Felipe de Ávila Franco (1982) is a Brazilian visual artist based in Finland since 2013. Exploring the boundaries between sculpture and other mediums, his artistic approach is conducted through the lens of biopolitics and environmental aesthetics. Through the combination of traditional and experimental techniques, his works incorporate industrial residues and other materials such as constructive debris, petrochemical derivatives, and contaminated soil collected from regions of large-scale industrial activity or where environmental disasters have been reported, to be transfigured into sculptures, ceramic series, and objects, besides multimedia installations including electromechanical systems and other interventions.
Grounded on concepts of materiality, his work is dedicated to translating the industrial dystopia of our current times, casting sculpture as a practice that can materialize temporalities and dimensions that reflect on the encounter between the scales of the human, the nonhuman, and the planet. His artistic process addresses art as a tool to awake new perspectives of knowledge, establishing interdisciplinary links between humanities and natural sciences. Throwing a critical look over topics regarding socio-environmental emergency, his work aims at evoking art as a mechanism to activate a deeper discussion on the conflicting relationship between human society and nature, highlighting those as interdependent entities.
Currently, the artist is based in Helsinki and work between South America and Europe. His works integrate distinct collections such as the Museum of Brazilian Art, in São Paulo, the Helsinki Arts Museum HAM, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, in Helsinki.
Selected Group Exhibitions
2022 - Declare/Decay: Decomposition is a part of the natural ecosystem - VR Exhibition, XOR-space
2022 - Under Construction - GEH8 - Dresden, Germany
2022 - Food in New York: Bigger Than the Plate - Museum of the City of New York, USA
2022 - Subterranean - Amos Rex Museum - Helsinki, Finland
2018 - 3rd Internacional Tbilisi Triennial - Tbilisi, Georgia
2018 - On fragility: Omnia vanitas - Galeria Myötätuuli - Rahee, Finland
2018 - Impact 10 / Encuentro - Santander, Spain
2017 - Aaltopeltiä ja amarylliksiä / Irises and Iron Wire - Kallio Kunsthalle - Helsinki, Finland
2016 - S.O.S: Save Our Souls: Art for a Time of Urgencies - Seoul, South Korea
2016 - KuvanKevat MFA Degree Show - Exhibition Laboratory - Helsinki, Finland
2016 - Kuvataideakatemian näyttely - Exhibition Laboratory - Helsinki, Finland
2015 - Kuvanveisto & Taidegrafiikka - Corner Space Gallery - Helsinki, Finland
2015 - Animal locomotion - DeLaCharge Gallery - Brussels, Belgium
2014 - Siltojen Välissä - Jämsänjoen Varrella - Jämsä, Finland
2013 - Duermevela - University of Antioquia Art Gallery - Medellin, Colombia
2012 - European Exchange Academy exhibition - Cunda Island Art Gallery - Ayvalik, Turkey
2010 - “Tudo a Ver” project - Espaço das Artes - Contagem - MG, Brazil
2009 - “The Prophet” performance photos - Galeria Ipê - Nova Lima - MG, Brazil
2008 - [ ] etc... - Mamacadela Espaço de Arte - Belo Horizonte - MG, Brazil
2008 - X Mostra Interna Guignard - Escola Guignard - Belo Horizonte - MG, Brazil
2021 - Helsinki Art Museum HAM (Finland)
2018 - Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma (Finland)
2018 - Finland’s Prime Minister Sauli Niinistö Office (Finland)
2017 - Museum of Brazilian Arts MAB-FAAP (Brazil)
Received grants and prizes
2022 - TAIKE Supplementary Grant
2021 - Svenska kulturfonden - Project Grant
2021 - SRK - Expenditure Grant
2021 - TAIKE - Artist Grant
2020 - TAIKE - Supplementary Grant
2019 - LABVERDE - Selected project grant
2019 - SKR - Artist Grant
2019 - TAIKE - Expenditure Grant
2018 - TAIKE - Display Grant
2017 - Finnish Art Society - Young Artist Grant
2017 - TAIKE - Project Grant
2017 - Kuvataideakatemia - Kuva Grant
2012 - Minc - Cultural Exchange and Art Dissemination
2008 - Exhibition Prize at X Mostra Interna Guignard
2022 - ISCP-NY International Residency Program - New York, USA
2015 - DeLaCharge - Animal Locomotion - Brussels, Belgium
2013 - Casa Tres Patios & Universidad de Antioquia - Medellin, Colombia
