Born in Lisbon in 1984, painter DavidArranhado started drawing in the late ’80s. At age 10 he was enrolled in Colegio Militar, where he did military stuff, shared a bedroom with 94 other cadet kids for eight years, and where his interest in art increased.
By his teens, David was also running with a few local graffiti crews, painting under the cover of night, which obviously didn’t sit well back with the military folks in charge.
And so, David Arrandado has done a lot of pushups, to say the least.
He graduated in 2002 and, dissuaded by some of the more increasingly criminal activities of his fellow artists — stealing, vandalism, etc. — he was “looking for something else.” He thought about studying biology. Instead, he spent two years doing bar and restaurant work, and he had a good time. “In Santos, everybody knew me,” he says with a smile, “it was a lot of fun.”
“How I started to think of myself as a painter,” David continues over a coffee. “I asked myself: what do I like to do? I didn’t want to be a ‘concept painter.’ I wanted to learn to paint.” So he enrolled in a course at Fundação Ricardo do Espirito Santo Silva and, for the next three years, studied under a number of masters there, learning and practicing palace restoration throughout Lisbon and Sintra, and developing his own, increasingly larger-scale style. He has been painting ever since. At age 23 he moved to Belo Horizonte, Brazil, with his then-girlfriend. He stayed in Brazil for the next nine years, eventually returning to Lisbon in 2016.
In February 2020, David was in Miami, Florida, finishing painting some murals and chairs for a restaurant there. And, much like the rest of the world at that point in history, he had no idea what to do next. By mid-July 2020, however, while most of the rest of the world was at a panicky standstill, anticipating the next round of restrictions and/or lockdowns, David was in Santa Cruz Cabrália, Brazil, on his friend’s raft, about to set sail for the great unknown.
In the coming months, David, his former-engineer-turned-full-time-adventurer friendTadeu Cardoso, and Oyá, their raft and new home, would have the pandemic of a lifetime.They would head north along the coast toward Salvador city, 740 km away, without much of a plan other than to see what happens. They would explore, adventure, and tread the line between nature and civilization for weeks on end.They would venture inland, via Camamu Bay, traverse the São Francisco and other rivers, dock in dozens of remote villages and towns, stay for a few days, mingle, rest, restock on supplies, fix upOyá when need be, and move on. They would wash dishes, and often themselves, in rainwater.
“Sometimes it was an effort to see the romantic,” David says.
They would brave the elements, make interesting new friends (members of the indigenous Pataxó tribe, for example), discover breathtaking sights, and generally experience things on a daily basis that are difficult to put in words. And, therefore, throughout it all,while Tadeu took photos and videos, David would paint, relentlessly.
After three months, they would come ashore in Barra de São Miguel, 530 km north of Salvador. Here, the mayor, upon meeting the pair and seeing David’s stuff, would invite them to stay awhile, if David would be kind enough to keep painting, that is. And so, for another two months, David would paint a significant part of the town of Barra de São Miguel and its inhabitants.
They would finally head back south in December, arriving in the coastal community of Caraiva,140 km south of where they had started, within five days. This five-month, 946-km (or 500-nautical-mile) artistic odyssey would become known to the world as Projeto Marinhar.
David returned to Lisbon this summer, with his canvases, notebooks, and drawings — the relatively small portion of work he didn’t leave behind along the way — and spent yet another few weeks translating his experiences on canvas. His solo show Marinhar opened at Casa dell’Arte Club House on September 24.
‘Marinheiro’ means sailor in Portuguese, and David explains (in English): “‘Marinhar’ is a verb in action, in the present. It isn’t a word that exists for us, but I like to think of the language as something adaptable. So ‘marinhar’ is to be open to what comes – like a fisherman who goes to the river to fish, and it’s always a possibility of fishing or not.” Fishermen, locals David met, boats, nature, and water are the common subjects in Marinhar, but movement is the central theme here. The majority of the paintings are of boats, for example. However, the boats feel strangely stationary, while the river around them, through David’s brushstroke and unique use of color and patterns, pulsates with life. “The canoes are a pretext to present the water,” he explains. “All people around the world have boats, need to go on the water. The movement of the water, the colors, the patterns — this is the movement of life.” He adds, reflectively: “If you try a life that’s more free, maybe your gesture is more free too.”
The hosts of David’s show Casa dell’Arte Club House, in turn, is a project by art collector and entrepreneur Ahu Serter. David met Ahu while doing a painting residency at Arroz Éstudios in Cacilhas in 2018. She bought a painting, and they hit it off. “She is a partner, a curator, and most of all a friend,” he explains. Ahu is also the reason David was painting in Miami last year, and in Istanbul, followed by Mexico City, the year before that. “It’s a new concept for me,” says David. “Travel, paint… Turkey, Portugal… go and come back, go and come back, tell the story. The eyes of the people shine…” He gets lost in thought, and I know what he means. “It’s inside all of us, but sometimes life doesn’t permit it. It’s not that people don’t have the courage,” he concludes.
Arroz Éstudios in 2018 is where I first met David too. I immediately became a fan of his stuff. So when I saw him at their new location in Xabregas this summer, my eyes lit up, just as they did when I first saw Marinhar. When we met for this interview, one of the first things he said was this: “Time is a coin that’s very valuable, and sometimes people sell it for less than its real value…” Marinhar is up until October 14, and David heads back to Brazil later at the end of October. But during his short stay in Lisbon, he’s already painted a bunch of murals throughout the city. For example, he’s finishing a new one in Arroz Éstudios right around now.
Video byTadeu Cardoso.