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Reflection and (dis)illusion: Exercício de Divisão by Marcius Galan

Marcius Galan exhibits Galeria Francisco Fino in Exercício de Divisão. Or is it the other way around? The Brazilian artist works in the limits of perception and his most recent installation in Lisbon, curated by Inês Grosso, takes cues from the gallery space to fictionalize its reflection.

The desire to explore a connection with the built environment emerged early on, when curator and artist first discussed the gallery’s urban context and the architectural nature of the building that houses it, an old wine and olive oil warehouse. The symmetrical relations of the space served as a guiding principle to conceive the central installation of Exercício de Divisão [Division Exercise], which is duplicated across the gallery’s longitudinal axis, suggesting a mirrored reality. Galan tells us he started to think how the pieces of the installation could concur to emphasize the idea of ​​duplication existing in the architectonic form. The artist placed the pieces in relation to the planes that shape the gallery space, tilted on, suspended from, and laid upon walls, ceiling, and floor. A different tone in the floor and cross walls delineates the division axis – the mirror’s surface. This materialized reflection is fictional but reveals something new about what is real and tangible in that space.

The different pieces that make up the installation and appear duplicated on the other side of the mirror enclose other fictions. The artist manipulates light, colour, texture, and materiality with skill and rigour, creating moments that disorient perception, where you wonder if what you are seeing is reflection, shadow or painting, line or surface, rubber or metal, glass or void. To discover the subtleties of his work, you have to slow down and deepen the visual and physical interaction with your surroundings.

The space is an integral part of the work and so is the body. Exercício de Divisão needs to be tested: cross the limit to prove it doesn’t exist, move around to discover the artifice. “The experience of the space influences the body and we are able to see the work with more senses”, explains the artist. But if in previous installations, such as the famous Seção Diagional (2008), Galan creates a spatial illusion that is then shattered by the visitor in motion; in Exercício de Divisão, the artist suggests a fictional reality that demands a creative exercise from the visitor in order to be completed. A work where the artist gives up the total control of the world he creates, sharing his devices with those who wish to exercise them.

The work of Marcius Galan is a work of simulation and ambiguity, but also of precision and geometric rigour. Incessant drawing practice and mastery of pictorial techniques are crucial components of his artistic practice, framed by the artist within the tradition of painting, as an attempt to recreate and build space. These relations are also at play in smaller works exhibited in the second gallery, where construction and painting complement each other.

If his work is based on precision, it also emerges as a reaction to it. “The idea of precision bothers me,” he admits. The uncertainties of perception that Galan intends to raise – as well as the exploration of the notion of limit, of basic mathematical concepts, and of spatial organization – always appear as an attempt to find a breach in the logic of architecture, mathematics, and perception, by trying to introduce a thought that differs from what we accept as logical or accurate. The artist constantly tries to find equations and mechanisms that destabilize the ideas of precision and organization that we take for granted. “There are a lot of things that are considered accurate, precise or orderly, which are often questionable”, he states.

Naturally, the inclination to question limits has political contours. For Marcius Galan, any attempt to organize space has political implications. This correlation is direct and evident in the notion of border, repeatedly explored by the artist, yet Galan also sees architecture as an element of demarcation in everyday life: creating a relationship of comfort and protection, on the one hand, but also producing one that is strongly associated with control and constraint. The artist explores these associations in Exercício de Divisão, suggesting a re-examination of the body’s relation with architecture and showing how space and perception are malleable. The fascination of Exercício de Divisão is not only in the astute simulation of a reflex but also in the possibility of experiencing its artifice.

Exercício de Divisão is on view at Galeria Francisco Fino until November 8.

Joana Valsassina is a Portuguese curator, writer, and cultural producer based in Lisbon. Working as an independent curator and the co-curator of The Art Gate artspace in Lisbon, Joana has previously worked at MoMA and at the Drawing Center, in New York; and at MAAT, in Lisbon. Joana holds a master in Museum Studies from NYU and a master in Architecture from the University of Lisbon. Besides developing her curatorial practice, she writes regularly for Umbigo Magazine and produces the Lisbon-based arts iniciatives Bairro das Artes and Mapa das Artes.

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