Expand your mind! Just look at Brazilian Bruno 9Li’s mind-blowing illustrations, all done with only a marker pen! Recently, the Sao Paulo-based artist had his Mysterium Tremendum exhibition at Anno Domini in San Jose, California, (and he also just showed at the Barcelona and Sao Paulo artspaces of Rojo Magazine). PingMag talked with Bruno about… Hermeticism!
Written by Verena
First, what’s with the “9Li” in your artist name?
Number 9 means “nove” in Portuguese. So, as I took my family’s last name Novelli, meaning “nove” plus “li,” – my great grandfather came from Italy – to sign my drawings, I started to use this abbreviation to sign my street paintings years ago. It was the best way to avoid showing my family’s name on the walls.
Ah, I see. And why do you use only ink and a marker pen on archival paper?
Because that’s the best way to make my thoughts visible: Invisible turns visible in a drawing. Sheets of paper are usually light and pens are very accessible, that makes me feel like I’m drawing in the air – unlike a stone, metal ore some other heavy supply. It’s so fragile, but I can create my detailed scenarios, encounters and situations through a complex universe using the simplest materials. Lines cut the flesh of light and that fascinates me, and I like to explore all possibilities of a line.
For me, drawings are built in a kind of binary concept, like yes and no, light and darkness, above and below. So, I keep my focus between those extremes. While drawing, I feel that time doesn’t exist.
In Portuguese, I say that when I’m drawing, I’m autoindicando: This is a term that my friends and I use to explain an alternative and subjective kind of self-teaching. Meaning, I teach myself since I was a kid with drawings. Back then, I used to draw all my colleagues in a school book. Classes were boring and the best way to get off that situation was putting my own universe on pieces of paper.
Interesting. The gallery info also stated that you are fascinated with alchemy. How come?
The first time I saw an image of an old alchemistic engraving, I could feel that I was being pulled by a kind of portal to another level of consciousness. It was full of meaning for me and it is still influencing me a lot. The Hermetic imagery and philosophy are a kind of portal for the conscious expansion and lucidness – and it helps a lot when I create my series of drawings. Also many years ago, a friend showed me an image of a Robert Fludd engraving and I was shocked! It showed me a different way to understand our life on this star.
Level of consciousness sounds quite spiritual. Do you meditate or do you have any other ways of getting on this level?
I believe that when we are living our dreams are a realty that follows us during the day; we are already living in a different level of consciousness. I don’t practice any other kind of well-known meditation – but I draw.
Even more interesting! You lived in Porto Alegre, which seems to be quite a mixed neighbourhood. How did that influence you?
Now I live in the heart of Sao Paulo, but I spent my adolescence and the beginning of my adult life in Porto Alegre. It was a kind of industrial neighbourhood – the Navegantes area. But as Krishnamurti said: We need an empty space in our minds to create our self-revolution. So, I think that the area were I used to live influenced me a lot by its emptiness. However, Brazil is a mix of many cultures, from African to Japanese, so this was also a big influence. I just let symbols and myths from many different cultures work on my mind, and then I can create my own world with my mythology.
A world that seems to be populated with lots of fantasy images! Tell us about your dreams or visions.
It’s interesting: When we sleep, the focus of our mind flows through our thoughts, symbols and archetypes in a chaotic way. So, all our mind repertoire is in use in a free flow. It’s not that different from when I’m creating the structure of a drawing: I’m awake but I let all these symbols, images and archetypes become drawings through my own style.
Mystic creature, “Shaman.” At Anno Domini. © Bruno 9Li
And another one from a higher level… “A & Z,” also at Anno Domini. © Bruno 9Li
Tribal alien: Bruno 9Li’s “Para As Estrelas,” at Anno Domini. © Bruno 9Li
I see. Let’s have a look at your drawings for that: Your “Para As Estrelas” made me think of some kind of tribal alien.
Yes. As with the Hermetic philosophy, we came from another star, we are in a star and we are going to another star. Meaning we are in a move, and if we realise that – if we understand the transmutation and the value of the volatility of things – our life is getting lighter and at the same time deeper. When people talk about death, it always creates a bad image in their minds. But this is not the real death, this is the image of death as depicted in the newspapers or on TV. I believe that when we die, we dive deep inside ourselves in a non graspable dimension, so it’s a rebirth and not an end. “Para as Estrelas” is a drawing that represents an entity pointing to the next stage of his spiritual life.
Mystical, indeed! What about your “Guerreiro” drawing [above]: I see a warrior helmet for a samurai. What are the arrows and pipes? And the earrings and huge earlobes are part of South American indigenous culture, I assume…
Bruno 9Li’s “The Precious,” at Anno Domini. © Bruno 9Li
As I said, I like to build my entities inspired by many references. So this warrior in the “Mysterium Tremendum” series wears a kind of symbolic robe. I don’t imagine him as someone who will kill someone. However, he’s got these many amulets, meaning ‘symbolic guns,’ that help him as a personal spaceship. I mean, we always have to select what we see, what we hear, what we eat… and this character is aware of what is bad for his spiritual evolution and all those symbols help protect him. The red paint in his eye is influenced by Brazilian natives that used to live here before the European colonisation/invasion. The robe reminds me of a samurai, the whiskers come from the symbolic strength of a tiger and the arrows mean being focused.
I could spend many lines here talking about these symbolic elements, but I’d prefer to let people have their interpretations using their own symbolic repertoires. Lastly, if you want to see death you can imagine metal guns and forget the flowers that blossom from inside him. Or you can even regard him as an extraordinary creature that represents our effort for spiritual evolution.
Wow! Deep mystical concepts behind these equally extraordinary drawings. Thanks Bruno. Hope to see your next exhibition in Japan soon!
P.S.: Bruno has been to Japan for a live painting session at And A in March. See him in action on the Ping Flickr!