Portrait of ADD FUEL in his studio

ADD FUEL on looking to the past, while having an eye in the present and future


Azulejo tiles have long been an important medium for creative expression, often chronicling major historical and cultural events. What first drew you to using them in your designs? What is the significance of re-appropriating traditional crafts?

I was first drawn to the usage of the azulejo back in 2009 when I received an invite to participate in a project in my hometown of Cascais. I felt that I needed to create an artwork that would represent the heritage of this village city 650 years of history. The idea rapidly grew into something larger than just utilising the aesthetic of tiles, it became, for me, a way to express myself through the language of my ancestors, I wouldn’t say through re-appropriating, but through re-creating and re-inventing this language.


Is there a central idea you want to express through juxtaposing the aesthetics of traditional tile work with the contemporary influences that are revealed upon closer inspection?

Yes. I felt that it’s important to look to the past, remember our roots and our traditions, while having an eye in the present and in the future while looking into how we can envision art as a medium that communicates through time itself.


‘Each square harbours a story waiting to be unearthed.’ How do you decide what stories you want to tell and what characters to incorporate? 

I have a very intuitive and visceral process of drawing, sometimes these stories, elements and characters are planned and I want to transmit a specific idea, but most of the times I let my hand roam free while drawing and see how the drawing itself evolves.


Your compositions are complexly layered and repetitive, often featuring rips. How do you feel this reflects on cultural identity and urban landscapes?

Working with squares has always been my challenge and specifically finding ways to disrupt the rigidity of the shape itself. The rips and layering effect allow exactly that rupture, allow the requires space for dynamism to happen. The layering effect can and has also been interpreted as a sort of peeling the layers of time, if this makes sense, allowing for the different squares to exist in the same space but in different eras.


Was it a natural progression to begin creating works on walls and in the streets? 

Yes it was. I started creating studio work first with the tiles. I wanted to solidify the structure of my work with the tile aesthetic, but the step to move them to the streets was quite natural. In Portugal is quite common to have building facades covered in tiles, so for me it was a natural step to take my work into the streets. I first started with very small tile pieces, but rapidly moved into stencil (and freehand spray) based murals.


What does your creative process typically look like?

I start with a sketch, always. This sketch, as I mentioned earlier, can be based on telling a story or just an intuitive drawing. On a second step this sketch moves to fine lining and color. From here, the artwork might go into a tile, might be adapted to a stencil, might be hand painted in a larger mural or go into a screen print. And it is usually combined with other patterns in dynamic compositions.


A lot of your murals are site-specific. How much time do you spend researching before conceptualising each piece?

Correct, they are. I felt that a mural should be part of the neighbourhood or city/country where it is located, so yes I do quite a lot of research. I do a lot of online research for patterns associated with that location, either tile patterns, fabric or even architectural elements and most of the times I talk to local people that can point me in the right direction.


You’ve mastered a lot of techniques - graphic design, illustration, ceramics, stencils - is there anything new you’ve been exploring, or would like to in the future?

I have a very curious mind by nature and I try to keep my horizons open. Most recently, in the past 3 or 4 years I’ve been including a lot more freehand spray painting in my murals as I feel that this contributes to the richness of the composition of the murals. In the studio we have been doing some interesting partnerships with tile factories also to explore new techniques.


What made you choose the moniker you work under, Add Fuel (To The Fire)?

I initially used Add Fuel To The Fire, yes. I always like that expression, not by its negative meaning, but because in my mind, my work would be the fuel that would ignite something in the art world. I then shortened to ADD FUEL simply by aesthetic reasons, it’s shorter, easier to remember. It lost a bit of the original meaning, but I believe now it also gained new meanings, different meanings open to interpretation.


You’ve previously shared how collaborating with other artists forces you to think in a different way. What was it like working with D*Face to create an edition for this show?

I do love to collaborate with other artists, I feel that both works become something more when combined in the best way possible and I’ve been a fan of D*Face’s work for quite a long time so the combination was quite easy to achieve. I quite enjoy the boldness of his work, the big strong elements, and this was crucial for this collaboration, combining the bold and strong with the detailed and intricate of my patterns.

View all available originals by ADD FUEL here
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