River Coelho Doesn’t Need You To Find His Art Beautiful

We met up with the up-and-coming Brazilian artist to find out more about his use of ugliness in art to highlight our ubiquitous beauty

We’re back with another Member Spotlight, because our members are FRIGGIN’ AWESOME and always worth bragging about!
This week, we’re featuring the amazing, abrasive, chaotic, wonderful work of River Coelho. River reached out to us a few weeks ago, encouraging me to come visit him at a show he was helping to put on on West 27th Street, at a Lifestyle Clothing pop-up.
Garbed in his customary full-body spandex, marked with his signature artistic style, and donning a terrifying mask, River flitted around the event space, pausing between selfie requests to answer a few of our questions.
Check out our conversation below:

Can you give us an overview of your background and how you came back to painting so recently?

I studied advertising and have been working as an art director and graphic designer since 2001. But I never really liked the digital aspect of my work, so for me was just a job. I got tired of the advertising market, so I decided to do something else.

When I came to New York I was having trouble finding more creative jobs, which is why I decided to paint and re-explore the artistic side of myself that had returned during my trip do Europe. People showed interest in my work and this gave me the courage to start my career as a painter. I wish I’d had the opportunity to go to art school as child, developing my career earlier, but at the same time all of my experiences are what result in the work that I’m doing now, which I really like.

Tell me a little bit more about how you came to find your artistic style

Every artist would love to create something new, different, and unique, but it’s almost impossible these days, because almost everything has been done before. So I just decided to embrace the sort of artist that did what I wanted to do, while always trying to retain my own voice and signature.

Can you elaborate on the messaging behind some of your art — specifically how you see yourself tackling important questions regarding diversity and universal human beauty?

The point of doing art for me is to say something. Art doesn’t have to educate or have a message, but it has to have a feeling, an appeal besides the aesthetic. We are so obsessed with beauty and perfection that I just don’t wanna to reproduce beauty by traditional, academic standards.

So that’s why a few of my pieces start as more classical portraits, and then get subverted afterwards by my preferred, chaotic style.

Tell me more about the performance aspect of your art.

The performance is a way to bring to life my paintings. It’s a representation of my subject matter. I just want people to look at me and think that it’s OK to be different, weird, ugly, or whatever.

How much do you think your Brazilian origins have influenced your art?

Being Brazilian doesn’t exactly influence the aesthetic aspect of my work, but it totally influences my creative process, and my of the world and life. Being Brazilian I feel gives me a drive, a will to make my artistic career blossom, without concern for how difficult it will be. This drive is very important if you aspire to be an artist.

Follow-up to that question — how have you seen your style be influenced by the places in which you studied in Europe?

I love all the European art, and studying over there gave me foundational skills that are fundamental to my process. Now I can say that I know how to paint as a classical European artist, but I don’t need to paint like that to be a great artist.

That’s it for this week’s Member Spotlight. Make sure you keep tabs on River’s website and Instagram for his upcoming performances and shows.

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