How is good art defined for you,
David Bastos?

David Bastos, the child of a Luso-Indian mother and an artistically talented Portuguese father, was born in Levira, Portugal. To study arts, David came to Faro for the first time. After living in the UK and Porto, and a life-changing journey to India, he came back to the capital of the Algarve. Today, Bastos is working as a full-time artist. He is the owner of the brand “Orla“, under which you can find handmade ceramics and unique art objects made by himself. Simultaneously, the artist is working on further art projects, which include installation, digital, and generative art.

How did you come to Faro?

I was born in Leiria. Then when I wanted to go to uni, I chose Faro. I never used to come to the Algarve before, but at the time me and my girlfriend, we just wanted to go like far and I thought: “Oh, beach, nice weather, you know, I’ll just go there!“ At first I came here to study communication design. I stayed there for a year and one semester, and then I realized that I didn’t want to be stuck in front of the computer all the time. And I have this background in arts because my father is into arts ever since I can remember so I decided to change to visual arts. I stayed until 2011 and then I left for Bristol.

What did you do there and how long did you stay in the UK?

I was a bartender. Well, I also did other things. I worked at factories at first, and then I worked at the bar. I stayed there for almost three years I think. Two and a half, I guess.

And I thought: “Oh, beach, nice weather, you know, I’ll just go there!“

Did you like it there?

I did – apart from the weather. But then you get used to it and some things are different, way different from Portugal. Some things changed me and I liked it for the better.

What exactly changed you? How did you see your personality modify?

Well, obviously I had to speak a foreign language and I had to work as a bartender. So I had to be speaking to a lot of different people all the time when I was working, and I have been shy – I was really, really shy at the time. So working as a bartender, I had to take care of people and deal with people. That just forced me to come out a little bit and pro myself in a way. And you know, the regular thing like you go to a place, you don’t know the people.

It also changed a bit my perspective on weather actually (smiling). You know, how people actually behave quite differently when they have different types of weather where they live. How that affects personalities and the country’s personality and I just found that interesting. Good weather is pretty cool. It just changes the way I feel my body. That was a challenge when I was there.

Was the weather also the reason why you came back here or was it another reason?

At the time I was just like: “Okay, enough being here“. I was planning to go to Berlin, I thought I would be a month in the Algarve, meet up with friends again, and then go. But as it happened I ended up in Porto. And that’s where I lived for, oh my God, like four years. And that’s my favorite city of all time.

And then you came back here?

Then I actually went with my girlfriend to India. That was in 2020. Because my mom was born in Goa, which belonged to the Portuguese. I wanted to go back and see where she was born. So we went there and then we went to Auroville. I don’t know if you heard about it. It’s a big community in Tamil Nadu, the district. And then COVID hits and we were stuck in India, so we stayed there for double time: For eight months. So once I tried to find a place to come back to, I had friends here and I thought that I just go to the Algarve – just a bit. And I’m still here.

Life in India is way different from life here, isn’t it?

Way, way, way! Yeah – culture shock first you get there. I had a lot of projections and feelings, cause I had this magical thinking of how this would be the place where my mom came from and all of these exotic thing that I was a bit exposed to when I was a kid.

People are simpler in a way and more open. And they don’t see evil in things as often because they don’t have to. Going there was also like a reconnection with a deep part of my family and myself cause no one has gone back ever since my mom left when she was fourteen. And India, similar to coming to the Algarve from the UK, was again another type of weather – even better in a way. And then your body also functions differently. I miss it.  Cause you just walk barefoot for long periods. And I actually do not have any driver’s license for anything and I just could ride a scooter and nobody would care – without a helmet by the way. And the food – I really loved the food there!

If you had to choose the two most important events that happened in your life so far, two milestones, which would you choose?

I lived in a place in Porto called Casa Bô, which was a community in the city, in a house. People just lived there and I was a resident for almost two years. That was a life-changing event. I had wants and desires to meet people that share as a community and work together and gather to, sounds kind of cheesy, but makes the world a better place. You’re welcoming to everyone, you make events, you have yoga classes, you have movies, you have stuff like that… And you live there with a lot of people. That was very heart-warming and that changed me definitely.

In the same context going to Auroville in India and going inside their temple Matrimandir, which is probably my favorite place on Earth so far. That was also life-changing. Having these certain desires of being in a certain context and then finally finding them and seeing that these things are actually real! I’m still feeding off of those experiences.

“I really miss it. Cause you just walk barefoot for long periods of time.“

Today you are a full-time artist.

Yes, I mean, in my perspective as long as I am living I am a full-time artist. In a way, I don’t see it as a profession. Obviously, I try to make money with it, as for living, but that’s just a base-level preoccupation. That’s not how I approach my relationship with art.

How did you start art? What was your motivation?

 I have always attributed this event to my father. He wasn’t working as an artist. While I was growing up, he was working as a salesman but he would just come home and do stuff, different stuff like drawing and then do ceramics and then do some pyrography… Constantly watching him doing that was already an influence. From early on he just had the material and I just played with it. One day he just made me do my first self-portrait. I remember him perfectly coming around and saying: „Here is a paper, there is a mirror, there is a pen – make yourself a portrait!“ And I was like six or seven. That was it. Then I grew up and I was interested in comics and cartoons and I was just drawing cartoons, so I started practicing drawing. There wasn’t a definite moment I could tell that I was going to be an artist. It felt natural all the time. 

