What does it mean to be human? This question is at the heart of works by 29-year-old Brazilian photographer Paulo Abreu. The following images probe how it feels to exist in today’s world. Bubbles rest on delicate skin, surrounded by nails. Butterflies burst from open voids. Bodies fold into cardboard frames. A runner is spliced in two, then three, then disappears into sand.
The visual artist uses a mixture of techniques to create a unique, surreal universe. “Themes like loneliness, love delusions and anguish are very present,” Abreu explains. “However, these things must not be confused for outright despair.” The intention is to show a range of raw emotions, visualising and – most importantly –accepting the full spectrum of our experiences. Abreu’s visual language is emotive, melancholy and cathartic. It’s also reminiscent of René Magritte’s paintings – in which visual trickery takes centre stage.
Many people have felt a sense of loneliness over the past 12 months. For some, prolonged isolation during the pandemic has sparked a period of introspection. Abreu’s works act as visual metaphors for this state of being. They ask us to consider who we are, where we belong, and ultimately, what it means to conform. These compositions encourage us to pause, breathe and consider our place in the world.
Words: Eleanor Sutherland
All images courtesy Paulo Abreu (@abreupaulo)