The Remote Place in the Smoke Author:Yao Feng Date: 2011-03-29 Size:
By happy coincidence my friendship with Carlos Marreiros began with poetry. In 1986, I translated numerous poems by the Portuguese poet Eugénio de Andrade as a contribution to the Macao Cultural Institute (now Macao Cultural Affairs Bureau).

By happy coincidence my friendship with Carlos Marreiros began with poetry. In 1986, I translated numerous poems by the Portuguese poet Eugénio de Andrade as a contribution to the Macao Cultural Institute (now Macao Cultural Affairs Bureau). For a long time, I did not hear from the Institute about the publication. It was not until I had lost hope that Carlos Marreiros, who was then director of the Macao Cultural Institute, gave me a call while I was in Lisbon to discuss publication matters.

The finely bound anthology, Words of Love (Com Palavras Amo), was published in Macao in 1989, with a book launch in Lisbon. Soon after, I moved to Macao, where I had an opportunity to meet this brilliantly talented friend. Indeed, it is my honour to have a friend like him. I sometimes wonder how a small place like Macao can accommodate such a gifted artist. He should belong to a wider and extended territory; despite all this, he has developed a strong patriotism for Macao, believing that he is deeply rooted in this soil.

Carlos Marreiros has several identities and engages in various aspects. He is not only an architect but a painter, poet, and an active artist. He is too much in favour with God in that he is entitled to a life filled with possibilities, which enables him to cultivate himself his charming persona. This kind of charm wins him admiration from the same sex and adoration from the opposite. He aspires to perfection, and thus makes himself nearly perfect. He is a man of refinement: handsome, gentle and possessing a good taste in life; a man of courtesy: decent, polite and possessing the qualities of a gentleman; a man of learning: possessing profound and extensive knowledge and an encyclopaedic mind; a man of eloquence: humorous, occasionally sarcastic, beguiling and witty. Conversation with him is always a pleasure.

But the core of this man is his broadmindedness and this enables him to embrace the ability and passion of love, the making of Carlos Marreiros. He loves his family. He loves Macao, fine food, cars, cats, etc. In brief, he loves all beautiful things. Everything becomes sublime once inspired by his artistic talents, reaching the magical wonderland of art.

In the forthcoming exhibition Tobacco War, Carlos Marreiros showcases his unique style of painting. The lines and strokes, sometimes refined, sometimes unrestrained, accurately sketch the real and exaggerated scenes of life. The images not only embody the prudence of an architect but exude the romance of a poet. Modern arts can by no means survive without the element of skill. As a matter of fact, a considerable number of modern art works move away from the skills in the name of 'avant-garde art freedom', or do not even pass in the basic skills of art. Carlos Marreiros, however, who has neither received training from art schools nor been a prolific professional painter, is gifted with superb skills. He seems to master them as easily as blowing away dust. The only explanation is that his talent is a 'gift of nature'.

On pictures randomly drawn on accounts books, Carlos Marreiros inscribes seemingly teasing, sarcastic and deconstructive descriptions in English, Chinese and his mother tongue, Portuguese, in order to present interesting issues from the history of smoking and his viewpoint – a smoker's viewpoint - towards anti-smoking campaigns in a dignified yet witty manner. He seeks to make an issue of smoking by bringing his talents into full play, allowing his Chinese and Western imagination to bear surprising flowers and fruit. Under his pen, the Portuguese poet Luís Vaz de Camões no longer says 'Love is fire that burns without being seen' but 'Smoking is love'. In the eyes of the cigarette lover Carlos Marreiros, René Descartes' 'I think, therefore I am' should be interpreted as 'I smoke, therefore I am'.

The reason for The pencil of God has no eraser to become a maxim with rich implied meaning is because the eraser of the pencil is lit as if a cigarette. Amidst inspiration and living, a cigarette is a link to communication. As Thomas Alva Edison puts, "Inspiration is drawn from the process of smoking". As for Che Guevara, a cigar meant a revolution or sex. In fact, a tremendous number of young men and women once picked up their first cigarette fascinated by the symbol of freedom and modernity. However, at present, smokers are like terrorists who are restricted and under attack. A tobacco war is about to begin; the shout "kill the smokers!" draws closer. Under these circumstances, will Marreiros quit smoking? He writes, "When I quit smoking, I will tell numerous stories. All these stories occurred amidst threads of smoke where my imagination crossed my mind."

Smoking is a series of intimate movements that linger between lips and fingers, the sparks of intense burning that inspire thought, the threads of smoke that create fantasies, all of which he considers his personalised "bit of happiness which helps remedy the loss while inhaling the intense fumes into the lungs". Compared with the losses in life, is it so important to quit smoking? Fernando Pessoa even compared cigarettes to his life, saying, "I follow the smoke as if it were my personal itinerary". The threads of smoke are temptations; is a cigarette a path leading to a remote place in the mist?

After all, "it is easy to quit smoking", as Mark Twain said. "I've done it hundreds of times".

(Carlos Marreiros's painting exhibition Tobacco War opens in Beijing on 26th March)

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[Editor] Elemy Liu