So your father is from Portugal and your mother is from India.

Yeah, that’s a really long Bollywood story.

How did Indian origin affect your childhood days?

It’s completely clear if you see my self-portrait. In the background, there are some sheds made of wood and some coconut trees. Cause that’s what I thought when I was seven, where I wanted to be when I grow up. So there are some coconuts on the back and some sheds, and some birds flying. That was my imagination. Sometimes my mummy cooked chicken curry, we watched Bollywood movies. Women would cry and I would cry with them. Looking back, it was really funny but the stories were really intense. Really.

If you had not become an artist, what would your life look like today? Which path would you have taken?

Oh my God. It’s really hard to answer that question because it’s like there’s no other option. I mean, and being very serious, it’s not an easy thing to do in the world that we are in, in a way. Especially if you have love for the artistic process throughout, it’s the way you live. And I’m not saying it’s like a specific thing about living like an artist. It’s just how you approach life in that way. It’s really deep and you try to see it all the time like that. It’s inevitable. I’m not trying to do something else. I can’t choose. I cannot imagine doing anything else. I would like maybe to study theology, philosophy, or religion. But that for me is coming from the same place as being an artist actually.

So the impact art has on your life is very huge. Is there a difference between the artist David Bastos and daily life David Bastos?

Well, I’m aware that the artistic process is always happening cause I’m always receiving input and always giving output. And I also think that the most complete art form is actually your life. Like, it’s the narrative of your life. So even if you’re unaware and just allow yourself to be taken by that way of being, then I mean I, I can move that energy and make pieces with it. And that’s the way of communicating with the world. It’s like a language. This might sound too “woo woo“, but I believe this happens with mostly everyone in some level, wether they’re conscious about it or not. 

“The most complete art form is actually your life“

So does creativity come always naturally to you? Or did you have ever a lack of creativity?

Well, my personal perspective is of being in a relationship with art is that I perceive art as an entity in a way. At first, I would see it as a female. So I’m just kind of welcoming it and I cannot make it arrive when I want to. I mean, obviously you can learn technique, you remember. I can be doing ceramics and I might just carve some drawings and maybe they will be beautiful because I’m used to it. It’s just easy for me to bring that out because I’ve trained it like someone playing the piano, as whatever. Sometimes it’s just like: “Oh my God, now I need to be creative, cause I have this thing coming up“. It doesn’t kind of work like that, you know. It’s like mixture of having to be ready for it when it shows up and sometimes just having to work hard. You know, ultimately it forces you to change. So it’s not like I’m always, always creative. 

Ceramics is not your main artistic process.

Not, it is not actually. As you grow up, you don’t want to be like your father or your mother. You sometimes end up doing the exact opposite like listening to completely different music, blah, blah, blah. And a little bit later you’re like: “Oh my God, that was actually pretty cool!“ So I was not expecting myself to do ceramics. Then at some point, a friend of mine said: “Why don’t you just make a brand and start selling his stuff? Or just show it“. And it made sense, also because now I feel I would like to carry that knowledge with me forward. So yeah. But I cannot just say: “I’m only gonna do ceramics“. Because I have also other interests like music, installation, generative art. But doing ceramics is really good to ground me. And also I get to spend time with my father and I’m really, really learning all the time because he keeps accumulating knowledge. I’m blessed to have this person that just not just lectures me but shows me. And also it’s coming back to childhood in a way.

How is good art defined for you?

Honesty. I think that would be the thing. I might not like what comes out aesthetically because we all have like certain aesthetics (laugh). But if I see or if I feel that the artist or the group of artists are being honest with themselves… I appreciate the most when people commit themselves to walk that path of finding out what they wanna say and just being honest about it. But then obviously there are some topics that interest me more than others. I also enjoy when it makes you go through this maze of trying to find out what the artist was wanting to say. Most of the time it’s just compelling because you feel it and then you don’t know why, but you like it. And that’s also pretty fun.

And regarding your own work, what is the biggest challenge you have to face?

I think being disciplined has been kind of hard. Not that I have to be disciplined to do things, to be creative. Maybe if I had more, if I was more comfortable in the ways of living, I would just do this from the moment I wake up till I go to sleep. Even during sleep, I guess. But right now it’s allocating time and space and being relatively disciplined. Like now I do this, then I do that. And trying to feed all of these babies at the same time. Realizing how you have committed to all of them and want to make them grow. I think that’s really hard. And also, as you might imagine, I have other interests that I haven’t explored yet asking to be fulfilled.

As you know, our column is titled “People of Faro“. Do you have a favorite place in Faro?

Yes, I do. Well, not in the city, but you know, Ludo, it’s like this forest, you know?
(Airplane crosses the sky)
This is the good side. In Faro you’re forced to share these moments of complete silence every time an airplane crosses.
Near the beach. There’s this place called Ludo. And yeah, I like it. It’s pretty cool.

© Photos by Anja Kloss