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Young Black Brazilian painter making waves on the art scene

Johny Alexandre Gomes, known as Jota   -  
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Twenty-two-year-old self-taught painter, Johny Alexandre Gomes, is making waves on the Brazilian art scene.

Known by the name “Jota”, his works are highly sought after by collectors both at home and abroad.

His creations are drawn from the Rio’s Chapadao favela, or poor working-class neighbourhood, where he grew up, and where both he and his mother still live.

He is one of a new generation of black artists born in Rio's slums who are gaining prominence in contemporary art fairs and prestigious museums.

"I paint scenes of daily life, you know. Everything that happens here, I want to put it into my canvas," he says.

Jota first works were made using cheap acrylic ink on wooden plates he collected from construction sites.

But that all changed when Instagram photos of his work attracted the attention of Margareth Telles, founder of the platform MT Projetos de arte. It now provides Jota with materials, a studio in the city centre and manages the sale of his work.

At the annual contemporary art fair, ArtRio, his paintings are sold within hours. At the last edition in September last year, one of his works sold for about €2,700. With the money, he bought a house 100 metres from his mother's home.

She still can’t get over his success.

"I'm surprised because he started painting at home, simple things, his drawings, but we didn't expect all that success," said Marilena Alexandre da Silva.

While Jota now paints in a considerably more affluent area, with a view of Rio’s iconic Sugarloaf Mountain from his studio, his continues to draw inspiration from the favela.

"I think what is happening in the favela needs to be shown, so that people can report what's going on there. It's a constant necessity for me," he said.

Police violence and daily hardships in the troubled neighbourhood is one of the themes of his work, but he also tries to show the other side of life in the favela.

The charm of the "stacked houses" next to tropical palm trees, or the atmosphere of the "funk dances" frequented by young people in Chapadao.

"I think 'peripheral' art or art that comes from these places is necessary for a collection, this repair is necessary. Repairing, bringing these artists, investing in them. So, I hope that more and more, institutionally doors will be opened for these artists," said Margareth Telles.

Last year, Jota exhibited one of his works at the Sao Paulo Museum of Art alongside a painting by the modernist Candido Portinari, one of the most renowned painters in Brazilian history.

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