U2 caricature by Rui Zilhão

CAN Review – Rui Zilhão is a classicly trained artist who has very recently joined the world of cryptoart. His work varies from detailed caricatures of characters, such as U2 above, to lifelike portraits that accurately capture the likeness of his subject.

His approach to his work can be witnesses in the following video that highlights his attention to detail, tone and texture as he builds up the painting from an initial black and white drawing. The face in particular has a wonderfully subtle tone and the musical instrument is rich in intricate line work.

The final image that I’ve taken from Rui’s portfolio, is a radically different one in terms of aesthetic, technique and subject matter. It appears to be possibly rendered in ink and washes of watercolour. It’s a wonderfully chaotic image with strange creatures and figures that appear to be in a symbiotic and grotesque journey that is unpredictable and alive with motion. Work like this begs the question; were these characters created our of the different tonal areas of the painting, with Rui using his imagination to ink more absolute forms.

Patz Putz Petz’ (Splashed Pets) by Rui Zilhão

Rui’s following interview is very insightful, as it details his education and training in the visual arts. His comments on ‘What if anything, has surprised you about this new area of art practice?‘ are arguably quite contentious, as he questions the quality of some of the work being created by the cryptoart community. I believe that this is an important part of any medium’s discourse and to ignore it, or worse, attack those views without considering Rui’s background would be unfortunate.

CAN believe that ‘traditional’ art has also challenged the preception of what art is or can be. We can think of artists such as Marcel Duchamp and his sculpture ‘The Fountain’  1917, consisting of a porcelain urinal signed “R. Mutt”, or more recently Damian Hirst’s shark tank ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ 1991, to challenge our perception of what is acceptable or worthy of being titled as ‘ART’.

Similarly, the cryptoart world often challenges our perception of what art can be on the blockchain. Sometimes it is the ideas themselves that are the artistic genesis of a piece. The visual representation is typically the ‘holder’ for that concept, and can take the form of a Beeple bull, a cryptopunk, or even a minted tweet. Cryptoart is avante garde in many ways, it is technically complicated, it challenges the heirarchy of the established art world, and more importantly challenges our perception of art and what it can be. I’d like to thank Rui for questioning it all, and in turn making me question the nature of cryptoart.

Rui Zilhão

Social media links and website profiles
Website: www.ruizilhao.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ruizilhao
Instagram: www.instagram.com/rui.zilhao
Twitter: www.twitter.com/ruizhilhao @ruizilhao
Ghostmarket.io: https://ghostmarket.io/artist/pha/ruizilhao/

What is your background as an artist in general? 
I can say art is my life since primary school. I went to secondary school of arts – Ceramics , after that I had 2 years of Graphic Design, then I finished school time with the Fine Arts Master Degree in Painting (FBAUL 1997). From there I kept doing different things, 3 years collaboration in a project making human sculptures (from live molds) for museums, projects in the areas of Theatre, Design, Illustration, Music, live performance (portrait & caricature). More recently I started doing art with a new medium, the computer, where I paint mostly portrait and caricature commissions, along with the traditional commissions.

What is your overall process in generating art? 
That depends on the kind of area, medium, project or idea. I mean if it is painting, I do it alone, if it is music i probably do it with someone and the process is different of course. But talking about just the work i do alone, traditional painting obeys to some technics, or a mix of them. Sometimes it begins with a drawing of the idea, then I upscale it to the canvas or paper or wood, or anything, and continue from there. If it is digital…. well it is a different kind of monster, we can do all, with layers, with 3D, audiovisual, but my process almost always start with the idea and drawing sketch.

How would you describe your art in your own words?
A constant search for new ways of telling and expressing things and ideas. Kind of hate the idea of “my Style” or “the artist style”, that is stagnation, and I need to keep walking forward.

Favourite artists / influences?
I have a lot from Renaissance to Modern Art and Crypto art…a lot of creative people to get some inspiration. I don’t like to mention names… or put an order on it. I like painters, sculptors, architects, designers, musicians, performers, land artists, street artists…

How did you discover Crypto Art NFTs? 
Through a Coindesk article in the end of 2020. Then a friend introduced me a little more, and then twitter with the BIG NFT community. But I am still in the early process of learning. This is all new to me, different cryptocurrencies, block chain, wallets, crypto art, NFT, social networks… I am taking it all in, day by day.

Has the digital nature of cryptoart NFTs changed how you approach your art practice? 
I always did art by traditional ways, this is another medium (a big one) of creating things. And as I do with traditional, I try everything I can. A computer is a never-ending medium, and of course I have to learn new software possibilities, 2D, 3D, music, if I want to squeeze all the juice. To learn software it is like learning oil or watercolor, you must invest time for new knowledge. And here I am, learning again, always learning.

What if anything, has surprised you about this new area of art practice? 
The concept and definition of art is being trivialized (as everything, yes). The way anyone can call themselves an artist and everything can be a work of art. This is a controversial subject, I know, because everyone thinks they know what Art is, and they are all experts “because art is art” and abstract or expressionist art is an (easy) way to do it. But art is so much more. Now you don’t have to buy brushes, paint, oil, canvas, all that expensive stuff. You don’t have to spend years learning techniques and materials, representation, practicing, going to places …. now anyone can be an artist with just a computer or smartphone (but in fact to be an artist you always have to go deep for a while, step by step).

Don’t get me wrong, anyone can be autodidact, and there are many many new good artists out there, and many that didn’t study Art at school, but somehow they lived it deeply. In just a few paragraphs I can be quite misunderstood. I am not saying that only traditional is good, nor that rules and concepts cannot be broken or changed, I am in favor of constant change. What I am saying is, with the right software you click on a button and a photo turns to watercolor, this is not a piece of art, sorry. More is needed, a piece of Art is something else. Art is creativity, originality, passion, love, hard work and much more….(and a fabulous subject to discuss with time). It’s like a technical activity, to know it well you have to get deep into the world, learn the language, geometry, psychology, sociology, philosophy, history, theory, object, observer, the message, and so on, to be able to speak and think deeply about Art. Or else, it’s just a superficial discussion of tastes (and most of the times it is just like that). Opinions, we all have them, like tastes. Art being so vast and subjective doesn’t mean you can do it right away, that art is “easy”.

The value of art depends on various subjectivities (such as taste). The concepts you have about art, originality, creativity, skill, beauty, digital art, etc., will help form your background. You need some kind of background. Just as an example, my Fine Arts course was 5 years long with 10 disciplines per year, more theory than practice. One of them, aesthetics, we spent the entire year just analyzing/discussing what “Beauty” is … so it’s easy to understand why I find this “New Art World” too easy, too fast. It is just the way it is. Today things change rapidly, and out of control. I try to be on board and not miss the plane.

How would you like the field of cryptoart and nfts to evolve over time? 
Power to the one self. An open source, decentralized and transparent world is what we need. That is the way, and it has just began.

How can access and information to this new field of art practice be encouraged? 
I think it is already well encouraged and rising fast. But again, lower fees, more decentralized accessible platforms and galleries, lower energy consuming technology.

You can view more of Rui’s work here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBCaZCnG69A https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3mV9uqvgKg

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bo4fuceADXU/ https://www.instagram.com/p/Bo4B340gkkL/ https://www.instagram.com/p/CKM580OMEdW/ https://www.instagram.com/p/Bo4eNxFAeRj/