Known for exploring urban landscapes through endless and complex illustrations, Vasco Mourão (aka Mister Mourão) exhibited his latest pieces in September at the Underdogs Gallery in Lisbon. Between sculpture and two-dimensional hand-drawing, the beautiful Ouroborus series features illustrations of buildings in circular brass plates in an exercise of repetition, distortion and movement.
He's a very interesting character that loves to travel and even has a small online shop with a delightfull selection of travel finds.
I talked with Vasco about his work, life and inspirations:
Please talk a bit about yourself...
Hi! My name is Vasco Mourão.
I’m an ex-architect turned into an artist & illustrator with a tendency for obsessive drawings.
Inhabiting a place between fine art and illustration, I work in editorial commissions as well creating exclusive artworks and large scale murals for private clients and institutions. Only with a black pen and time, I draw cities, buildings, structures and other architectural meanderings.
Originally from Portugal, I now happily live in Barcelona.
I’m a big believer in the quality of everyday life.
Which is one of the reasons I live in Barcelona... Where a normal day is just great. Maybe New York or London can be more exciting but nothing beats the quiet comfort and ease of Barcelona.
A lovely and well designed city that I can go anywhere in my bicycle, where I get my fresh produce at the nearby market a few block from my place, where there’s always a bar or caffe to lounge around with friends and with a airport with a bunch of international flights.
It’s the little things :)
These last years I found a rhythm that seems interesting to me. Usually I spend about half of the year at home and the other half traveling. As I said I really like living in Barcelona (I like my house, my street and my neighborhood) but the possibility to be out in the world for months traveling is something that I really came to appreciate.
And it isn’t traveling just for the sake of it.
We (me and Madalena) spend a lot of time (at least one or 3 months), in one place when we find the right location which usually it’s warm, near the ocean and has interesting food.
Basically we keep our daily work routine like we would in Barcelona but there’s a whole different world waiting for you when you for outside.
Extraordinary routine is what I like to call it.
And because we have time we never hurry and get to discover each place little by little. Slowly finding that especially nice food stall, a cool coffee place, the beach with fun waves to go surfing or where to get the best coconut water.
Here we gather some photos from the travels so you get an idea (still missing this year’s photos from Singapore, Malaysia and SriLanka...).
With the obvious difficulty of choosing favorites in this matter, I specially like ‘OneHundred Years of Solitude’ by Gabriel García Marquez (One of the best side-effects of living in Barcelona is the fact that I could read all his work in Spanish).
Also by him, ‘Relato de un náufrago’ is a book that I return regularly.
After that maybe ‘A Wild Sheep Chase’ by Haruki Murakami, “The name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco and ‘The Elephant’s Journey’ by José Saramago.
Also ‘Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook (of Sorts)’ is one that I use/read a lot.
I just finished two that I really liked, ‘The Naked Tourist’ by Lawrence Osborne and ‘Shark Drunk’ by Morten Strøksnes.
And I didn’t even talked about comics... I’ll just point out three that are brilliant in my view. ‘Enemy Ace - War Idyll’ by George Pratt, ‘The Return of the Dark Knight’ by Frank Miller and ‘The Essential Calvin & Hobbes’ by Bill Waterson.
Why did you become an artist? And why?
I (just) draw. And I mean this without any false modesty, it’s just I feel that the word is too big to what I do. But I digress...
Actually I never thought about becoming an artist (cough!).
Things just happen because drawing was always one of my favourite things to do. One of my first memories is being on my parent’s living room floor drawing, so I guess I started pretty early… And for some unknown reason I was obsessed with horses. That’s basically what I drew from 4 until 18 years old. Pages and pages filled with horses!
When I started my studies in Architecture, the theme of my drawings changed (dramatically) to urban landscapes and constructions and also my understanding of the discipline. Architecture school led me to see drawing as a way of thinking.
Now when I have to explain or understand something, my instinct is to draw it.
But I think that the seminal moment for the artworks was when I got to Barcelona and had one hour subway commute to go to work. Because I always carry a pen and notebook, I would draw random stuff that was related to work but then developed a kind of drawing that I could add to a bit each day.
Drawing by accumulation, which turn out to be the basis to what I do now.
Those drawings found their way to a blog that (to my surprise) started bringing in editorial illustration commissions.
An (very good) advice from Alice lead me to open a online shop to sell prints and originals, which is a big part of what I do currently.
I obviously love architecture but I felt that the day-to-day office work wasn’t my thing, so after overlapping both things for a while, I decided quit my job as an architect and focus on just drawing. Best decision of my life!
With the added bonus that now I could travel anytime! :)
For most of my work I just need a table, pen, paper and a internet connection.
The Why is easier to explain.
Drawings just gives me great pleasure.
There’s something in the effort, dedication and loneliness of the work that resonates with me.
I also love the thrill of constantly taking on new challenges.
Every time I finish a piece I’m always thinking about what to do next and take the work to a new level.
So despite the theme of my work is very constant (architectural hand drawings), the implications of a bigger canvas, a different base material or built references makes me feel that there’s an endless array possibilities to investigate. And that is exciting. Like they say in Vietnam, same same but different.
There’s a great quote of Chuck Close that really rings true to me. “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work.” Surely my background, other artist’s work that I admire, the places I visit or the people I meet are important and fuel me subconsciously but I don’t really get specific inspiration from other places besides the work itself. For me the challenges and decisions inherent to working on a new piece are inspiring/challenging enough.
Why the Ouroborus series was such a special project?
This latest project is special because it’s something of hybrid between a drawing and a sculpture. It may seem foolish but I think a lot about the relationship between the drawing and the frame. When I drew on paper at the beginning I use to fill the whole page because I couldn’t figure out how to finish the piece.
With the Ouroborus series, the physical limits of the work are an integral part of the drawing. And that seems very elegant to me. Also the way the drawing distorts the canvas shape, creating a piece that changes with the spectator point of view.
That happened with the wood pieces but specially with the brass discs the material offered some unexpected qualities that really excited me. Things like how the subtle hues and reflections add depth and variations, the way it changes with light, how it floats on the wall... Little details but I feel that it gives each piece an uniqueness that I really treasure.