Archive | March, 2013

James Concagh Irish Brazilian

28 Mar

James Concagh left Ireland and the UK many years ago to find fortune and favour in Brazil. An artist and teacher, he is thoroughly acclimatised to the Brazilian way of life – but note the title of his exhibition: Within a Narrow Landscape (Dentro de um Estreita Paisagem). Paulistanos will recognise the description – Sao Paulo has undergone rapid ‘verticalisation’  in recent years. It feels like you’re living at the bottom of a cold concrete canyon here, especially on overcast days. The urban environment can take on a dystopian tinge.

Pillars / panels / set piece

Pillars / panels / set piece

Concagh makes a study of urban textures and effects – rough plaster and wood, graffiti-scored walls, the coarse weave of the raffia bags used for commodities like sugar – incorporating them into pieces at first glance bleached or drained of colour, abstracted like the city itself. In his introductory text curator Gavin Adams uses words like ‘Kafka-ian’ and ‘Sisyphean’. The critic from radio station Alpha FM calls the show ‘existentialist’. It dates from 1994 onwards.

First impressions of the show revolve around its theatricality. The plaster and wood pillars are beautifully placed and lit, the paintings exude a calm, meditative air. The L-shaped gallery, formed of raw concrete with a pool of giant carp and water plants behind a glass-panelled wall, match Concagh’s work closely. Adams and MuBE Director Renata Junqueira have created a sympathetic showcase.

The artist at the vernisssage

The artist at the vernisssage

The halo effect of a MuBE show is considerable. The Museu Brasileiro da Escultura is a prestigious gallery, as much at home on Avenida Europa as the Lamborghini dealership a few doors down. Its low, raw concrete bunker challenges and sets off the art on display outside – currently a commission of brightly-coloured temporary mural art catches the eye, in the same way that a burnt-orange Lamborghini stands out in a city where almost all cars are black, silver or white. I have mentioned before that passers-by regularly photograph these 3D objects.

Even fully saturated colour doesn't do it justice

Even fully saturated colour doesn’t do it justice

At the private view friends, family and fellow-artists and -expats congratulated James on the show.

Though more subtle than the lacquer of a supercar, it’s not as miserabilist as the critics suggest – the panels are playful, with artfully-coloured toes at their plinths, the monochrome paintings are not really that, especially under gallery lights, and the multiple layers of some of the works are dazzling. Even abstraction dances in and out of view – James described one ‘white’ painting as the view from an aeroplane window, and suddenly the city was spread before me, its arterial roads and rivers laced into the ground, then obscured again by cloud. Flying in to Sao Paulo elicits a sense of awe which Concagh begins to capture.

Curator, Director, Artist. Foto: Denise Andrade

Curator ………….. Director …………. Artist      Foto: Denise Andrade

He’s put together a gripping portrait of the landscape he alludes to in the title, finding beauty and drama where one might see only drab grey constructed verticals. After his ‘white’ and his ‘raffia’ phases, I’m looking forward to seeing what he’ll turn his hand to next.

P.S. James can be contacted at

His work is also available at Juliana Benfatti in Jardim Paulista.

More of his work in this exhibition at

P.P.S. James hasn’t let the grass grow under his feet since this post was first published. A commission from CPTM, an urban transport organisation in Sao Paulo, is resulting in a new mural at the Metro station Dom Bosco in Itaquera, in the eastern zone of Sao Paulo. He is working with CPTM employees to execute the work.

Preparations at the mural site

Preparations at the mural site

It is to be unveiled by the Irish Consul-General in Sao Paulo. More at

And from the Irish Times at

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