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Sem título - óleo sobre tela - 160 x 200 cm.jpg

Text: Fernanda Terra
11|11|23 - 12|09|23

The statement “You are what you wear” (translation to the name of the exhibiton “Você é o que você veste”) resonates in the new body of work by visual artist Tinho, leading us to deep reflection on complex and multifaceted human behavior.


In this remarkable series, the artist employs oil painting to explore the multiple layers of meaning behind clothing. Using photographs from advertising campaigns and fashion reference books as a basis, he presents us with portraits devoid of bodies, a provocation that prompts us to question: in the spaces left by the bodies, who are the people behind the clothing? How do we perceive, interpret, imagine, and relate to these images?


Seeing is not a neutral act, as the artist points out: “In the presence of a dressed and expressive body, there is no neutral or disinterested gaze”. There is a field of predictabilities, standards, behaviors, as well as struggles and resistance. We see through the lenses of our own experiences and social, cultural, political, philosophical, beliefs, and more contexts. We see through a body that moves and acts, with all layers of concepts and prejudices, intentions, desires, dreams, affections, dislikes, that draw us closer or drive us apart. And the artist asks: “Who wears an Armani suit? Can a Black person wear it? Can a transgender person, a woman? In the painting of a kimono, who wears it: a Japanese woman, a Japanese man, or any gender identity, ethnicity, color, or race?”.


For him, dressing, adorning oneself, is a becoming, an attempt at self-expression and engagement with the world. “Clothing places us in a situation to embody what it represents. It is a form of camouflage, a strategy, to tell the world how we want to be seen, perceived, and identified.” It is a field of identity struggles and affirmations that communicate values, lifestyle, ethnicity, race, color, culture, gender, and sexuality, reflecting personal aspirations and attitudes - thoughts, feelings, and also what we say, what we do, how we see, where we go, and what we wear - shaping facets of our lives. In this sense, fashion is a powerful tool for empowerment. It challenges stereotypes, subverts conventional norms, but on the other hand, it can perpetuate inequalities and prejudices. As the artist reminds us: “A simple accessory can open or close doors.”


Delving a bit deeper into these works, Tinho also intends to speak about his own experience of body absence. He recalls a childhood and adolescence where racism and prejudice prevented him from finding his own physical and identity references in the world, as a third-generation Japanese descendant. Constant abusive jokes that equated him to all Asians made him feel that everyone who shared his phenotype and color were his relatives, creating a mixed feeling of belonging and, at the same time, a lack of individuation and deep loneliness. “Since I am different from everyone, I am the same as everyone.”


It was only by embracing the Punk movement, of society’s outcasts, and later rock, graffiti, street art, walls that took on an existential meaning of expression and individuation, and skateboarding, as well as the way of dressing of these urban cultures, that he forged his own identity, becoming the great artist he is today. Art, for him, is a powerful tool that enables him to point out the complexity of life as a place of expression, for possible human evolution in the uncertain, ambiguous, and complex world in which we live.


These issues arise in the artist’s work at a crucial moment when the voices of minorities rise and are validated, and the topic of identity emerges as a form of resistance, affirmation, individuation, legitimacy, and symbolic, social, political, and cultural expression. It becomes evident that this exhibition is not about fashion, clothing, and dressing, but is a provocative reminder of the intricate webs of social constructions and meanings that surround dressing, the body, and the construction of identity. You are what you wear is an invitation to uncover the deeper layers of our humanity: the visibility and invisibility of being.


Fernanda Terra

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