Enéas Guerra, Valéria Pergentino and Nilma Gonçalves at Solisluna. Photo Kin Guerra

A chat with Eneas Guerra

For 50 years, Enéas Guerra has been shaping his career with strong strokes. Along this path, countless graphic projects have been developed.

With the versatility that is characteristic of him, the 72-year-old visual artist has done almost everything that his area of ​​activity allows: sets for theater plays, visual identity for companies, work for advertising agencies, HQ to boost Bahian tourism, branding and signage for the Sarah Kubitschek Hospital in Brasília, album covers, posters for cultural shows, many illustrations, and of course, books. And there was even work censored by the military dictatorship! A rich collection, which meets the history of contemporary graphic art.

We invite the reader to learn a little more about the graphic artist born in Botucatu, raised in Ribeirão Preto (both cities in the interior of São Paulo), but who actually found himself in Bahia, with the blessings of the ialorixá Mãe Stella de Oxóssi (1925 -2018) and the French ethnologist and photographer Pierre Verger (1902-1996). Here, he started a family and runs, together with his wife and editor Valéria Pergentino, and his son Kin Guerra, Solisluna Design Editora , which turns 30 this year.

- Tell me a little about little Enéas: did you ever like to draw? Was anyone in your family in the artistic field?

Every child draws, as they grow up they stop drawing. I haven't stopped drawing. I went to art school when I was eight years old. I have a brother who is a photographer. My mother was a primary school teacher for 39 years and my father was a court employee. I have a sister who is a museologist, another who works in art education, linked to Reggio Emilia pedagogy, and another sister who is a dentist, and who says she is also an artist (laughs).

- When do you understand yourself as a designer?

When I start to do badly at school (laughs). I was drawing in the classroom. But I didn't tell my children about that (I have four: Nemo, Athos, Ian and Kin, all artists). At the age of 15, I did the scenography for the show, 'Pluft, o Fantasminha' (Maria Clara Machado), in Uberaba, Minas Gerais. I was on vacation in Minas and met some people from the theater. That's when I started to get involved in this area. When I was 17, I worked for four months at an advertising agency in Ribeirão Preto (I was born in Botucatu, but when I was three months old, my parents moved to Ribeirão Preto). When I was 18, I went to live in São Paulo. It was the end of the 60s, I lived in a community, it was pure art! I took the entrance exam for ESPM and passed. I studied at night and worked with art during the day. They were difficult and remarkable years. At the age of 19, I was arrested by DOI-CODI (the military dictatorship's repression and censorship body) along with some friends.

- How was this experience?

I was at a friend's house, with my brother, and another person who lived in the house, in the Pinheiros neighborhood. The house was very popular with young students. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door and some armed guys came in and took us to DOI-CODI. I was detained for three or four days. They didn't beat me or torture me, but it was a very bad experience, very tense, because you don't know what's going to happen. Freed together with my brother we went straight to Rio de Janeiro, to Piratininga beach in Niterói. There, we arrived at a house where, next door, there were musicians from a band rehearsing a very pleasant repertoire. I often say that I went from hell to heaven! (laughter)

- What were your references?

Classical, modern painters, as well as literature. It was the time of counterculture. Brazil had Cinema Novo, Bossa Nova, it was a period of great cultural effervescence. I lived with all that and things happened. I met the anthropologist Roberto Pinho who invited me to come work in Bahia. I was completing the course at ESPM in São Paulo and when I finished I came straight to Bahia on March 25, 1973.

- What was it like leaving São Paulo and coming to Salvador?

I have northeastern roots. My maternal grandfather is from Palmeiras dos Índios, Alagoas. When I arrived in Salvador, I felt at home, as if I were from here. I started doing work for Bahiatursa (former Bahia Tourism Company) , for advertising agencies, scenography and posters for theater, music and dance shows. In 1976, I made a poster for a photography exhibition by Pierre Verger.

There were a lot of interesting things happening in Salvador at this time, many popular demonstrations. I spent 5 intense years in Salvador, getting to know its culture and people and working hard. But in 78 and 79 I went to live in Brasília, to work at Equiphos, a research and project center at the Sarah Kubitscheck Hospital, also at the invitation of Roberto Pinho (my friend to this day). I worked together with a team of designers to develop the signage project for the hospital, and set up a small graphic, and on that occasion I also created the hospital's brand.

