Time Out

April 2, 2009

In the studio: Tonico Lemos Auad

Helen Sumpter

Brazilian artist Tonico Lemos Auad uses organic, ephemeral, everyday and precious materials to explore aspects of cultural behaviour. His work has included sculpting with carpet fluff and casting life-size pidgeons from graphite, that can be used as pencils. His latest exhibition, ‘Mouth, Ears, Eyes, just like us’, features a wall covered in silver scratchcard ink, which visitors are invited to scrape off to reveal the images beneath. He has a studio near the Oval.

You seem to have something of a sprouting garden in your studio? 
‘Yes, I’ve been making work with sprouting sweet potatoes and red onions and also Brazilian purple wood. I like the fact that everything the onion needs to grow is contained within itself. I also like the fact that there are people passionate enough to devote their whole careers to finding the best wat to make onions sprout for one purpose and prevent them sprouting for another.’

What’s beneath the scratchcard wall?
‘I first made that piece in Aspen, Colorado, which was a town build on silver mining, although now it’s more famous for skiing. Britain has a strong scratchcard culture, which is another attempt to gain wealth. I wanted to mix this with a Brazilian tradition that is more spiritual but has similar aims, so underneath the ink are images of offerings made each New Year to the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé gods.’

You don’t seem to have made any garpet fluff sculptures recently…
‘No, I had a lot of commissions but they’re very time-consuming and I’d rather explore other materials and ideas. Those sculptures initially came from when I first moved to Britain and was shocked to find carpets in toilets. To me, that was a very strange concept!’