Francisco Brennand 1927-2019

Brennand created, over 50 years, his own universe, based in his Oficina Brennand, located in Várzea neighborhood, in Recife. The artist definitely marked his city landscape and conquered a unique place in Brazilian art, breaking down prejudices and demonstrating how far ceramic sculpture can go in terms of experimentation and legitimacy as an artistic work. A reclusive, diligent and erudite man, the progressive recognition that Francisco Brennand obtained throughout his career is the result of a work that has occupied and filled his entire life, bringing up profound questions that concern us all.


The nature, for Francisco Brennand, is the story of a desire that is reproduced, and said: “not only the artist, but every human being, experiences a concern about the enigma that embraces existence”. Brennand investigated these issues through his artistic work, which involves primordial elements and themes such as: earth, fire and air; myth, sex and life. He started his career as a painter, an artistic practice that he never abandoned, but it was in the work with ceramics that his creative universe expanded, gaining monumental dimensions. While visiting Europe between 1949 and 1952, he encountered the ceramics of Picasso, Gauguin, Miró, and Gaudi, which constituted an aesthetic experience that made him overcome a certain resistance he felt towards the medium, which he considered minor. Since then, he has appropriated ceramics to create a singular body of work.


From 1971, the Recife born artist began his intervention in the space of Cerâmica São João, an old ceramic factory founded by his father, today known as the Oficina Brennand. A kind of site-specific work, the Oficina shows us the artist's imagination in action, and we enter a temple in which the gods are birds, that are legs, which are phalluses. This multiplicity of figures in which a work can unfold is one of the most enriching elements of Brennand’s work. In his temple, the artist gathers entities that cross eras, combining references from classical antiquity, such as the heads of Oedipus Rei (1984), Antigone (1978), Palas Athena (1987), the Roman emperor Caligula (1981), among others. The references of what he recognizes as his “vegetal surroundings'', such as lizards, snakes, birds and fruits of species that he created, usually combine what Marco Aurélio de Alcântara understood as “morphological interpenetrations” between the animal and the plant.


A contemporary of important intellectuals from Pernambuco, Brennand collaborated with his friend Ariano Suassuna in the creation of the costumes for the first cinematographic montage of O Auto da Compadecida; in 1968; he also produced the ceramic mural of Batalha dos Guararapes (1961-1962) with poems by Cesar Leal and Suassuna, which is located at Rua das Flores, in Recife; among other public works that transform the landscape of the city of Recife, such as the Parque das Esculturas (2000), part of the project “Eu vi o mundo... Ele começava no Recife” [I saw the world ... It started in Recife], which has almost 100 works by the artist, located in the city’s ground zero.


Much is said about the erotic appeal of Francisco Brennand's works, but what the artist claims is his primitive sexual feature, in an investigation about nature's reproductive impulse, and not about the fantasy of men. We find this appeal in his "morphological interpenetrations" visible among his most known works, such as his interpretation of Leda e o Cisne [Leda and the Swan] (1980), the Pássaros Rocca [Rocca Birds] - which multiply on top of the walls of his Oficina - and the Vênus Sequestrada [Venus Kidnapped] fountain, among many others. The concern about the enigma of life permeates all his trajectory. It is also present in the repeated glazed ceramic eggs that he produced throughout his career, such as Ovo II (1981) and Ovo VIII (2002) and entitled Ovo da Serpente [Snake Egg], which he also made over the years; from the 1970s onwards.


Departing from these artworks, the great poet João Cabral de Melo Neto from Pernambuco wrote the poem "To Francisco Brennand", which ends like this: "Hold the soft clay in the egg / I don't know how many thousand atmospheres / that make it melt in the deep uterus / that returns the earth to the stone it was ". João Cabral understood how Brennand implied the matter from the problems brought by his reflections: by working the clay so that it becomes a rigid shape, reminiscent of what once was, it makes the matter relive its origin when it was stone and rock. This is his way of exploring the enigma of existence.