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Luio Zau: “My hobby is painting. Now my job is to be spectacular.”



Luio Zau, creative genius, alter ego of Portuguese artist Luís Miguel Freire Estevinho, born in 1981. The restless spirit was already present in the child who divided the first years of his life between the freedom of the countryside and the academic routines of the city. His path was led, until late, by conservative and, in his own words, 'castrating' education. He studied Architecture, but it was at that moment that he took control of his destiny.

Always optimistic, it was through electronic music and friends that he began to give color and shape to his dreams. Luio, the artist, was born in 2010. He gives body and soul to ideas that have always been simmering in a hyperactive and visionary mind. His art, but more importantly, his vision, begins to spread throughout the world. He has created successful projects and partnerships, involved brands and artists in memorable experiences, traveled the world and impressed upon the spirit of those who met him that “we can be whatever we want” and “from something we do anything". 

He founded the 'Zauista Movement', which is nothing more than the philosophy of positivity. Firm mind, clean soul and positive thinking always. Luio is the complexity of someone who does a little of everything…but does it well. At 41 years old, he continues to emerge from the artistic chaos to new challenges, starting in the north of Portugal, more precisely in the city of Viana do Castelo. There is no doubt that we are facing one of the greatest talents in contemporary art. 

Luio, you are already a well-known artist. My first question, for those who don't know you, is: where do you come from and where are you going?
[laughs] That's a good one. I was born in Porto... I was born in Bragança, but it feels like I was born in Porto. I've spent as much time in Porto as in Bragança, I'm 41 years old, it was fifty-fifty, in other words, they are two cities that tell me a lot. I went to Porto to study Architecture, which I didn't finish, I went for a walk and discovered that I had a universe to represent, to paint, and that's how it was, wow! That's how I spend my days, painting.

Did painting appear in your life by chance?
More or less, if it was a fluke, it was well done. [laughs] I went to Porto to study Architecture, then I started going to parties, electronic music and wow!... I was already drawing at university, but I didn't have any universe to represent or identify with, so much so that I can interpret it and develop . In 2009, I met my beloved and that's it, I started to have a universe to represent and wow, magic, it happened, and to this day I haven't stopped.

That's your stage name, isn't it? Luio Zau. Is “Zau” a word you use a lot?
Yes, I don't usually use Luio, I don't usually call it myself. [laughs] But “zau” yes, “zau” means magic, it means “Zau! It happens." That's a lot of it, it's a positive energy, which makes things even more powerful.

And things happen.

Some of your paintings sold for a lot of money, is that true?
That already happened, but it stopped happening, because it would take me too far away from everyday, normal, reasonable life, from humble people, positive people, from meeting brilliant people, and giving back too. It's good that people connote this with very good value, isn't it? It means that later, when I want to feel grateful, I can also give something of value back to people. At least it makes sense.

“Cannabis was a turning point in my life"

Yes, but you have been invited to decorate hotels, places a little fancy.
Yes yes.

You did too streetart, graffiti, or is painting something you do more at home?
Me, in the movement street art, I include myself in the expression part, not so actively on the street, because I don't even have my own gang [laughter]. But in active voice expression, or speed of register, which is important nowadays. For me, it's important to register quickly, the interface to be more user-friendly, everything much more practical. Now, I have a proposal, I'm going to paint a local accommodation in Porto, a large building. And that's it, it's going to be my first major project, let's hope it goes well. [laughs] Go run.

It will certainly run, your paintings are fantastic.
Thank you.

