The art of Fefe Fefe

Brazilian artist Fefe Talavera is known for her monsters, which she has painted on walls and in galleries from São Paulo to Madrid. They serve as vehicles for her voice and emotions.

“The monsters are a way of exorcising my feelings, my angers, my sadness, my ignorance, my fear,” she said recently. “It is the only method by which I succeed in expressing my rage at life, my fury.”

But in her latest exhibition, “Heart Breaker,” Talavera’s monsters share billing with images and sculptures of hearts -- the biological form, not the cutesy kind found on candy and cartoons -- which occupy the Montana Gallery in Barcelona. They have been scratched and hammered, and some seem to be on life support.

“I went through a very difficult time,” Talavera said in an interview shortly after the show opened last week, “and I came up with the idea to put out all of my pain in this exhibition.”

Talavera studied art at Fundação Armando Alvares Penteando School of the Arts in São Paulo and made her name by making street murals, at first in Brazil, where she was part of a vibrant graffiti and street art scene.

She shaped her long-legged, horned and well-mandibled monsters out of the brightly colored letters cut from posters on the street. The letters eventually disappeared, but Talavera continued making monsters, evolving the form and her language. The monsters are often tortured souls, layered with swift brushstrokes and scratches by the dozens.

In the following interview, she talks about her most intense collaboration, why she is more influenced by humanity than by specific artists, and her accidental music career, rapping under name Lil Monsta.

You have participated in a number of collaborations, in art and in music. What are some of your more memorable collabs and why?

Well, the way I enjoy and respect life makes all the moments when I collaborate with someone very intense and unique. I always have a good time with people who understand me as a human, artist and woman. With art, I like to collabo with the most free-minded people, ’cause we can enjoy together the madness of both of us. It was very interesting to exhibit with Doze Green; he was the most intense man I ever worked with. Fire with fire makes an explosion of feelings and art.

When did you start making music? And what musical projects are you involved in now?

I started ’cause I had a producer boyfriend who once asked me to freestyle on his beat. For me it was just for fun and a big joke. He showed it to other big producers, and they liked it and asked me to make songs for them. That was so weird for me. I never imagined that one day I would become a mc. Ha! It started to turn very serious, till one day I had to sing for 7,000 people. This day was very crazy, my adrenaline was jumping, my legs shaking and I was very afraid. I though about quitting, ’cause for me is kind of hard to give so much energy for so many people. I’m more into doing my work alone and then showing it to people. I’m very shy in a way.

Were your parents creative? What did they do? Do you have brothers or sisters who are artists?

My father is a big artist, but he opted to work in advertising, I have a brother who works in design, and yes, he is another artist in the family.

Who were your biggest influences?

I try not to follow the artists I like too much. I try to keep far away from those I love. But every day is a big influence. The pig humanity is an influence. The violence and the feelings are the most influential. But if you are talking about artists, my father is the one who influenced me the most.

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Can you talk about your first time working on a wall? When was that?

It was cool cause that was the first time I realized that I have the whole wall just for me, I loved the space and how people on the streets feel about my work. That was in 2001.

What’s your typical day like?

Depends. I travel a lot and every day is a new experience in a different country, but if I’m home, I try to be more on my own, not going out or seeing lots of people, working on my stuff, and being very grateful to be alive, and love my life.

Fefe Talavera, “Heart Breaker,” runs through September 5, 2011 at Montana Gallery, Barcelona, Spain, montanagallerybarcelona.com.

For more from Richard S. Chang, follow him on Twitter: @r_s_c

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