Raised in Nilópolis, a small town in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Gabriel Massan recalls a time when he’d received his first computer – a used machine donated by his aunt – and was instantly hooked. It was then that he started playing around with video and photo editing, but the reality of becoming a professional artist was few and far between. “My parents had no money,” he tells It’s Nice That. “My dreams were limited to professions with common career plans, which would help me overcome statistics and ensure survival.” As a result, he pursued social communication in school and, after a few terms, he’d found himself stuck in the cyclical routine of everyday life.
After various interview rejections and feeling uncertain of where to turn next, Gabriel decided to enrol in a school of “urban interventions” – a place that taught him how to experiment with different techniques and build confidence in himself as an artist. During which he created his first collage and experiments in video. “From that, I got a scholarship to an elite art school, studying video art and video installation,” he adds, “but all the study cut-outs and references were of white artists who had little to do with my narrative.”
This was a difficult hurdle to face, especially as the work he created – such as “exercises with video performance” – were not considered as art. “I suffered a violent police approach in my first exhibition in this space, and little by little I saw myself less and less belonging,” he adds of his tremulous experiences. “I got frustrated with my physicality in my work but discovered the 3D software, then I started to experiment and create.” From thereon he decided he would focus on “creatures, forms of life” and elements that he perceives as being detached from the reality in which he occupied.
Habitats and otherworldly narratives fill his 3D worlds, a place where words are seldom used. With work now exhibited in several galleries and festivals, there was still a feeling of uncertainty that washed over him, especially as digital art in Brazil was still a greatly unknown medium. Gabriel goes on to cite how technology is perceived as a commodity, thus making it more for the upper-classes rather than those from work class backgrounds – “mostly black and indigenous”, he says, explaining how he believes that Brazilian curators and institutions are still working on racist grounds. As such, his work was better received in the advertising, music and fashion industry, for which he has achieved many great assets; he’s not only created a 3D animation opening for a documentary for Glamour Brazil, but he’s also signed 3D prints for Lucas Leão, which were shown at São fashion week. He’s also collaborated with Motorola, Facebook and Lollapalooza, and up until 2019 he’d been working on a project with artist Igi Ayedun for Utopia – Centre for Art and Technology in Zaragoza, Spain.
“And that’s how I came to Europe for the first time,” he continues, landing in London to work with NTS Radio, before moving to Berlin where he currently resides. Striving to live freely and by his own means, Gabriel prefers to take on the “most daring” projects and the ones that present different applications. Whether it’s for a fashion project or collaboration with an artist from Brazil, he notes how he’s seen the industry that he places himself in as one that reinvents itself constantly, especially in terms of the increasing influence of digital processes. An example of which can be seen in a clip for the new compilation of The83rd, a New York producer whom he admires greatly – in collaboration with Occulted, an artist from São Paulo. “It’s a project done entirely over long distance,” he says, producing masks and “exclusive beings” while Occulted created the scene. Timely for the age of lockdown and social distancing, he refers to the project as being enjoyable and the most “enchanting” so far.
Alongside his first digital exhibition as a curator in the upcoming month, Gabriel was recently invited by Elle Brasil to co-create a beauty editorial with 3D inserts. “I had to study different textures and faces, mainly of animals, to create an alien and futuristic aura. Even though we had a tight deadline, it was one of the processes where I had the most artistic freedom inside the industry,” he concludes, “and I believe that marks the new time that we are entering.”
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.