The Art of Alberto Lamback

Brazilian born artist Alberto Lamback talks about drawing and immigration


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Artists invite viewers to have a closer look at the world through the production of documented imagery. Approaching art conceptually functions in a similar manner. The artist is first and foremost an observer, pointing out elements that people would not normally notice. First comes the idea, then the consideration of the adaptation with the appropriate medium.

As a result of living in London and not being able to afford a studio, my practice downsized as my space was reduced to a single desk in a bedroom. I shifted from large-scale paintings towards a more conceptually oriented practice which included drawing.

In Cyprien Gaillard’s Gates the artist collects imprints from manholes in diverse global locations. The title implies the doorway that connects the city and the hidden subterranean world. Armed with charcoal and a large sheet of paper, Gaillard is able to copy the manhole pattern through a technique of frottage or rubbing. The result becomes more visible once hung on a wall: the most noticeable ones reads ‘city of L.A. made in INDIA’, asserting the idea of geographic distortion. 

Passports is an ongoing project which I started in 2011 and consists of a series of hand copied passports from different European countries with my own details in the ID page. They are a word for word reproduction of a passport written with a fine liner pen: my own gate to lawful residency. The idea for this work originated from the struggle to remain in Europe as a non-EU citizen (or “other”). Since I do not hold a European passport I opted to make my own with the intention to ease the desire of wanting one. There is a repetitive, DIY process of copying the same thing in twenty different languages that becomes tedious – almost perfomative – which relates to the endless time spent going through the bureaucratic immigration process.

Further exploring the idea of desire and transgression, Brazilian artist Gil Vicente’s drawings Inimigos are a collection of life size charcoal drawings in which he depicts himself assassinating a variety of world leaders, from presidents to the Pope. The work caused much controversy when unveiled at the 2011 Sao Paulo biennial. Drawing came as a mediator to externalize the artist’s feelings towards a (sometimes) uncontrollable reality of the world.

Although working in a controlled manner has its virtues, the importance of chance cannot be discounted. For instance, the Subway Drawings by William Anastasi show how the artist renounces control and lets the movement of the train take over the mark making process. 

Didn’t know what to think of this so I slept on it was a way to incorporate randomness into drawing. Physically sleeping on a drawing could make it better, taking the common expression “sleep on it” word for word and extending the action of drawing beyond the corners of a page of paper. After all, my studio is my bedroom. Coincidentally, it was at the time of the Charleston shootings that proved to be a favorable subject matter for the experiment. The drawing is a charcoal sketch on paper from the news report which I then slept on for the duration of the coverage that lasted four nights, as a way to demonstrate the transience of global media. Charcoal seemed to be the ideal material due to its impermanent quality.

Simple marks on paper can be accessible to anyone as it is a human activity. This is particularly acute today when making art is part of an evolving digital landscape that removes us from experiencing the real. In a world that is becoming notably reclusive, it is important to embrace drawing as a mediator. Drawing serves as a vital means of making sense of the world.

Alberto Lamback (b. 1985, Brazil) is an artist currently based in London. He studied Fine Art at Université Panthéon Sorbonne, Paris, and Byam Shaw School of Art, London. Lamback has exhibited in B.A.A.M at Harts Lane Studios, London.

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