2017 - MFA Visual Arts - Academy of Fine Arts / University of the Arts Helsinki - Helsinki, Finland
2009 - BFA Visual Arts - Escola Guignard - State University of Minas Gerais - Belo Horizonte-MG, Brazil
2005 - BFA Social Communication - UNI-BH, University Centre of Belo Horizonte - Belo Horizonte-MG, Brazil
2002 - TEC Graphic Design - INAP Art & Project Institute - Belo Horizonte-MG, Brazil
Presentations / Lectures / Seminars
2021 - Lecture at Contemporary Investigations Seminar - Faculdade Armando Álvares Penteado - FAAP - São Paulo, Brazil
2021 - 'II Encontro Internacional Lusófono Todas as Artes | Todos os Nomes' - FLUP, UPorto - Porto, Portugal
2021 - II COMbART: Art, activism and citizenship, an event organized by the Project Artcitizenship - FLUP, UPorto - Porto, Portugal
2020 - ‘Transitions in Tension’ at the class “Morphologie des Körpers und Raums“ at Viena Academy of Arts - Viena, Austria
2019 - 'The artist in Transit' at Escola Guignard UEMG at State University of Minas Gerais - Belo Horizonte, Brazil
2019 - Lecture at 'Artistic process in the expanded field' at UFAM at Federal University of Amazonas - Manaus, Brazil
2019 - 'Residue Resides' at COMbART - International Conference on Arts, Activism and Citizenship - FLUP, UPorto - Porto, Portugal
2018 - 'Intuitive structure and the re-materialization of the artist' at Globe Art Point - Helsinki, Finland
2018 - Matter Seminar - Research Group from Department of Design in Aalto ARTS - Hiap, Suomenlinna - Helsinki, Finland
2017 - 'Residue Resides - Art from environmental contamination' at Nordic Symposium - Vartiosaari - Helsinki, Finland
2016 - The Hybrid Matters Symposium, Theater Academy - University of the Arts Helsinki, Finland
2015 - Practical training with the artist Villu Jaanisoo - Helsinki, Finland
2015 - Practical Training with the artist Marcus Copper - Helsinki, Finland
2014 - SAMA courses - Sibelius Academy - Helsinki, Finland
2020 - Curation of Ville Virkkilä: Perheen Aarteet/Family Treasures exhibition at Arkadia Gallery - Helsinki, Finland
2016 - Collaboration at Polyphonic Discussion - Intervention on equality & aesthetic of knowledge
with Jacques Rancière - UNIARTS University of the Arts Helsinki and HIAP - Helsinki, Finland
2016 - Design, structure, and mechanics - Landscape Machine by Pia Männikkö - Helsinki, Finland
2016 - Structure and material consultant - Modern Machine by Gregoire Rousseau - Munchen, Germany
2016 - Structure and design consultant - Structure, Object, Sculpture by Gregoire Rousseau at Titanik - Turku, Finland
2016 - Design, structure, and mechanics - Hauta / Grave by Erika Erre at Forum Box Gallery - Helsinki, Finland
2015 - Structure and materials consultant - Superposition by Gregoire Rousseau at Oksesankatu 11 - Helsinki, Finland
2011-2015 - Founder partner and art producer at Imagna Visual - Art direction/Producer - Belo Horizonte, Brasil
2011-2012 - Collaborator in Portal Sul web-magazine - Culture magazine editor - Belo Horizonte - MG, Brasil
2011 - Art producer of 'Museu: Observatório' by Eduardo Coimbra (RJ) at MAP Pampulha Art Museum - Belo Horizonte, Brasil
2011 - Art producer at Palácio das Artes for the 29th São Paulo Biennial / Itinerancy - Belo Horizonte - Brasil
2010 - Art producer of 'I in U' by Laurie Anderson (NY) solo exhibition at CCBB-SP - São Paulo - Brasil
2009-2010 - Art producer Assistant at Palácio das Artes - Belo Horizonte - Brasil
2008-2009 - Graphics Producer at Populus Advertisement Agency - Belo Horizonte - Brasil
2003-2006 - Trainee/Design Assistant at Big Jack Design Studio - Belo Horizonte - Brasil
His art installation 'The trillionth tonne' consists of eight tonnes of coal in eight polyurethane sacks. The sacks create a wall on which a carbon counter is projected. The counter shows the amount of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere from human activity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a unit used in climate science to illustrate the climate-warming impact of greenhouse gases. Climate researchers predict that, at the present rate, the trillion-tonne milestone will be reached by 2040. If that milestone is reached, it may be impossible to stop climate change and its destructive impacts.
