would really look like, and where the shadow will fall, for example, and then, after a little Photoshop work (and when the picture already seems like a work of art), he then sets about recreating it on canvas.
But where was I? Oh yes, it was only when Nuno took the brave step of leaving Portugal and went to Rotterdam in the Netherlands in 2014, where he met a local painter who took him under his wing and who he thinks of as his ‘godfather’ in the urban art world, that Nuno started to paint seriously.
All Nuno’s artworks from his paintings to his huge murals (one of which he recently did in Quarteira as part of the @sou_quarteira movement) have the ‘graffiti world’ theme at their heart. His trademark works include those invisible men wrapped up in their highly realistic T-shirt masks (that represent the anonymous ‘ghosts’ that are street graffiti artists), floating paint-splattered hands, and golden origami crowns (which are a beautiful version of a common graffiti artists ‘tag’ - used to indicate that the scribbler, or their crew, are the ‘kings’ of the street). The origami paper planes though are a little bit more personal and represent how he used to just doodle in class on bits of paper, but now those drawings have taken shape and have taken off - soaring to great heights and giving him a future he never could have imagined.
Although the pandemic slowed things down for Nuno, his art has allowed him to travel to different places around the world where he paints in festivals and displays his art in museums and galleries. This gave him the opportunity to make lifelong friendships and connections with artists that when he was younger he revered as Gods. He’s now collaborating with them and displaying their work, along with his own, back in his hometown.
The exhibition is on until the 29 May, and so if you are strolling the seashore at Quarteira, I highly recommend you go and check it out for yourselves.