Surreal Sculptures Branching Through The Natural and Modern World

Maker News Woodworking
Surreal Sculptures Branching Through The Natural and Modern World

Henrique Oliveira never knows exactly how his sprawling sculptures will take shape, which is, perhaps, a contributing factor to their organic look and feel, bridging the natural world with the modern, resulting in the surreal exhibitions and installations he’s been creating around the world for over a decade.

“It was not something planned, like had an inspiration to do; it was something that came naturally with the development of the work,” Oliveira tells Make:. “At some point, instead of painting, I just started to patch two pieces of old plywood together, and started getting interested in the surfaces.”

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The Brazilian native, who now lives in London, spends several months on location at galleries or museums to create epic pieces like Baitogogo, a mesmerizing knot of branches appearing to grow out of white plywood columns, constructed in 2013 inside the Palais de Tokyo, a contemporary art museum in Paris, France. Or The Origin of the Third World, an immersive sculpture spectators could walk through at the 2010 São Paulo Art Biennial. Materials for each project vary — bricks, wood, PVC pipe, tree branches, mud, mattresses, rubber, metal scrap — but he tells Make: his most important tools include a pneumatic stapler gun, which he uses to attach pieces of second-hand bender board together, and a drill to connect the skeleton PVC structure that supports the branches. 

In 2021, Oliveira’s sculpted limbs joined Mother Nature’s, outdoors at Belgium’s contemporary art celebration Triennial Bruges, and he just finished another outdoor piece that will be displayed in the gardens of La Seine Musicale in Paris this summer.

So, what’s the message behind these branches? “They’re open to interpretations,” he says. “I went to art school, so we learned art is not useful, so actually the world doesn’t need it. But we need to make it, and then people might enjoy it.”

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Greg Gilman

Greg Gilman is a writer and musician based in Los Angeles, California, where he began his career as a reporter and editor for TheWrap. After forming rock band Greg in Good Company, he pivoted to freelance journalism, with his work appearing in publications including MovieMaker Magazine, Syfy Wire, and Make: magazine.

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