How did cannabis come into your life and how does it help you in your creative process?
Cannabis was a turning point in my life. In fact, I had already smoked my first joints when I was 14 or 15 years old, on the sly, and what happened? It happens that doors open in our imagination or doors close and we relax our hearts more. Now, more actively, which is when I become more mature, because I can now have my options and I have some mental problems, right? [laughter]

We have them all! [laughter]
But it's healthy, they stop being problems, they start to be paths to explore my élan vital, to be able to be in a good mood, to be, not relaxed, but to be rational, helps me to be more rational. And then, of course, there is the playful part, which is super fun, when we have more good energy, good vibes. So, it is by osmosis, it passes from one to the other and puff, zau. [laughter]

In those mental issues that you mentioned, now no joke.
Yes, it never was. [laughter]

There is a study by SICAD, from last year, which says that around 84% of people who used cannabis said they did so to relieve stress and anxiety, and around 60% for depression. What mental situations are you referring to? What did you go through and how did it help you?
Anxiety often comes from depression, whatever it may be. Sometimes we're the ones who don't realize it and we think that depression means being stuck at home. No, if we are anxious it is because we long for something, right? I've been anxious since I was born… my mother also had anxiety and took medication when she was pregnant with me, so imagine. [laughs] Now, anxiety can have good things, it makes us more active. The problem is this, in which the cadence, the energy, is too much... Now, I, not taking any medication, because I also I already had a stroke and I don't take any medication, the only thing I use is cannabis, be it now in CBD oil… It is important, in fact, our politicians, if they smoked a little more, maybe this could be a country not of bananas, but of marijuana. [laughs]

Do you think a country of marijuana would be better than bananas?
No, if it works for one thing it works for the other. Now, we have to see the benefits that exist in nature to overcome natural diseases. Of course, if we go to rural areas, maybe we think that people are not so anxious. But this has nothing to do with the rhythm of the city, it has to do with the people, what they want in their lives, what they have to do to achieve that, what the steps are.

Your problems.
Clear. Now, there must be education and openness from the government to promote institutions that have the capacity to educate people. “There’s no need to smoke a whole joint, just smoke half, take it easy.” Then the ban causes side effects that lead to it not being properly interpreted. The work I do daily is not just painting, my work is thinking. Thinking is cool and thinking well is even better. Zau! [laughs]

And what do you think?
I think about life, I think about how things happen, how everything can be organized into a synthesis that allows for less effort and reduces anxiety, even without smoking. Say “this is it”, zau, It’s a tabula rasa here, then someone sees, “I want to go left, I want to go right”, we analyze. I paint my loves, I paint my joys, I paint analyses, that is, portraits without being too figurative, through the association of elements A plus B or B plus C, as if it were artificial intelligence. That you are, right? When it comes to this, people don't need to be too worried or too scared about artificial intelligence, because we are all artificial intelligence, we all make combinations of information.

Yes true.
So it is. Now, we have to share. If it's one plus one, that's spectacular.

“The work I do daily is not just painting, my work is thinking. Thinking is cool and thinking well is even better. Zau!”

Picking up on the “spectacular”, in an interview you gave to Jornal de Notícias you said that your hobby was to paint and that your job was to be spectacular.

How do you explain that?
Of course mine hobby It’s painting, that’s where artistic expression emerges. Now, my job is to be spectacular. From painting, from hobby and things like this come from work.

Very cute.
Because we want to be spectacular, zau. [Shows some sneakers he painted]

The sneakers are super cute, but they can't be machined! [laughter]
It's like me, I can't either! [laughs] But they're pieces, they're works of art, rather than painting a canvas. This must have its story. Now, in one we are more objective and in the other we are much more artistic, zau. Some things help others to develop my recreational and professional activity at the same time, in all of this. This painting, which is back here, has a part of me and a part of Young Celo, because it's as if he were a future ex-apprentice, in which he paints a part. The reality is this, one plus one is very funny. This one here is one of my old ones.

Do you have apprentices working with you? Are you learning to paint?
No, they are not apprentices. I can be 'inspirational', I am inspirational, and well defined. When a person manages to have something well defined, you can interpret it and that interpretation is what then gives you a reason. In this movement of freedom, expression, creativity, analysis, it is a zeitgeist, and be a zeitgeist it means that we are all in the movement of today, in the present. And then one day you see, who did what and why. But it can't be done alone, so at best it can be inspiring to motivate you to do it yourself. During the pandemic, I also received messages from people: “look, Luio, you don't know me from anywhere, I bought a canvas and some paint, I had never thought about it, and here's my first painting, look”, zau. You have a son, your son paints a picture, what is the most beautiful picture in the world for you?

