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In a series of works by artist Benê Fabio, cartoonish figures with fluorescent clothing sit with their eyes glued to their smartphones — literally. The figures are simultaneously grotesque and intriguing: their eyeballs burst out from their faces, reminiscent of those eyeball-popping glasses you get at costume stores during Halloween, before being planted on their smartphone screens.

The series is called “Eye Suckers” and it’s one we can all relate to.

“I think we’re in a shift of how to use technology,” says Benê, “which is evolving crazy fast while we humans are stagnated with our humans behaviors. We’re becoming more disconnected the more “connected” we become, because we’re all learning how to deal with it.”

Benê admits that he himself is far from immune to the addictive lures of technology (“I’m checking my phone all the time,” he says. “It’s bad, I know.”) But then, how can we expect an artist to cut through the noise these days without using tools like Instagram to share their work?

Benê and his cartoon subjects belong to the same world; they share the same predicament. As such, this particular series of artworks isn’t a detached criticism of the world around him, or even a warning, but rather a way of documenting — and perhaps coping with — the status quo.

eye suckers bene fabio

“When I’m drawing characters struggling glued to their phones, I’m drawing what I see and what I am. We’re all in this moment when we have to hold a screen to our faces to stay “connected”, and sometimes this urge for connectivity causes anxiety and depression. But,” he adds, “I don’t make these drawings with the intention of making people stay away from their phones, I think I’m more like documenting a time of humanity when technology is starting to slowly dominate us.”

In a world where technology is changing everything from the way we carry out daily tasks to the way we interact with eachother, it’s inevitable that Benê’s works will provoke thought. He may not intend them as instruments of social change, but it’s hard not to look at “Eye Suckers” without thinking about how much technology is dominating your own life. Maybe you’ll find yourself wondering how we arrived at this point, and where our technological obsession might be leading us.

“Maybe for the future generations a total integration of virtual/real world will be something normal,” Benê muses. “There will be no phones or devices, technology will be integrated to bodies so there’s no differentiation of real or virtual connection.”

“Ok I just had my Ellon Musk moment,” he adds with a laugh, though perhaps he isn’t far off.

Of course not all of Benê’s weird and wonderful array of artworks are focused on society’s strange addiction to technology. His nudes are tangles of cartoonish body parts you have to unravel with your eyes; music, a personal passion, shows up as a repeated theme; other illustrations document, with undeniable charm and cultural pride, stereotypical inhabitants from his home country of Brazil.

Fabio Bene brazil

 

“I grew up in the heart of São Paulo in Brazil, which is a city of more than 12 million habitants and where you find some of the best street art of the world,” says Benê, who is now based in San Francisco. “The city is a huge sketch book for marginalized artists who develop their very own graffiti style. So this was a strong influence for me.”

There were other disparate influences that informed Benê’s unusual style, too: from Heavy Metal magazines to fine art and architecture.

“When I was a teenager I loved these cartoons that used to come in the newspaper, they always had good illustrations lines and funny quick jokes. Laerte and Angeli (Brazilian Cartoonists) are two of many who shaped my humor and excitement to draw funny characters on that time. From there I started to collect cartoons magazines, more to check the illustrations than to read them to be honest. I had a bunch of Heavy Metal magazines which had weird stories with different illustrations styles — I used to practice how to draw more elaborated characters like monsters with fancy shadings, learning from this magazine.

fabio bene artworks

“In the same house that I was drawing creatures, my parents had a bunch of architecture books and magazines, and I loved the ones that showed Oscar Niemeyer (Brazilian Architect) drawings. They had such simple and expressive lines, beautiful curves and proportions. My parents always loved to draw too, my father has a bunch of his paintings hanging at home, my mom used to do beautiful woodcut pieces, so me and my sisters were always incentivized to make art.”

An unlikely mix of influences they may be, but they worked out for the best. Benê’s work is at times crazy and colourful, at others sensitive and deeply human. What ties them all together is their uniqueness, and their way of being undeniably relatable to the real world.

As for what’s next? “I have a bunch of projects on the waiting list,” says Benê. “I’ve been doing some animations with the goal of soon having a YouTube channel filled with weird fun stories touching contemporary themes — excited for that one!” To keep up to date, be sure to follow him on Instagram. Even if it means having your eyes firmly glued to the screen.