Drawings by Heitor Alvelos, September 2019 – April 2021.
I drew compulsively as a child; a habit I maintained into early adulthood, but gradually replaced with an interest in collage, and later, photography.
In August 2019 I suffered a serious accident that resulted in multiple fractures in both arms. Thanks to the marvels of modern surgery and the kindness of a handful of guardian angels who happened to be in the right place at the right time, I have been able to regain most of my mobility. It’s been a long journey, not just physically, but existentially as well: the prospect of one’s life and abilities shifting dramatically in a fraction of a second has certainly forced me to rethink most of what I took for granted.
I began drawing a couple of weeks after extensive surgery, once my arms and hands permitted: first as a rehabilitative exercise in motricity, then soon enough as mindless doodling, as post-traumatic stress had me endure long, sleepless nights where my brain was too exhausted to process content, but I needed to entertain the early hours with something… So I drew, mechanically.
Then the pandemic hit: by then sleeplessness was under control, but I had already fallen into the habit of starting the day by producing one drawing. So I kept scrawling intuitively as a way of marking a daily routine among the blur of lockdown… I rejoiced as I saw my control over my hands gradually restored.
Other events shifted the narrative, some deeply personal, others likely shared by so many of us all, traversing this global challenge; the drawings kept coming out, one per day – with the odd exception, when I was too busy or too engaged in being content. Because yes, there has been contentment at times.
As of April, 2021, I amassed about 400 of these drawings – some quite accomplished in their own terms, others a bit awkward in a naked pursuit of composition, figurative ambivalence, representation of a state of mind. In the end, I believe they are a recurring attempt at a self-portrait, as most of the drawings address and/or reflect the struggles of a body undergoing a process of reconstruction and re-acknowledgment – and the struggles of the mind that have gone along with it. And mirroring the intensity of it all, there wasn’t much of a filter at work: all there is is humour in face of unavoidable hardship.
I have stopped this daily drawing activity for the time being; a cycle has somehow come to its conclusion, both aesthetically and existentially. The time felt right for a retrospective of sorts.
I have selected a series that not only constitute the most formally accomplished pieces (IMHO), they tell the story of the last year and a half in their own way. Some of them have meanwhile been offered as gifts of gratitude to some of the aforementioned “guardian angels”, others are being shipped to various exhibitions. Most are still in my possession.
I hope you enjoy perusing the drawings as much as I enjoyed producing them: they have certainly brought me comfort, reassurance and joy. Yet hey, here I am, seemingly and inadvertently falling into the trappings of the “suffering artist”; I hope no such cliché is derived from the present collection. Instead, let’s just say it’s been fun. I hope these drawings break through their playful monstrosity and reveal what is at their core: that child, long gone, yet somehow still immersed in joy as uncanny creatures emerge, apparently out of their own will.