- During this period, rock in Brasília was taking its first steps...

Yes. A fellow designer who worked with me at Sarah introduced me to a lot of incredible people. I made posters for the iconic Galeria Cabeças, responsible for the music events, "Concerto Cabeças ao Ar Livre", which took place on the lawn behind the gallery. The events were always on the last Sunday of each month and took place from the end of the 1970s to the end of the 1980s. The shows were by rock bands such as Paralamas do Sucesso, Legião Urbana, Capital Inicial, still at the beginning of their careers.

- But did you also have a history with censorship?

Yes, I made a poster for a play by a theater and dance group, called 'O Noviço', by Martins Pena, and the Federal Police seized the poster. The poster was illustrated with the central character of the play, a novice in a black cassock, who I drew walking with his member erect (laughs). They censored. I had to put a label stating that the play was for people over 18 years old. I placed the stripe over the boy's member and he was released (laughs).

- In what year did you return to Salvador?

In 1980. It was when Pierre Verger was returning from Africa. He still had no book published in Brazil. A group, of which I was part, created Editora Corrupio and we decided to launch the book 'Retratos da Bahia', with photographs by Verger from 1946 to 1952. At that time, I was still working at Salvador City Hall (in the communications department), day, and, at night, as an illustrator at Jornal da Bahia.

- What was it like working in a newspaper editorial office?

It was very good, quite different, especially interacting with the teams of journalists, several of whom are my friends. Still from the time of Jornal da Bahia, when it was about to close its activities, I managed to rescue a good number of drawings that I produced, a collection of pen and ink illustrations; marked an era.

- What is your creation process like?

For each type of work, I have a different dynamic. When I have a challenge to create an illustration, it stays in my head. Sometimes I cross out, sometimes I write a word or a sentence. To produce the books, I have to familiarize myself with the content, read the text, see what it directs. Sometimes, even the title of the book is a sign. The pressure of producing in a limited time also influences.

- What was the most difficult project you undertook?

There are several, but one of them is the book 'Orixás', because it has a history of 40 years of Verger's research. I worked with Verger for two years on this editorial project. And I needed to make all that valuable content readable to the public, without neglecting aesthetics.

- How was this exchange with Pierre Verger?

We had regular meetings, he said what he wanted, we chatted and shared ideas. He was always very respectful of my work and my proposals. It was ten years of coexistence and a lot of learning. With Verger I co-authored my first illustrated books for children, 'Oxóssi, o Caçador' and Lendas dos Orixás (Ed. Corrupio, 1981), the first publications of this nature in Brazil.

- Over your 50-year career, you had to adapt to the tools and production methods of each period. What was the biggest challenge?

The digital era changed everything, things became more fluid. It was faster to produce, to get something up and running. The programs are changing and getting better.

- Are you, then, not the nostalgic type and recognize that technologies optimize production processes?

Clear. Before we used fax, telex, the Post Office to send an illustration, a layout to be approved. Nowadays we have the internet, email, cell phones. The work arrives quickly at its destination. It has greater complexity and new learning, every day there is something new to learn.

- Do you think there is greater value in art that is still produced manually?

No. For me, it's all the same. Just because it's difficult to produce doesn't mean that art is better. Sometimes it's quite the opposite. When it comes to digital, for artists who have always worked with paper, the big challenge is learning the programs, but once we have this mastery, the screen becomes a support for our art.

- And what is it like working as a family (with your wife, editor Valéria Pergentino, and your son, photographer Kin Guerra)?

Super democratic, everything discussed, nothing imposed. We have our differences, but we manage to move forward, each with our own specialty. Everyone gives opinions, the work is discussed in groups and then walks with the person responsible. Everyone contributes, and the result is always very rewarding. And in addition to the blood family, we have our “Solislúnica” family, fundamental for things to happen. Designer Elaine Quirelli has been with us for over 20 years, always contributing her talent. Our work team and partner network are very important to Solisluna's success. I'm grateful to everyone!

Solisluna Editora team in 2022: Kin Guerra, Enéas Guerra, Mirian Souza, Valéria Pergentino, Elaine Quirelli and Vinícius Maciel.

***

This chat between journalist Nilma Gonçalves, editor Valéria Pergentino and visual artist Enéas Guerra took place on an afternoon in August 2023 at Solisluna's house, in Vilas do Atlântico, Bahia.

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