Teresa Adão da Fonseca
Interview with Teresa TAF
Tell us about how you got to where you are now.
I am the youngest of 5 children and I grew up in a family environment where math and science were king and queen. At the same time, we cultivated a strong connection with culture, history, philosophy and the Arts. My parents realized, quite early on, that it would be a big mistake to not promote a more artistic education for me – since I was 3 years old, all of my teachers would comment on my constant distraction and the fact that my head was always somewhere else that was not the classroom, an environment which creativity and freedom of expression. From the moment creative freedom and artistic expression became a part of my daily life, I turned into a very good student. That is why I believe so strongly in and fight for a society and education with an artistic presence.
I worked in different areas: Graphic Design, Illustration, Painting and Sculpture. I was also interested in Music and Dance, which is why the connection between the physical movement of the body and the creative process is very present in my career.
When I left Portugal, I applied to Artistic Residences – environments which helped me grow and understand better what path I wanted to take as an artist. I learned a lot with other artists, who guided me with their example and were always proposing new theoretic and practical challenges. That’s how I understood that being an artist is to travel to infinity – and that, at any given moment, you can feel lost in the middle of the Universe, without knowing where to turn to. It is a constant adventure into the unknown.
I feel a strong connection to nature, to organic materials and natural colors. Now that I am back in Porto, I hope I have the opportunity to spend more time in the studio maturing all of these experiences.
How and when did you start exploring yourself creatively through drawing?
I was lucky enough to get an education with a very strong spiritual dimension – this made me see life in a deeper and less superficial way. It gave me the inner freedom to discover my work.
Other artists say this as well: if we are able to distance ourselves from the material stuff that involves and consumes us in our everyday life, we become more open to what is happening around us. We are able to create the space necessary to really think, observe, value, criticize and create. I had the good fortune of growing up in such a space.
I remember being 7 years old and participating with a drawing in an European competition for children and winning. The prize was a big painter’s box (a very serious one) and one of those VHS tapes where several artists would talk about how to work with the different painting techniques. It was a great joy to win that competition – I still use the box, of course, to keep some of my tools.
A few years later, when I was 11, I had the privilege of visiting the studio of a great artist from Porto (Mónica Baldaque), who was kind enough to give me painting lessons every Saturday morning. In this studio, surrounded by the most gorgeous garden, I would spend 3 hours listening to the grown-ups talk, observing everything they did, while painting or drawing. Those were unique mornings that I will never forget and that had a big influence on my path as an artist. Until I was 19 years old, that was the space where I painted. After that, I stopped painting regularly for a few years, unfortunately. I worked in graphic design and other projects until I decided I was going to dedicate myself 100% to pursuing a career as a painter.
Once again, I do think that the family environment influenced me. We were a big family, we played a lot and we had to be creative to make up our own toys, to build huts in the middle of nature, putting on shows with clothes made out of lost rags we found in the drawers of the old family house. It was a creative environment – but it made it hard to have a space where I could concentrate on painting with rigor. I think that is one of the reasons I still have a hard time concentrating on one piece or project at a time – I like to work on several things at the same time.
As the youngest daughter, I was lucky enough to go with my father on his business trips. Whenever she had the chance, my mother would also take me out and expose me to different cultures. My education was strongly marked by outings to the Theatre, Opera, Museums and Concerts. But the simple things were also really important. Like having classical music constantly playing in the living room, the evening reading sessions or the conversations around the table about important issues.
What was your starting point and inspiration behind the work you developed for Monarte? What did your creative process look like?
It’s common for an artist to be deeply focused on a specific and more individualistic work, with a process, where the final result is unknown. Having to give an answer to a specific challenge is always difficult for a visual artist. Having to create something with a concrete functionality normally conditions or limits the creative process. During the Monarte process, we actually had a lot of creative freedom. I am very thankful to Monarte for this opportunity and for trusting my work.
I decided to create a free visual work, leaving behind the planning we are used to in Design. Even though I knew the piece had to become a final print on fabric, I focused on creating paintings that were connected to my work.
I used watercolors and gouache, looking to balance out colors and shapes on a blank piece of paper. I tried to use a feminine language and to create organic forms reminiscent of faded bodies scattered on the paper. This process resulted in many interesting pieces. In the end, I chose a painting with a cleaner pattern, but the colors are joyful and they help us travel into summertime.
The "Beach Bodies" Monarte Piece
This dress is about the levity and freedom of Summer. Organic shapes remind us of faded bodies on blank canvases – or people serenely lying on a beach. It is feminine, curious and light, Teresa TAF’s summer. The summer of anyone who wears this dress.