Jouko Vuorella - Helen Oy Magazine issue 1/2022 - page 18 (2022)
Felipe’s practice confronts some of the most urgent issues of our time, such as the endangerment of Indigenous peoples, the climate crisis, and pollution. His work is both visually striking and conceptually sound. As a native of Brazil, Felipe adds a critical perspective often excluded from the Euro-centric conversation on climate change.”
The preselection panel for the ISCP-2023 Alumni Residency Program in New York (2022)
Felipe de Ávila Franco is a Brazilian artist now working in Finland. He comes from the southeastern region of Brazil, where mining activities "are the main economic power and also the main agent of accelerated alteration and destruction of the landscape." His work, which brings together traditional and experimental techniques, considers biopolitics and environmental aesthetics.
Abby Klinkenberg published at Fairplanet.org (2022)
Critique article for the exhibition Points of Return: Art in the age of climate crisis
In the work "Eclipse" by Felipe de Ávila Franco, a bright lamp "floats" inside a rectangle container. Black oil flows down from above and turns the lamp into an impenetrable black ball while the space in which it hangs, darkens. “Eclipse” calls up the phenomenon of the solar eclipse, which also serves as a metaphor for epochal fears. (...) At the same time, the wonderful installation is also a symbol of how fossil fuels are beginning to darken the sun, a great energy supplier. Metaphorical and real danger merge into one in the work. “Fragile Times” - the title of the exhibition is particularly evident in this work. (Free translation from original article in German.)
Ingo Arend - Kustforum International (2020)
Critique article for the exhibition 'Fragile Times' at Galerie im Körnerpark
The work ¨Provoked Archeology¨ by Felipe de Ávila Franco (1982) is originated from research carried out during the LABVERDE International Residence in 2019, and sought to take an artistic look at the organic and phenomenological relationships that emanate from the soil of the Amazon rainforest. The work proposes to explore the artistic potential and materiality present in the Amazonian soil when activated through this intervention in which it becomes, at the same time, the essential material and the support for the work.
Human action leaves traces, material, and conceptual remains that, over time, become more and more permanent. Such actions and the residues that result from them have the potential to shape landscapes and affect perception, human behavior, and social ties. His artistic work is dedicated to investigating topics regarding materiality and the conflicting relationship between human society, the environment and the self. Guided by the principles of sculpture, his work approaches materials, spaces, and events that manifest the environmental dystopia of our times and through wide and careful analysis, allows his artistic process to incorporate that contamination and become some sort of filter that absorbs destructive potentialities from substances and transfigure them into creative ones.
LABVERDE International Residency Program Catalog (2019)
Bildkonstnären Felipe de Ávila Franco (f.1982) är född i Brasilien, men bosatt och verksam i Helsingfors. I serien Plagues presenterar han nya verk där hållbar betong möter tandavgjutningar av ursprungsfolkens invånare i Amazonas regnskogsområde. Med utställningen vill de Ávila Franco förmedla att de material som används i industrin påminner om människans strävan att erövra tid och rum med hjälp av teknologi. Rumsmässigt har människan redan brett ut sin verksamhet ända till rymden. Tidsmässigt lämnar människan spår efter sig som sträcker sig över flera generationer och som kommer att finnas kvar mycket länge. Felipe de Ávila Francos skulpturer reflekterar vårt sätt att klassificera det humana och icke-humana i förhållande till jorden.
