I was helpless to resist this crazy picture, and if you click into it I'm sure you'll see why. The characters' expressions are nuanced, their gestures are evocative, the textures are impeccable and precise, yet very economically rendered, and the palette choices are bold and unusual. Its surrealism takes a really unique tone, quite distinct from other artists in this genre, and alongside its enigmatic, ethereal qualities is a lighthearted, playful note. (I feel it's worth mentioning that João seems to be a bit obsessed with girls in parkas.)
This exquisitely rendered drawing, "Haunted #11," also has a host of possible interpretations. Personally, I immediately decided that the girl is an angel trying to pass as human, attempting to conceal her wings beneath her parka with limited success. The mannequin-like hands reaching out to her seem to be the self-involved prayers and grasping needs of humans. I'm not quite sure why the letters "ELA." immediately brought to mind Elohim, a Hebrew name for God, and by association melakh Elohim, an angel or "messenger of God" – that's probably not João's intention, but I can't escape it. (In fact, "ela" means "she" in Portuguese.) Her face is lovely, weary yet resigned, and it looks like it's cold outside and maybe she has a touch of the flu. I could keep going... but I'll leave it to you to weave together your own story.
There's not much information about João out there on the net, but I lifted a few remarks from an interview he did last year which may shed some light on his work.
"My true passions are pencils, watercolor and gouache, most of time combined together. Pencils are the most basic, forgiving and, at the same time, it allows a line full of expression to intricate details. When I use watercolors it seems I am not alone, the ink is alive. You can’t do the same brush stroke twice, it reacts to everything, from the humidity in the air to the age of the paper you picked. I really enjoy the sensation of trusting your senses and intuitions while painting with watercolor."
"I started using gouache when I realized I couldn’t use acrylics properly (still can’t) and needed some opaque media to complete my watercolors. Gouache is a favorite nowadays, it gives me a great range of opacity, even impastos, and it mixes really well with the watercolors on paper.""Chromo" (for the Labirinto album art project)
"I admire many artists, the golden age of illustration as a whole strikes me… J.C. Leyendecker, Franklin Booth, Joseph Clement Coll, Ivan Bilibin, Arthur Rackham, Howard Pyle, Norman Rockwell, etc. I am very fond of Degas and Whistler, as well. My favorite modern-time artists are Robert McGinnis, Kent Williams and Phil Hale."
"I have a handful of personal projects that are sometimes evolving, sometimes not. They include two graphic novel ideas, one about Russian cosmonauts left on space as communism collapsed, another one is a fairy tale for grownups about a lighthouse village being visited by forest creatures… and evil pirates."
Though João Ruas is thus far a little-known name in pop surrealist circles, he won two awards at last year's Spectrum competition, alongside illustration luminaries like James Jean and Shaun Tan. Thinkspace's current Drawing Room show contains several of João's pieces, and the gallery will be seeing more work from him in the coming year. Make sure to check out his work at Thinkspace while you have the chance – I have a feeling he's one to watch.
"16 Miles to Merricks"