The artworks by Xavier Portela glow with such overwhelming colors, you might think you are standing before a neon sign. You can practically hear the lively soundscape of major metropolises like Tokyo and New York. This is the artist’s exact intention; Portela recreates the pulsing sensation of being in the streets of a bustling city.
“Street photography is about more than just framing your shots. There are variables like temperature, sounds, people, and odors,” the artist says. It was in Tokyo in 2014 that Portela first wanted to capture these powerful sensations with his camera. He quickly discovered the limitations of nighttime photography – his first efforts felt too static to transport the atmosphere of the Japanese metropolis. This was the impetus for his fascinating technique. Drawing inspiration from Manga aesthetics, Portela changed the entire color scheme. He oversaturates the colors to create exactly the same atmosphere that always overcame him and rendered him speechless in the streets between the illuminated high-rises.
The astounding results are extraordinary photo manipulations in glaring pinks and sky blues that create electric tension. Even on first glance, the pieces demonstrate a powerful attraction as we become aware of images of sensory impulses that can otherwise only be found in our memories.
Xavier Portela has Belgian-Portugese roots and is self-taught. He has worked as a freelance photographer and filmmaker for international ad campaigns for Volkswagen, Bose, Coca Cola, and more. Portela lives and works in Brussels.
Picasso once said, “you don’t make art, you find it.” Where do you find your art?
In deviations, cracks and accidents, usually the expressions of someone's emotions.
From an idea to its materialization: How do you approach your work?
I like to go fast, so from the concept to concrete prototype I just look for the easiest way to capture it. Then if something triggers my curiosity I will fine tune it with a more sophisticated approach. It can be better logistics in terms of gear, schedule etc. or heavier post-production. I don't like to make things more complicated than they really are.
What is your favorite book?
Tough question! I have 2 in minds
A brief history of time by Stephen Hawking
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
Which artist would you like to have coffee with and what would you discuss?
Sougwen Chung. The origin of her research about collaboration between human and machine.
How did you get into art?
Did I? I never really tried to get into art, someone asked if he could buy a print of one of my photos, I guess that was the moment.
Who are the people in your surroundings that influence you?
The ones I care about the most, family and close friends.
Imagine you have a time machine. Where would you go?
Not sure... probably check the future to see if it's worth it.
Other than art, what are you most passionate about?
Digital art, ai, space exploration... and so much more. I'm too curious honestly and I don't have enough time to explore all of it.
What are you working on right now?
I'm currently exploring more digital art and trying to find where photography, video and 3d can cross paths in my projects.