Paintings full of Stories and Secrets

About the art of Milton Camilo

Anne-Kathrin Reif

People – on all the paintings of Milton Camilo you can see people, rarely adults, mostly children. They are mainly no classical portraits and yet Camilo is saying that: „I would never paint anyone, I don’t know anything about“. All these children in his paintings exist and each one of them carries a story with him\her. In the end, it is the story that interests him, not the appearance\externals\format.

In the beginning it is always a real encounter that gives the impulse for each painting, that evolves throughout the working-process to its dynamic: „Sometimes the children tell something that triggers something within me, sometimes a certain familiarity develops throughout a longer period of time, and sometimes everything lays already in one gaze“, describes Camilo this kind of impulse. It is exactly this feeling, that he is missing with adults: „I cannot see adults“, he states. „Men even less than women. With Children, I can understand their eyes. With men, I cannot see what is inside/within. The gaze of children is undisguised. Fear is fear, joy is joy.”. When he paints, Camilo dives into their world. Their stories are mixing with his own, a memory or an old family foto are transporting him back to his childhood in Brazil, where he grew up very free, surrounded from a huge garden and his beloved animals. „Seven cats, a dog, a monkey, a duck, and even an owl“, enumerates Camilo. „I always bought animals from all of my pocket-money“. It is not coincidental that recently more and more animals are emerging in his paintings. The more the dancer and painter Milton Camilo is dealing with his background, the more these topics, that influenced him in his childhood, leave their marks in his paintings. The story of slaves and Indians, the plain Christianity of the simple people, a great spirituality up to the belief in ghosts- all these left traces in his biography, which influence him until today.

Milton Camilo’s art is figurative and objective- yet never explicit. The stories that lay within and that maybe, once upon a time gave the impulse for the painting are not easily spotted by the observer. If there was a coherent narrative, it crumbled away in the painting in multiformative images of figures, objectives, plants, and animals, which are at the same time all connected in a mysterious way- like those images that stay in your memory after the awakening of a dream; a dream that lost its context but leaves ist very own connotation and atmosphere. But maybe this odd conglomerate of things represents the perspective of the child, in whose world reams of impressions are tumbling down daily without any meaningful correlation, yet. For who the world still is a conspicuous, mysterious and promising place, that needs to be explored, tempting and frightening at the same time.

It is this emotionally charged and at the same time unseizable atmosphere in the pictures of Milton Camilo, which enchant the observer immediately. A secret is in the nature of his paintings, which voice a sound that resonates within you and decoys you inside the painting while anticipating at the same time, that it can never be revealed completely. The same way that you cannot return to your childhood. Milton Camilo does not declare this place of childhood nostalgically to a save space of lightheartedness- for this the children in his paintings are looking at the observer way too serious and knowing. But often there lays a sense of melancholy within them and a certain longing. Something of what is called „Saudade“ in Brasil: „It is the longing for something from which you know, that you can never have it back“, explains Camilo this very specific feeling.

At the same time, his painting is powerful, vital, often expressive, of gestural characteristics and bold coloring. Milton Camilo came late to the art of painting when he needed to pause his dancing-career due to sickness. Today he performs and perceives dancing and painting as equally artistic expressions.

The physicalness of the dancer reflects in his strongly gestural paintings, which do not subordinate any other style and which always draw from great inner freedom: Objects can be turned upside down, perspectives shift or hands and feet are turning out way too big. It is exactly this deformation of extremities which almost became the distinctive mark of his figures. On the one hand, a certain momentum of his painting is pioneering– on the other there manifests the deeply human idea of men of Milton Camilo, which is characterized throughout his whole creation: “A hand can miss two, three fingers or a foot can be too big and oddly twisted- this can all happen, without the human losing his beauty in the painting.”, he states.

Milton Camilo distinguishes by the seldom interdependence of three capabilities: as dancer, painter- and as a pedagogue. Because the children and their stories, the very material his paintings are made of, as well as their sorrows, dreams, physical and psychical deformations are, what surrounds him daily in his work as dance pedagogue in schools, environments of social risk and refugees. Already as a youngster, Camilo worked at the children’s medical unit in a hospital in Brazil: “The contact with the pain of children opened me for the love of people. Suddenly I was in love with the people”.

It is this love of people, which shaped Milton Camilo’s mindset\position significantly, which opens and transmits to every observer with an open heart.