Tarso Silva is one of the authors of realistic paintings that have transformed abandoned corners of Lagos into incredible landscapes and a sort of open-air gallery.
His love for art began at a very young age and has taken him to various countries, but he has spent the last three years in Lagos exploring his creativity and sharing his passion.
Originally from Curitiba, Brazil, he first visited Portugal in 2017 and the country’s charms convinced him to stay. Although he lived in Porto for a few years, nowadays his art can be found in the most diverse places in Lagos such as bars, restaurants, hotels, street murals, and even on the van of an interior design shop.
Tars82 is the artistic name of the 40-year-old Brazilian artist, with the numbers representing the year in which he was born.
He recalls that he was always drawing as a child so, one day, his passion moved from paper to the wall, having developed an interest in graffiti, as he was a skateboarder.
With only some spray paint and curiosity, in 1996 he started painting on the streets and in 2012 it became his full-time job. This transition was not easy, as he had to learn techniques for large-scale painting. “It took many years. It’s a constant evolution until you realise that the spray can is nothing more than a tool and it takes time to make perfect figures and portraits,” Tarso explains.
His persistence and the will to do more detailed drawings have improved his work, which is reflected in uplifting and encouraging feedback by the local community. People recognise that the spaces he painted were neglected or destroyed and his intervention gives them “a new lease of life”, he reveals, adding, however, that there are also those who criticise his paintings.
Even though urban art is not appreciated by everyone, demand for Tarso’s work has started to increase due to the quality of his accurate portraits such as a mural of singer Alicia Keys, near the post office, and the recent Mexican Catrina (a character associated with the Día de los Muertos traditions) at the Santa Maria restaurant in Lagos.
It was at the Red Eye bar that his artistic journey in Lagos began. On his second day living in the town, he offered to paint its wall so he could exhibit his work. As for urban art, he started in a street near a petrol station, with two portraits and, from then on, he did others around the town.
“Works of shadows, light and many descriptions that transmit happiness to people and liven up their day”, that is the message that the artist wants to share. His inspirations come from what gives him joy and reminds him of his roots both in skateboarding and in the tropical climate of Brazil, with its vibrant colours, which also connect with the Mexican culture, that enchants him so much.
For him, there is a big difference between painting in the street and exhibiting work in an art gallery, since, when outdoors, anyone can follow his drawing process step by step and enjoy it at no cost. “There are many people who appreciate my work whilst passing by who cannot afford a ticket to a museum or art venues.”
Although this form of expression may not be understood by many, Tarso clarifies that it can be the beginning of a career dedicated to what someone has talent for, which “changes people’s lives” and highlights that there is “a lack of understanding and support for those who are starting out”.
The artist believes it would be a good idea to hold festivals with national and international urban artists providing a connection between them and the population to demystify this often-underappreciated art form.
His next projects are painting a restaurant in the town centre and an English man’s old car, but he won’t stop here – Tarso’s goal is to continue expanding his work beyond borders and share it with as many people and generations as possible.
By BEATRIZ MAIO