Add Fuel (Diogo Machado, 1980) has been building a solid reputation as a visual artist and illustrator in recent years. Having first created a unique visual universe populated by sci-fi inspired, fun-loving creatures, this Portuguese artist has recently redirected his attention to reinterpreting the language of traditional tile design, and the Portuguese azulejo (glazed tiles) in particular. Filled with humor and mental games, his vector-based designs or stencil-based street art reveal an impressive complexity and a masterful attention to detail.
We see you combine Street Art pieces and illustration. How do you define yourself as an artist?
Well, I have a university degree in Graphic Design, which helped me a lot with my work as an illustrator (and artist), to get to know all the digital tools, computer programs etc. I don’t really define myself as a Graphic Designer, I haven’t work in Graphic Design for almost ten years now. Illustration was always my passion. I’ve been drawing since I was a child and when I felt that Graphic Design wasn’t the right path for me, I turned my direction towards freelance illustration. I did (and sometimes still do) a lot of cool and nice projects with awesome clients. And that is also something I include in my art. My illustration world is present in the art I do now. I combine both of them. I plan a lot digitally for my murals but sketch all the works by hand, actually it’s a mix.
What are your artistic influences or sources of inspiration?
I combine lots of different elements. The work I’ve been developing in the past years around ceramics, patterns and tradition obviously has a lot of influence from traditional Portuguese culture, but I always include my own personal touch, my universe. A mixture of sci-fi, cartoons and (soft) horror. I’ve been working on re-interpretations of traditional elements, so I do a lot of research in books and Internet about patterns. Currently, I’m including figures in my works as a complement for patterns, so I’m also looking into old paintings, drawings and engravings.
From a unique visual universo full of sci-fi inspired characters and themes, lately you have reinterpreted the traditional Portuguese tile design. Tell us more about this shift in your career.
Yes, it’s been quite a ride!! As I mentioned, I worked as a Graphic Designer for some years. However it was not fulfilling me, so I steered my career towards illustration. I did a lot of nice stuff, collaborations with MTV, Red Bull, Nike, both, solo pieces and collective shows. I even released an iPhone App called “Planet Fire”, a cool little wallpaper generator.
Then in 2008, for the first time, I had the chance the work in my hometown in a project called “CascaisArtSpace”. At that time, I was working as an illustrator, but I wanted to do something that defined me as part of the city I grew up in. Then I took this idea a step further and decided to look into something that would define me as a Portuguese. This specific project consisted of a printing on a huge canvas to be showed in the city train station. So I tried to image how my work looked like on a wall. In Portugal, many buildings are covered with tiles, so it made sense to explore that field. I included my illustration in a (now looking back) simple pattern and used the 17th century colour scheme of blue and yellow. It worked quite well and I was really happy with the result, so I really felt I needed to explore that further.
I checked out some ceramic techniques and got some machines for my studio to make tiles, because at that specific time, I felt like I had to put my work in the streets, return my tiles to the streets. I´m still exploring that area, but now I use the ceramic tiles to do limited editions and unique pieces, but switched to stencil for murals.
Recently, you have participated in MurosTabalacera in Madrid. Tell us more about this project. Why did you decide to take part in this project in Madrid?
In early 2015, February, I visited Madrid and viewed murals in Muros de Tabacalera. Coincidentally, this year I was invited by Madrid Street Art Project to take part in this new edition. Madrid is such a nice and vibrant city and specifically Lavapiés neighbourhood. Moreover, it’s the closest European capital to Lisbon, so I really wanted to be a part of this, I couldn’t refuse. Portuguese and Spanish cultures have a lot in common and I tried to represent the connection between both cultures in my mural. I also added the touch of a King both countries had in common in the 17th century.
What projects are you currently involved now or in a near future?
This year has been crazy!! I started off with going to the US for the 352 walls project, then, I went to Italy (Memoire Urbane) and Australia (Public 2016). During the summer, I’ll be mostly in Portugal, up and down the country. Then, by the end of August, I’ll go back to the US and in September and October, I have a few more projects in September and October in Europe, but I can’t speak about them now. And in between, studio work, edition/ceramic releases and working on new pieces for shows.
Are you familiar with Amsterdam Street_Art scene? Have you ever worked here?
Not really, sorry. I know of some festivals and artists, but I’ve never been to Amsterdam (work or leisure!!). I guess it’s about time, right?
Currently, there´re many interesting Street Art projects going on in Portugal and many Portuguese Street Artists are internationally well known. Can you give us reasons to explain this Street-Art Golden Age in your country?
For some years now in Portugal there are in lots of interesting projects and artists. I think by 2008 the City Council of Lisbon opened a department called GAU (Galeria de Arte Urbana) and since then the City Hall has been opened to new ideas and projects. This has promote different associations and institutions such as Mistaker Maker and Underdogs in Lisbon and Circus in Porto, (just to mention a few). These organise events and promote artists in these areas.
I guess that people also appreciate art pieces in the street. They embrace them as enriching elements for their cityscape. I have to say that this is only my opinion, of course, and above all I’m happy and feel blessed to be able to contribute with my art.
In your opinion, what is the impact of Internet, Web2.0 and digital revolution on Street Art? Does it have an impact on your art? What art webs or artist you follow?
Impressionism started in France in the 19th century, Expressionism in the early 20th century in Germany just to mention a couple examples, and these very localized movements didn’t “explode” in the way Street_Art has exploded. Information and ideas travelled slower in the past. I think that Street Art can be considered the first global movement in human history, and art history in particular and this is only possible thanks to the Internet. And we’re talking about art in the streets. If you’re casually walking down the street and you see an amazing mural, stencil work or past up piece, you can just take a picture with your cell phone and post it online and all of a sudden someone in another part of the globe can see it. We live in the future!
A challenge for the future? I’m working on some new techniques with ceramic, looking forward to reach that point where I’m happy with the results and will actually start doing something with that. I my murals I’ve been inserting figures, that I painted freehand. I know I can still work on that to make them better. And my constant challenge is always thinking about new ways to work with a square.