STT Info (2019)
On the future (...)
One commonly voiced critique of the Anthropocene relates to how it emphasizes human agency – it fosters the illusion that humanity will once again overcome the current crisis with the marvels of modern technology.[i] Eclipse (2017) by Felipe de Ávila Franco (b. 1982) features a globe of light that is gradually swallowed up by oil dripping from above. Finnish philosophers Antti Salminen and Tere Vadén analyze the significance of oil in the modern way of life, specifically what economics describes as “the oil curse”: “The discovery of oil reserves often leads to the ecological, social and economic destruction of the country or territory in which it is discovered, while the resultant ‘gains’ and prosperity are enjoyed elsewhere – again, oil unites us by dividing us […]”[ii] A driver tanking up at a service station might be indifferent to where the oil comes from, but no form of energy is magicked out of nowhere. Salminen and Vadén argue that fossil fuels alienate us from reality: we become blind to the connections between oil and familiar everyday commodities, their sources in faraway lands, the giant rafts of microplastic pollution floating in our oceans, and the alarming amount of plastic particles found in the stomach contents of fish and other marine creatures.[iii]
De Ávila Franco’s work alludes to a solar eclipse, a celestial event once believed to be an ill omen in many cultures. Ancient astronomers were highly valued for their ability to predict eclipses: seeing the future and foretelling the movements of the sun was important to the fate of the monarch. De Ávila Franco’s eclipse is unrelated to celestial movements, however: the ‘sun’ is a light bulb slowly engulfed by sticky oil. Eclipse urges us to contemplate what lies at the extreme conclusion of the Anthropocene – humankind’s self-constructed trap, a hopeless dystopian future in which every invention is perpetually eclipsed by another, leading to a dead-end from which there is no escape.[iv]
[i] T.J. Demos, Against the Anthropocene. Visual Culture and Environment Today. Sternberg Press, Berlin, 2017, 21
[ii] Antti Salminen & Tere Vadén, Energia ja kokemus. niin & näin -kirjat, Tampere, 2013, 34-35
[iii] Ibid., 54
[iv] Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble. Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press, Durham & London, 2016, 3
Saara Hacklin - Curator, FD - Ph.D. at KIASMA Finnish National Gallery (2019)
Excerpt from the catalog Yhteiseloa | Coexistence, A Museum of Contemporary Art
Publication 166 / 2019.
Felipe De Avila’s monumental sculpture Ode to Anthropocene immediately attracts one’s attention and sets the mood for the entire exhibition. At first glance, the pitch-black hourglass of De Avila’s work might suggest Walter de Maria and the tradition of minimalist sculpture, but a closer inspection reveals its true nature: on the surface of the sculpture, there is a constant stream of oil which ebbs and flows in and out of the hourglass. Acting as an analogy to the Anthropocene — the geological created by the epoch of the age of industrialization — the oil on the surface of the sculpture is in a constant and almost imperceptible movement. As a self-contained system, De Avila’s Ode to Anthropocene is like an ode to the impossibility of the modernist utopia.
Laura Kokkonen - Journalist (2016)
Mustekala Kulttuurilehti (Mustekala Cultural Magazine)
In Felipe de Ávila’s exhibition modified traces of human life and behavior turn into dystopian strata of the future. The artist’s archaeological excavations of perception of time and space lead us on a journey through the ages revealing our own primal need to survive and protect ourselves to the point of no return. De Ávila sees art as a tool made out of different components – he combines sculpture, painting, and writing using 3D printing as well as video in order to achieve the right shape for the idea behind each work. Material juxtapositions and thematic contradictions follow from one work to another, forcing us to question our endeavors in relation to geopolitical issues, energy transference, nature, and its resources. Movement and transition are sometimes barely distinguishable, like the slowly proceeding bitumen, which seeks balance over handmade bricks piled as unstable structures. 3D printed teeth buried in concrete as an everyday survival kit but also as an important source of information after death bring us back to the questions of mortality and our fragile presence on earth. The attempts to build walls, mold the future and slow down the process of dying seem darkly amusing and quite desperate when represented as archaeological findings in the form of drugs, ironic games, and ancient objects of tradition and belief that have long lost their original meaning. Together the works in the exhibition constitute a path where nature and society are deconstructed into fragments, exposing many simultaneous but contradictory futures in this self-created material-based system already out of control. Brazilian artist Felipe de Avila’s (b. 1982) exhibition forms the second part of his master’s thesis in sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki.
