Street-smart art

Brazil’s most populous city São Paulo celebrates the work of its graffiti artists, and none more so than Tinho. Sarah Frater takes a closer look at his vivid, colourful work which arrives on these shores this week

THOSE WHO SAT through City of God, will find it hard to reconcile Fernando Meirelles’s brutal depiction of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas with the chromatic optimism of Tinho’s São Paulo street art. The work of the Brazilian graffiti artist is saturated in colour, and despite having a recognisably figurative element, there’s also a fantasy quality that reminds you of South American mural art. Look closer, and despite the vibrant colours and floating forms, there’s also a nervousness to the characters Tinho depicts in oil and spray paint on board and found objects.

You can attempt to square this circle at Looking For Myself, Tinho’s first UK solo show at the ocontemporary gallery this week. The 30-something artist is part of a flurry of interest in Brazil’s uninhibited street art scene, which has seen exhibitions in London and New York as well as the publication of several books. Looking For Myself curator Olivia Connelly says that Brazilian graffiti art is considered among the most significant strand of a global urban art movement, and its diversity defies the increasing homogeneity of world graffiti. At first, São Paulo was considered a city disfigured by pichação (markings), but its graffiti is now seen as beautifying Latin America’s most populous city. ‘[Street art] is tolerated in São Paulo,’ says Connolly, ‘in a way it often isn’t in other large cities.’ •

Looking for Myself is at ocontemporary, Gallery 27, 27 Cork Street, London W1, 23 July-3 August

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