It's my son's!
So, let's not talk about these things, it has to be much more than that.

And then they are yours. [laughter]
[laughs] Okay, that's it!

Luio, tell me something, how is your use of cannabis? Do you use it every day or just once in a while?
No, I smoke every day. For example, with my long experience with the use of cannabis (although at the time it cost my parents – but that, whatever, the lack of information was never good for anyone – it was always more work for me to expose it), Nowadays I know myself and I know when I feel like smoking hash, when do I feel like smoking marijuana, when can I smoke what, how much, if I should use it in oil or if I shouldn't. There is no hypothesis about this, only with self-knowledge. What's more, if it's legal in one country, it has to be legal in other countries. It is penalized for a person to murder another person here, and it is the same all over the world, there may be heavier or lighter sentences. Now, what's cool is cool, isn't it? I also don't know if I agree with the alcohol laws in America, I don't even know what they are, but here you can drink at one age. These are things that have to follow the movement of societies, we cannot stay in the 50s. It is very uninteresting for young people nowadays.

And you are typical wake & bake? Do you wake up and smoke? Or don't you do that every day?
I wake up first. It's not bad anymore! [laughs] I don't have much of a routine. What I know is that, when I feel like it, and I manage to do it, it's already spectacular. But I smoke, the day goes better. And then, as I don't shake my hand too much, I can do everything at the same time.

“I already know myself and I know when I feel like smoking hash, when do I feel like smoking marijuana, when can I smoke what, how much, if I should use it in oil or if I shouldn't. There is no chance of this, only with self-knowledge.”

Do you feel like your day is going better?
Mine and others. [laughs] If not, oh Jesus!

What happens when you don't smoke, you become more unwell?
I feel like it's better for me, I like to have a spice from here to this, another spice from there to that, and another from that other, because things are not the same, nor should they be. So, let's seek inspiration from planet Earth, from Mother Nature, zau. There are things that are not by chance, right? The use of cocaine was once completely uncontrolled in England and the United States, when there was no information, before there was even a telephone. I'm not even an expert in this area, but the Zoom and all these things were invented in the XNUMXst century, there are many things that were invented much earlier, certainly. Now, some will have an opinion against it, whether they are misinformed or well informed, I don't know. And there are others who will be in favor, and perhaps they are the best informed, but that's it, everyone knows about each one. Now, cannabis is super calming, do yourself a favor. I don't take any medication, I feel fine, I have had anxiety since I was born, every ten seconds, wow, anxiety attacks, panic attacks. And that's it, that's it, zau.

And have you ever felt adverse effects from smoking cannabis?
No, no, never that.

You never had bad trips, didn't you even feel bad?
I am not. [laughter]

But it happens, doesn't it?
This happens for several reasons. One of them is the lack of information.

Or even the person themselves being afraid. It has happened to me, I smoke sporadically, I like it and I feel good, but it has also happened to me that I smoke and have a bad trip. Sometimes it happens.
Of course, then it doesn't happen! I've already caught each one... [laughs]

So, it already happened! You were saying no, but after all...
No no, bad trips no!

Ah, ok, they're always good. So what's your secret? A lot of people will want to know!
My secret? My secret is to find fun in these things that Nature gives us. Now, of course, all the energy around is also important. I like to hold on to them and sometimes walk a little sideways, but then it passed and everything is fine, zau. [laughs]

We are here having this conversation, because obviously we are adults. And we are already of a certain age.
More or less. [laughter]

More or less, exactly, physically we are already adults. But there will probably be many young people who will read your interview, and we know, or at least science has already said that up to the age of 21, normally, the brain is still being formed. Some say it's more for 18, some say it's more for 21.
I hope it's still growing.