Katariina Timonen - Curator (2017)
Brasilialaisen Felipe de Avilan Drift-teoksen ympärillä tuoksuvat teollisuus ja koneet. Urbaanin kaupunkimaiseman pienoismalli löllyy paksun moottoriöljyn keskellä. – Kyse on teoksesta, jonka kelluvat osat yrittävät löytää oikean asentonsa ja sijaintinsa pohjois-eteläsuunnassa, kuten kompassikin. Töissäni on hyvin voimakas geopoliittiinen lähestymistapa. – Meillä on Brasiliassa sanonta, että etsin omaa pohjoistani, ja että pohjoiseni on kadoksissa. Tämän teoksen tarkoituksena on lihallistaa kyseinen sanonta, ja samalla kyseessä on nyky-yhteiskunnan vertauskuva, de Avila jatkaa.
Jussi Mankkinen - Yle (2015)
The artist Felipe de Ávila has gained prominence in Finland, where he lives since 2013, due to his research on the sculptural materiality of the residue spilled in the ore tailings dam disaster in Mariana, Brazil. The artist moved to the European country to develop a master’s degree, which explores questions about ruin, approaching debris, and waste in search of collective memory.
Lucas Buzatti - Culture journalist at Hoje em Dia (2018)
Ode to Anthropocene (2016) is an unusually bold and technically complex work to be presented in the context of a student’s Salon style exhibition, Kuvan Kevät. Despite the heterogeneous environment, the work stood out with a monolithic quality. By creating a constant flow of black industrial oil along the sides of an hourglass-shaped stainless steel sculpture, Felipe de Ávila formulates a sinister metaphor for the shortcomings and self-destructive aspects of modernity. He also refers – almost as a visual pun – to the concept of “liquid modernity”, coined by the late philosopher Zygmunt Bauman. With the reference to “the Anthropocene”, de Ávila touches directly on the environmental and geological debate surrounding this concept, which has intensified in recent years. Not the least has “the Anthropocene” had a strong influence on discourses within art – worth mentioning is how artists like Nestori Syrjälä and Axel Straschnoy from the Finnish art scene have approached the topic from other angles. Ode to Anthropocene shows how de Ávila masters working with scale, where the man-size sculpture manages to occupy and control the surrounding space with impressive impact. It was in my view the work that stood out strongest in the entire Kuvan Kevät exhibition. Its materiality and shape connect it to industrial functional aesthetics, while at the same time approaching the authority of a sculpture of high modernism. The kinetic aspects of the work relate to time and spatiality, combining the static presence of a solid sculpture with the temporal flow – and fluidity – of liquid. This is a work that ties together a modernist abstract approach to the environmental concerns and discourses of current times.
Pontus Kyander - Curator (2017)
The work of Felipe de Ávila Franco constantly presents material and conceptual dichotomies. Situations where the material arrangement creates an inquiry, a comprehensive and not focused on the object itself, but creating a new sign. His works are developed from discarded material, where the ideological load that permeates the objects allows the imaginary to create another. The triads compose in each image a perfectly palpable intention within its immateriality, where opposites or parallels become complementary. Dimensions that until then were only rough, emerge beyond the substance itself and gain a sense of weight and lightness that balance each other.
Marcus Vinicius Correa - Art Historian and researcher (2011)
Conceptual critical statement for the exhibition VS. at COPASA Art Gallery - 2011