Violant: the open sky legends of João Maurício

By Michel Fily, February 7, 2018


Street Artist João Maurício, aka Violant, was born and lives in Portugal. He mainly produces murals on large surfaces and his subjects deal with mythology, faith and beliefs, life, death, the animal world and more generally nature, but also current topics hot. « I only know one painted mural of Violant in Lisbon – says of him Richard Tassart on his Blog » Between the Lines « -; it has been in the context of a festival … The others are in wasteland, on the walls of sheds, in farms, lepers walls, in escheat in villages « … Violant is a counter current of Street Art Business. He works alone and he paints what he wants wherever he wants, without seeking fame or fortune. His art is powerful, universal, very evocative, and almost cinematographic despite the immobility of his frescoes. It is a storyteller of fantastic stories that resonate in our collective unconscious, which speak as much to the child as to the old man, who take the viewer into a dreamed, disproportionate, intimate universe, without ever shocking or provoking. Portrait of a “grand illustrator”.


Hello Violant, can you introduce yourself?

I come from a small town in Portugal and I had the great privilege of discovering what I love to do above all else and make it my job.


What triggered your artistic career?

A huge vibration, on the first day I approached the art of drawing and, later, an inspiration in all that was happening around me, which made me think and come to the conclusion that something was pushing me to create my own paintings. I threw myself into this vertigo, exploring my painting alone in abandoned places. Shortly after, orders began to arrive by people who understood where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. Nothing was premeditated. And today, in the same way, I just let things happen to me at their own pace, but always with the desire to create my own content.


Tell us about your inspirations and influences?

I often like to be autobiographical and to relate my own story to fictions or ancient stories. Sometimes I choose to draw attention to society problems… In both cases I draw my inspiration essentially from human emotions, from nature, from certain mythological or biblical stories and sometimes from certain « rotten branches » of our civilization.


What are your techniques and creative media?

My first experiences as an artist were done with spray and stencils, before I soon discovered free hand work. I moved quickly to plastic mural, the least expensive and most widely available for a street artist. My work was revolutionized when I discovered the extension brushes, which increased the amplitude of my gestures and the size of my wall pieces. These tools gave me independence and allowed me to move throughout Portugal to paint large murals. Today, I have sketchbooks filled with drawings, some canvases, one sculpture, but most of my efforts are dedicated to walls.


Tell us about Street Art in your country…

We have a handful of well-known Portuguese artists around the world who are revolutionary and game changers. And from this point of view, Portuguese Street Art is very well represented. There are many works of Street Art in Lisbon but also in smaller cities spread throughout the country. Today, many projects are underway in rural areas of Portugal.


How are you recognized as an artist there?

I do not know all the Portuguese Street Artists and it’s not usual to meet someone painting a wall in my city. But I can say that the few times that it happened to me, we had a lot of fun … I can say that I feel recognized and respected by those whom I like the most.


Tell us about your relationship with the public…

I know that I should be more extroverted and more confident in myself to confront the audience. It’s something I’m trying to change. Since most of my work was done in abandoned places, where I could do what I wanted without being observed, I think it created a form of isolation … Anyway, I try not to be influenced by good or bad comments when I paint, because I know they can ruin the whole concept of what I am working on. I do not want to be the kind of artist who gives the audience what they want. I want to surprise with works outside the expectations of the common … I think if I could find a way to paint public walls hidden from people’s eye, that’s what I would do (laughs).


What message are you trying to convey through your works?

I would like to encourage people to think and to question what they see, to invent the story behind the wall. I hope to fertilize the imagination of people with the magnitude of my paintings. The punch in the stomach that comes from a great work of art, that’s what I’m looking for.


Is it easier or more difficult to be a graffiti artist than to be a painter?

I think about it and I often talk about it, but I think the best thing would be to unite the two worlds. Painting walls can be considered expensive and consumes a lot of energy, but it can be a good publicity for an artist’s studio. One would get a lot more feedbacks from working outside than isolated in a room. Be that as it may, artists must be open and seize every opportunity that life offers them.


What do you think of the evolution of Street Art today?

It depends on what you call « Street Art ». Nowadays, most of the large walls are supported and funded by private organizations or municipal councils. As a result, the processes are not totally free. From this point of view, it seems to me that Street Art is becoming « tamed », as it develops. Not all the themes are allowed, let alone certain figures of representation … Although Street art is no longer a novelty, there is still much to do. For me, it is certain that this art will evolve, perhaps disperse, then evolve again according to the results of its dispersion, and also with new technologies.


What are your current artistic activities and your future projects?

These days, I devote myself almost exclusively to mural paintings. I would like to try to open a studio, get out of my comfort zone, expand my artistic footprint … I would like to paint abroad, elsewhere than in Portugal. And I would also like to make process sequences, « making-of », to edit them and publish more content around projects that I realize.


What do you think about your success and what are your dreams?

I am very grateful to those who do me the honor to appreciate what I do, this art that I have fallen in love with… It gave meaning to my life. I am still very far from everything I can dream of. But I can say that my art has already given me gifts that I never dared to imagine…



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