[laughs] But there is concern about young people, who are the target easier, which may have some difficulty in using it.
It's easier to talk about color.

“Although I am completely unfocused, I can focus on what is essential. And, by the way, cannabis also gives me the power to concentrate.”

But how do you see this issue of young people? What would you say to young people today? Because I think cannabis can be good for some things, but it's not for everyone, certainly. And with younger people you have to be careful, right?Of course, be very careful. I smoked my first joint when I was 15 or 16 years old. But cases are not cases, it was another time. In this time, it's about headbutting the wall, and so on, it's not this way, or you're too slow. These are very complicated, very long adaptation phases. It takes personal management, in which only now do I know when I can do things and when I should or shouldn't, and balance my day-to-day life with the added value of avoiding medication, that is, more on this side than playful. Now, if I go to Mr. Doctor to ask for a prescription, of course he will give me some medication that is not this one. That's what I say, liberalization is what can make everything happen in the right way things should be. It's information, information sharing. I don't care if my teacher takes a Xanax or if he smoked a cannabis cigarette, I want him to be okay! It is not? And with good will, sometimes, for nothing, we get angry and then those who pay are the others who don't take the information. Someone has to do something. Sometimes you have to be careful, because people without information end up like Luio, they all grow up to be painters. [laughs] Yeah, yeah, I think it is. Or painters, or dancers, or whatever they want.

But being a painter is a good profession, right?
This is incredible.

It must give you a lot of freedom... It's not the same as being locked in an office from nine to five working on E sheetsxcel.
Yes, give me freedom, yes. Give me freedom, that I can only talk to myself. There is the labor phase… labor…

Laboratory? [laughter]
[laughs] Yes! In which I am here and so on, and I talk to myself, I am and I experiment. And then there's the part where I'm with friends, or wherever, and I serve more as an instrument and I already know how I'm going to react and act, and wow, it happens.

In other words, your painting process isn’t always alone? Are there times when you paint and your friends are there?
No no. It's nice that they're here, dancing and having a few drinks, or just smoking a cigar, all relaxed. I live with my wife and my mother-in-law, my mother-in-law has Alzheimer's, and everything is fine. While I am completely unfocused, I can focus on what is essential. And, by the way, cannabis also gives me the power to concentrate.

And projects for the future? What do you intend to do in your next years of life, do you have any plans?
We are preparing a clothing brand, “Luio”, we are there in several areas. The closest thing I'm going to do is paint a local accommodation in Porto, with some size, so it's going to be a work I'm going to dedicate myself to. I have others, but at the moment I can't remember because I can only think about that one. Then someone says to me, “look, now you have to go do this”. And I was like, “Ready, tau,” meaning a basketball or whatever. But also paint pictures, wow. And I also need a little party.

“I would rather have the best cannabis in the world than the best cheese in the world”

Celebrating is good, we are alive, we need to celebrate life!
Wide, exactly!

And have you ever painted the cannabis plant?
Not yet.

Not yet?!
No, not by chance. Or already? I don't know. If I don't remember, it wasn't that big. But the challenge remains.

Yes, we have to think about it, paint a tribute to the plant.
That's it, well thought out!

So, here is the challenge, for when you overcome this work.
Good! And then we showed it in the magazine, right?

Of course, I think it's a good idea.
Okay, yes ma'am.

Look, I don't know if you know, but Portugal is one of the main producers of medicinal cannabis in the world.
It has to be.

It has to be? Why?
It has to be! So, with this climate, with this geolocation, whether in terms of proximity to the sea or in terms of the European Union, we are planting potatoes here under these conditions. I'm here in Viana, I look at the window, I see the sea, I see farm fields by the sea, here... The country is not very big, but what matters is quality. We don't need to be the biggest cannabis producers in the world, but maybe, if it's that special royal, the reputation that the Portuguese have for everything… I'd rather have the best cannabis in the world than the best cheese in the world. [laughter]

So, there are already two of us.
I think so, I think that with all the policies that existed, back in the time of Cavaco, in which they gave subsidies to people to stop growing cereals and replace them with pine trees, and people followed suit...

