Exposição Da coleção: 1961-2021 - 01 de maio até 26 de junho
Bandeira Brasil
Exposição Um Celeiro de Artistas MAB FAAP


SP Urbanogram, held at the mezzanine of the MAB-FAAP, is the first institutional solo show of the emerging Greek artist Tolis Tatolas. The works presented are the product of the artist’s three-month artistic residency at the FAAP from September to December 2019.

The main premise of the exhibition, which Tatolas was very keen to explore during his residency is that of art viewed as research science. This derives both from his earlier education as a biologist and his desire to test a scientific methodology in the making of his art, through the sequence ‘observe/document/analyse/compose’. The exhibition reflects this experimentation and is reminiscent of a research lab, where artworks are arranged meticulously, but temporarily and are ready for close inspection.

Taking this approach one step further Tatolas examines how the city develops as a combination of organic and inorganic elements. He showcases how nature, humans and the built environment merge into a whole, find themselves in a continuous dialogue, or even fight for predominance.

His main inspiration was São Paulo, which he got to know very well during his time spent there. The artist scouted the city and got acquainted with areas very different between them, from the more affluent to the less developed, and from the central to the peripheral ones. He thus tried to explore the realities of a mega-city, in an era of extreme urbanisation characterised by technological and informational development, but also huge, often uncontrollable migration waves and shifting demographics, caused by sociopolitical and economic circumstances.

Tatolas carried out his research as part of a wider project he has been working on since 2009, in which he explores intertemporal urban dystopia, but for the first time depicted a real city and not imaginary ones. São Paulo, as one of the biggest in the world, also represents for the artist the urban present and future of all cities. As such, it is both local and global, and has universal value.

The works presented in the exhibition are made in various media, including drawings, photographs, video, installation and sound. Drawings are the most prominent and are broken down in two categories: these made during the artist’s stay in São Paulo, and these after he had departed and Covid-19 had broken out, in 2020. The former comprise a series of imaginary aerial views drawn as snapshots of the city from above. They do not represent exact places, but combine elements that are characteristic of São Paulo natural and man-made environment, such as urban plans, colourful surfaces, pixos – the city’s idiosyncratic graffitti, cascading rivers and greenery. These and smaller, individual drawings reminiscent of pixos that have come off building walls are juxtaposed with the exhibition’s centrepiece, SP Urbanogram (2019), a diptych drawing of a total length of 20m, which undulates like a cardiogram across the museum’s wall, indicating the pulsating character of the city.

Another group of drawings, Untitled (2020), made after he had departed and during the early periods of Covid-19-related isolation, represent the artist’s memory of the city influenced by recent global events. As such, they are drawn with less detail and in dark colours, which both create a claustrophobic effect and are reminiscent of film negatives, representing imprinted mental images.

Photographs are an important part of the exhibition. In the series Homo paulista (2019), the artist concentrates on the homeless people dotted all over São Paulo. He seeks both to highlight the exacerbated phenomenon in the city, and to show how people become one with the urban environment, looking like skin lesions or, in a more optimistic alternative, butterflies emerging from their cocoons.

In his video Epithelium (2019) Tatolas further explores the relationship of the human population of the city with this outer cover, a protective membrane which they are both comfortable in and try to escape from. The epithelium is here represented by paper, the material most often used by the poor and homeless to support and shelter themselves in the city of São Paulo. A heap of paper scrunched in one of the gallery’s corners is a physical manifestation of this struggle.

The exhibition also features periodical soundings of the work Suffocating (2019), in which the artist makes guttural sounds to indicate the inability to breathe, both in terms of extreme poverty and also, almost prophetically, due to Covid-19. In SP Dreamin’ (2022), two blankets such as the ones used by the homeless of São Paulo, spray painted with pixos hang over the main museum space as a kind of reminder of the issue, but also as banners of human persistence and hope.

Overall, the exhibition aims to indicate the dynamic interrelationship of organic with inorganic elements in the city and to prompt viewers to imagine an urban future that springs naturally from within this phenomenon and leads all development in the service of urban dwellers.

About the artist

Tolis Tatolas was born in Greece in 1978. He currently lives and works in Athens. He holds BA (Hons) and BSc (Hons) degrees from the Vakalo College of Art and Design/University of Derby and the Department of Biology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki respectively. He has had eight solo shows and participated in 22 group shows in Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Greece, the UK, and USA. He has written the book Animals in the Homeric Ages (2005, Erodios) and has contributed to the edited volumes Science and Technology in Homeric Epics (2008, Springer) and Law and Touch (2019, Westminster University Press). His articles and works have been published in the Greek and international academic and general press. He has also designed the sets and costumes of numerous plays by Greek and international playwrights in Athens. As a classically-trained counter-tenor he often experiments on the boundaries of the human voice, thus expanding his practice to media art. Works of his are held in private collections in Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, the UK and USA.

When visiting MAB-FAAP, it is necessary to present a COVID-19 vaccination passport with at least two doses as a condition of entry to the institution.