Journey into the Crossroads | Terence Tavares (second of three articles)

Still in a state of bliss having left the land of administrative duties, I found myself biking through the side streets of Cambridge and then, miraculously, lifted through space, time, and thresholds of all sorts (neighborhoods, intersections, doorways) to the back of a community room at the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers.


In orange, red, and yellow, a figure with four limbs (what Wilson Harris, Nathaniel Mackey, and Kamau Brathwaite might call “phantom limb” rendered visible buzzed with such intensity that all normative behavior escaped me. The series that caught my attention, Journeys, tells the tale of a local artist’s visualization of decision-making and what it means to give back to one’s community.

Terence Tavare’s technique and method is itself a journey and his influences are myriad.


From an eleventh century favorite, “Summer Mountains, Northern Song Dynasty” (somewhere between 960 and 1127), the young artist incorporates a sense of depth and perspective. “The use of tone and shade,” he explains, “gave me tools to locate objects in my prints, to give a sense of where an object may lie.” Distance is ‘narrated’ in terms of lightening tones and in the decreasing of size. These are features—though re-framed in a Cape Verdean, mainland West African, and African Atlantic context that Tavares works from—that the artist translates into Journeys where gaining perspective is at the core of the traveling subject’s quest.


From 11th century China, Tavares transits to contemporary works like “Green Wave” by Inka Essenhigh. Drawn to the speculative and, again, the possibilities of re-framing perception of distance and location, Tavares explains his own search to give life to the natural world and to make it marvelous (Alejo Carpentier’s real maravilloso comes to mind): “Essenhigh gave a life to that wave.”

Tavares, as he observed in Essenhigh, gave life to the crossroads, the symbolic space where choices appear, paths are determined, and fate manifests. This space and poetic of contingency where a direction is chosen, some choices weighing heavier than others, is the core unpredictable space from which all future decisions are derived. Tavares’s crossroads, which are simultaneously the four-limbed subject’s (and therefore the viewer’s) crossroads, are about seeing the future from multiple vantage points. “There is a sense of movement,” he muses while highlighting the white torrents and swirling figures with his finger, “that I take from this painting.” From a viewer’s perspective, perhaps Tavares brings that very type of movement into the visualization of thought processes that are at the center of Journeys. The eye-like image behind the large wave may in fact be translated and adapted into Journeys, what Kamau Barthwaite might call a ‘tidalectic’ influence.

Breaking through the immediate perceptive framework and highlighting the majestic aspects of movement and decision-making is an important aspect of Tavares search. In Journeys, in which the gazing subject achieves his goal and breaks the limitations of the self by giving back to the community, perhaps the key in activating the limbs that give the transient figure his metaphorical reach, Tavares may also be reflecting on what he calls “breaking the shell”:

“I’m a firm believer in seeing the self in terms of a greater community. It’s something that leading summer camps for kids helped me understand: I needed to break my own shell.”

By sharing his own journey, visually, and by teaching art, Tavares wants his work to allow for kids to continue to break through their own expressive shells, to develop an outlet and leave the self momentarily to experience a unified community.

It is no surprise, then, that this young artist finds great inspiration in Laberinto del Fauno, a film of journeys, exiles, and survival made possible by the imagination. The capacity of the imagination as a safe place of dwelling, as a very real escape, the ability of the imagination to transpose its thinker: these themes and possibilities are at the core of Tavares’s work.

This article was written in English by Jacob Dyer Spiegel (March 26, 2016). If you enjoyed it, please “Like” on our Facebook Page and share it. Part of our mission is to highlight the work of incredible local artists like Terence Tavares. Please stay tuned for the next article on Tavares’s process approached through some theories on the process of translation.

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