And eucalyptus!
And eucalyptus trees, even worse. I'm beginning to think that this is all to make us subsidiaries of a bankrupt Europe, in which some sell this, others buy that, this one, that one and the other. I'm from Bragança, but in Torre de Moncorvo there are already records of ancient hemp. I don't think they were putting the country into much more debt and opening up margins... But then, the parties are also partisan, so it's not possible...

Aren't you afraid that this will end up being left in the hands of the big ones and that they will then continue to forbid the little ones from growing crops in their homes?
No, no, that won't happen. You can also buy ben-u-ron without a doctor's prescription. It's because they're interested in you self-medicating, right? The same thing would happen with cannabis: there is the monopoly and then there are those who work for... There has to be, that's the situation. The small one has to become a specialist and the big one has to produce large quantities to feed the system. It cannot be then the little one in which the core It's a specialty of trying to make large quantities, which won't do anything well. It has always been like that. You can't be afraid of monopolies these days.

Are you for self-sufficiency? How do you get your cannabis, for example?
I do like this: wow! It's her: pim! [laughs] It's a little here, a little there, zau zau. I, by chance, was lucky enough to have artist friends, i.e. connoisseurs in specialties other than mine, that's why this is one plus one, plus one, and there's a sharing. Okay, it's the simplest. It's a blessing, being a trade as illegal as it is, because you still need some structure to grow crops.

Have you ever traded paintings for cannabis?
Certainly. And if it wasn't the totality, it was part by part, and it was the whole. [laughs] A little here, a little there.

“The small one has to become a specialist and the big one has to produce large quantities to feed the system. You can’t be afraid of monopolies”

In other words, basically it is this sharing between the community. You have something that people like, other people have something that you like…
But that's the idea, this is to be a company without employees. It has one hundred partners, one of whom is a water specialist and takes care of the water when necessary. When it's not necessary, it's not there. And that's it, here's someone in the middle always making this parallel and everything is fine. But I think it would be cool if they started thinking about smoking clubs, I don't know what they're called.

They are called social clubs in Spain.
Social clubs, exactly. This was already a good step forward and I think it should be talked about seriously, because there are people who are no longer in high school and like to smoke. In fact, their parents already smoked, especially those who went to Angola, to the wars, overseas, and I don't know what else. They had all tried it or seen someone else try it, and it was common sense, more or less. Therefore, I think these social smoking clubs were spectacular, a good solution.

You are a person who, in some way, has also been in high society circles, with your paintings, painting. Do you feel that there is still some stigma, on the part of famous people, who even use cannabis, but don't really like to admit it? You don't have any problems, you talk openly about it.
No, it's not 'they don't like to assume', they can't!

Why can't they?
Because they work for their bosses, for other people's bosses too, and they speak to people who also have bosses. I say “bosses”, patronage, like a stigma that controls you. I have my face tattooed here, maybe if it were anyone else I would get it tattooed anyway, that's it, there's no turning back. Now, there are people who I don't know if it's “helpful” or not, I don't know what the prejudice is, but you also don't have to go here asking if they take this medication or if they don't. The problem is when they deny, deny. Say, look: “Yo, no.” [laughs]

It ends up being a bit hypocritical.
Of course, but that's it. The problem with all this is hypocrisy, because afterward, behind the curtain, everything is fine, isn't it?

Luio, we have reached the end of this interview, which was very lively and fun.
Very good, I really liked it.

And don't forget, the challenge is to paint a picture with the cannabis plant.
Okay, I'll paint. I'm even going to paint on Bertinho's hat, e zau, I offer to canábisdouro [Cannadouro], zau.

So let's talk about it! Thank you Luio!
Okay, kisses, zau zau. [laughs]

This interview was originally published in issue #9 of Cannadouro Magazine


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