zig zag line
×

Lisbon to Liverpool

The dockland of Vauxhall has come to be home to Portuguese artist, Joana De Oliveira Guerreiro, who talks to Scottie Press about how she ended up landing in the industrial heart of Liverpool. Joana’s family left in Portugal in 1974 after the Carnation Revolution in Lisbon and she spent much of her youth living in Canada, before moving back to her homeland aged 12. “I’ve always been pushed to look outside,” she says. “I don’t think I grew up in a typical family in that respect – they had values of being a citizen of the world.”

She always aspired to be an artist, but expresses her frustration at not being able to pursue her creative passions while she was growing up, admitting “My parents were always a bit more classical and I always wanted to be more radical and to experiment.”

Heading to university to study political science and international relations in Portugal, she transferred to London to study Brazilian studies. Afterwards, completing a Masters in military strategy led to Joana working for the Portuguese military, designing strategic operations with NATO.

Having taken a job in Brussels with NATO, “The reality kicked in,” she admits. “It wasn’t something I enjoyed. But this is where I met Malcolm – he was my colleague in Brussels,” she smiles. Now her husband, Malcolm the Liverpool lad encouraged Joana to seek her longing to be an artist. “I met someone who really empowered me,” she says.

In September 2015 the pair moved to Liverpool to live with Malcolm’s parents (two founding members of Rice Lane Farm, see page) and Joana started an art foundation course at Liverpool City College.

“To me, it was important to do the foundation course. I always felt so passionate about art and had only ever seen art in galleries as a kid. I wanted to be everything – a sculptor, a fashion designer. I was like volcano ready to erupt – I was ten years late.”

“To me, it was important to do the foundation course. I always felt so passionate about art and had only ever seen art in galleries as a kid. I wanted to be everything – a sculptor, a fashion designer. I was like volcano ready to erupt – I was ten years late.”

Now finding her new home and workspace on Cotton Street, she says “Some people need to detach from the place they work, but I’m not like that. It’s even better because I don’t spend time commuting I just wake up and I’m hands on.

“We’ve been here two and half years and we couldn’t be more grateful for the community around us. Malcolm runs a bike shop locally in MAKE, I source all my materials from this neighbourhood. I don’t even need to go to the art shop, it’s incredible – I spend a third of the money I used to spend on materials.”

“If I need something or if I need help transporting something, or moving a canvas or a power tool, I’ve got everything here. The human aspect of that is incredible. I’ve lived in buildings with lots of flats and never known my neighbours as well as I know the community around me now.”

In August 2019, Joana exhibited a five painting series called The Ragged Trackied Philanthropist in MAKE. She says “All the paintings tell a story: the things that have made me think the most the last few months; the last few years; my surroundings; where I am now. How it feels to navigate Liverpool being Portuguese – being me. I’m really interested in humour, but drama at the same time and how to tell terrible stories in humorous way.”

Inspired by Robert Tressell’s Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, the surreal scenery in the paintings conveys messages of injustice, deprivation, politics and crime, depicted across different landscapes across the city. “This is what I see and experience everyday – my daily experience of opening the door in my house,” she says.

Joana’s most recent artistic venture came through creative organisation, Cre Art, which works with 12 cities across Europe to promote upcoming artists, Liverpool being the only city in the UK which is part of the programme. The opportunity took Joana to the city of Valladolid in Spain with 3 other artists for a month, the residency was funded through the European Union which inspired Joana to produce a 6 painting series called ‘Nobody Hates Brexit As Much As Brexit Hates Its Self’ and animation called ‘The Last Porridge’ as her final exhibit. The work has since been displayed in Output Gallery in Liverpool and Joana says she is continuing to evolve an an artist, alongside growing her creative skill range.
You can follow Joana’s work at: www.joanadeoliveira.com