João Paulo Feliciano started his artistic activity as a painter, in the first half of the 1980’s, whilst he was a student of Linguistics & Literature at Lisbon University. Unlike most other artists from his generation, Feliciano never attended a Fine Arts School. On the other hand, throughout this period of self-training, he maintained a vital exchange with artists like Joaquim Bravo, José Miranda Justo and Pedro Cabrita Reis. During these first years, João Paulo Feliciano practiced a generically abstract painting (despite the likely figurative suggestions ironically aroused by his titles) where pictorial space was erected by establishing a tumultuous relation with the canvas, which the traces of his gestures, the superimposition and accumulation of material and the salient textures render quite clearly. At this time, an attitude of experimentation, which has ever since accompanied his artistic practise, was already manifest in his manipulation of material (paint, glue and varnish) and his entire creative process.
Around 1988, while living for a period in Brussels, João Paulo Feliciano’s work acquired greater formal contention and a tendency towards conceptualisation – overtly expressed in his ironic use of language, not only by manner of title, but also, and in some cases, inscription.Recicling and combination of found materials; a tension and an ambivalence between bi-dimensional surface and objectual explorations, are common characteristics of the works made during that transitional period. Leading, by the turn of the decade, to a dislocation from painting to object and instalation art.
At the turn of the decade, the discontinuity which was about to become materialised in the artist’s attitudes, work process and formal and expressive strategies, benefited from his collaboration with Pedro Portugal and his connection to the “Ases da Paleta” group (comprised of artists Pedro Portugal, Manuel João Vieira and Fernando Brito, who had previously been linked to the Homeoestética group). Both contributed towards his adoption of the witty and ironic attitude, formulated with greater consequence in his subsequent work. Feliciano’s way of conceiving and practicing art was decisively changed by the intense activity he developed at the end of the 1980’s within the field of rock music (especially related to his band Tina & the Top Ten) and experimental and electronic music (mostly with Rafael Toral and the project No Noise Reduction). The consequences of this parallel activity can be observed in his diffuse transposition of rock music references and elements, his adoption of a playful attitude when dealing with art and the permanent arrangement of materials, images and meanings in reference to daily life and the experience of the contemporary world.
A set of pieces realized between 1990 and 1994 distinguish his most productive phase and confirm Feliciano as one of the most idiosyncratic Portuguese artists of the 1990’s. Unfavourable to programmatic orientations or disciplinary filiations, Feliciano has assumed an attitude of permanent experimentation, undertaking the progressive expansion of his field of expressive possibilities throughout his work. Feliciano works with a wide ranging and potentially inexhaustible repertoire of materials, images and formal and technical solutions, which he applies according to principles of adequacy and efficiency when developing of a specific idea. In most of his work, the spectator is addressed by means of a versatile, concise and ironic game of association between materials, images, forms and meanings, mediated by language, which simultaneously makes the experience of art a renovated experience of perception and understanding of the world.
From the mid 90’s on, Feliciano off-centred his creative activity from the art context, the final reflection of an understanding of creativity that values the crossing of erudite and popular forms of cultural expression, without hierarchizing the contexts of production and diffusion (including those of mass culture), coinciding, in turn, with the tendency of contemporary societies to aestheticize the banal. Ranging from graphic design and multimedia, namely within the field of the Secretonix studio, to the co-authorship and artistic direction of the multimedia performance Aqua Matrix, presented daily during Lisbon’s Expo’ 98, from the conception and coordination of the project Houseware Experience, which explored the intersection between multimedia and audiovisual technology within the context of live-performance, to the artistic direction of the biennial Experimenta Design – the projects and activities João Paulo Feliciano has been involved in have been multiple and absorbing.
Currently, Feliciano seems to be re-centring his activity on the art world. Some of his most recent work, digitally enhanced photographs and collages with a graphic accent, prolongs his prior interest in the reutilisation and combination of images from different sources. Other proposals, recover his fascination with light, manifest in several works since the end of the 1980’s, redirecting previous experiences of the combination of light and colour. The pictorial dimension of the image, dissociated from any remission to elements and meanings of daily experience, and purely visual perception, dispensing the mediation of language, appear as salient aspects of this revival which opens his work to new directions.
Miguel Wandschneider (2003)