Exu Force Power, 2012

Photo: Eduardo Ortega

Oil on canvas
180 x 200 cm

Thiago Martins de Melo narrates the complexities of Brazilian history and the different beliefs, traumas, and dreams converging today in Brazil’s multiethnic social make-up, weaving in personal experiences and cosmogonies. His canvases are populated by a multitude of figures and symbols through which he explores rituals, syncretic religious traditions, and mythologies from Afrodiasporic beliefs to Caribbean Voodoo and Amerindian perspectivism, combined with concepts drawn from the realms of psychology, philosophy, and sociology. 

Exu Force Power intertwines the many facets of the primordial divinity Exu (or Eshu), an orisha/òrixá messenger and intermediary between humans and gods in the African diasporic religion of Terecô that developed in Brazil in the nineteenth century. According to this cosmology, people live among enchanted entities who appear during rituals but are also present in ordinary moments as physical sensations or as objects. The artist draws diverse incarnations and paths (caminos) related to this deity, densely layering mystic icons and religious symbols. Ambivalence is the hallmark of Exu’s personality: he is the one who teaches that there are always two sides or more to every issue. He balances and creates directions. He is feared and portrayed as a demon, and yet also a combatant who comes from the sea, a martyr condemned to be despised by Western religions. 

Exu also brings up our instincts, our need for pleasure, the womb of pain, and the underworld of the unconscious. When celebrated and worshiped in religious rituals, Exu releases mankind and himself from “sins” committed through irreverence, material dominance, and pleasures. “Within Brazil, there is a difficulty in understanding signs that are ours, of our cosmogony, such as the myths of the Indians, the saints and the orixás like Exu, read in an erroneous and Manichean way by intellectuals,” Martins de Melo says. “But it is through them, and not through nutty capitalist reductions, that we are able to speak with Africa, with Asia, and with Europe.”


Group show: Remedios
Venue: C3A Centro de Creación Contemporánea de Andalucía, Córdoba
Curator: Daniela Zyman
Exhibition 14 April 2023 -  March 2024

Born in São Luís, Brazil, in 1981. Lives between São Luís, São Paulo, Brasil, and Guadalajara, México.