12 Apr New Baroque of Hélio Petrus
THE NEW BAROQUE OF HÉLIO PETRUS
In his own words: “I try to take that dramatic density and suffering of the saints of the 18th century Baroque and make them more cheerful and jovial. For example, in my sculptures of the Saint Francisco I use birds to compliment the figure rather than the skulls which are the common motif found in our 18th century churches. In my bas reliefs my Madonnas are generally young. For this, my work is named neo-Baroque.” Hélio Petrus.
Hélio Petrus is a direct descendant of a line of splendid artists who once carved ornamentations for alter pieces and ships during the centuries of gold, when Europeans made delirious voyages in a world of enchanted forms. Petrus has mastered the nuances of the art of that period and reveals it from within the cedar in which he carves. Madonnas, angels and archangels dance circles in the clouds. Surrounded by seraphims, St. Francis of Assis talks with birds and rises in the ecstasy of sublime flight. (Angelo Oswaldo – curator of art and current president of the Brazilian Institute of Museums, IBRAM)
“The work of Petrus is classified as neo-Baroque with his own style of compact diversity.” (Roselli Santaella- PhD History)
Although it was somewhat late when he made the art of wood carving his vocation, he is now considered to be a creative icon in the world of sacred art. In addition to being a professor in his field and discoverer of new talent, his own work is recognized with a devotion to neo-Baroque. He is a kind, thoughtful and educated man who has come to be famously recognized as a master wood carver from Mariana. Hélio Petrus was born in the village of Filipe dos Santos, 50 km from the small, historic city of Mariana, Minas Gerais, where he has lived since childhood. At one time, he entered the seminary to become a priest. He drew his inspiration for carving from the works of the famous artists Aleijandinho, Viera Servas and Manoel da Costa Ataíde, and all together the subject of sacred art.
Petrus’ works have become renowned. The carved the Madonna of Cedar which the TV network Globo used to film its 1994 series of the same name. He has created many works and decorations for chapels and churches, and in addition, many of his works have found their way into private collections, such as the capel of father Fábio de Melo, singer. Perhaps his biggest joy as an artist was recently when his carving of São Francisco was presented to the new Pope Francisco on his visit to Brazil. He felt it was a coronation of great mutual success – that of the Pope and also that of his saintly namesake.
According to Roque Camello, the president of the House of Culture at the Marian Academy of letters, “The spiritual character imprinted in the works of Hélio embody the family of traditions found within the walls of the traditional Seminary of Mariana, an icon of wisdom and piety. This scenario is very much alive today in the culture of our historic cities. Now Hélio will go to the Vatican with his St. Francisco to realize the blessings of his hands.”
After a fire struck the sanctuary of Carmo de Mariana, Hélio was called upon to reproduce the sacred carvings destroyed by the blaze. In addition to his works being collected throughout Brazil, they have their way throughout the world to countries such as Portugal, France, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Japan and the United States.
Petrus’ artistic vocation awoke when he was 25 and a student. He then began to focus his studies to gain knowledge of the Baroque, especially the works of Aleijandinho, Viera Servas and Atíde, the great 18th century artists of Minas Gerais. The awakening to these unparalleled masters, in the midst of his Minas home, charmed in him with a vision of the Baroque and instilled a love for art. Feeling deep motivation, he began to carve his first works – Cherubim – and he reproduced the details of what he saw in the churches of Mariana. He eventually deepened his study of the European Baroque, mainly the Italian school. This led to his use of lighter shades called patina.
Today, Petrus has a rich collection of works at his Atelier in the center of Mariana, where he also works with young artists. Over the years he has sought to find new talent with whom to share his art…guiding them in the development of the Baroque style and creating bas reliefs and other cedar wood carvings. His followers have been keen to call him master. Petrus says simply, “Sharing inspiration in association with young, talented students has been a huge bonus.” Working wood in this way is time consuming because carving requires a lot of patience and precision. Petrus called skilled, young talent to work, and he got three things: first, improvement; then production, and finally creation in the opportunity to encourage apprentices. According to the artist,“ It is not enough to have just skill, you need a lot of application.”
The tourists travel to Mariana to see the 18th century churches and monuments, but a visit to the historic part of town would not be complete without a visit to the studio of Hélio Petrus. His Atelier is an historic house located on Rua Dom Silvério, virtually at the door step of the old churches. Locals still call this street “New Street” because it was the last to be built when the emperor Dom João V ordered the city built in 1745. In the cultural midst of the regional art panorama, where neighboring villages are filled with the historic names such as Ribeirão do Carmo as Ataíde, Alejandinho, Servants and others, Hélio Petrus lives in the present with a future that will include his name among those great artists who have passed before him. In many ways, he is already enshrined simply by his simplicity, good humor and his nobility of receiving others with a constant smile and a generous heart for all those who seek.
Marlene MacDonald, president of the Renewal Movement of Mariana says, “The artist has no homeland because art is universal, but there is no way to deny that the work of Hélio Petrus reveals the soul and the feeling of Mariana.”
The academic and expert in art history, and especially in Baroque art teaching, Regina Almeida states that, “The art of Hélio Petrus carries the heaven to Earth and leads us from Earth to Heaven. It is art that lifts and raises!”
Note: The statue São Francisco was donated to Pope Francisco.
Source: Author Merania de Oliveira. Virus da Arte & Cia, (08/07/2013)
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