Eco | Echo based on a true story by Luís Paulo Costa
Echo implies a repetition, in which the repeated element is not entirely loyal to its triggering event. It’s something slightly different, albeit never completely independent. It always resonates with what it was.
Eco | Echo based on a true story entitles Luís Paulo Costa’s exhibition, curated by Nicolas de Oliveira and Nicola Oxley, inaugurated on January 15 at the gallery Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art in Lisbon.
Luís Paulo Costa works the act of painting as an echo of something that already exists. He paints about anything that, according to his self-proclaimed view, established a need or a will to paint it, and that can be an image or an object. On the one hand, painting as a necessity and, on the other, as a way to better discern things and, ultimately, the world.
The question “how am I going to paint this?” emerges whenever the artist attempts to answer it through his work as a painter. There is nothing remarkable about the choice of images and objects as the starting point for painting. They are always banal, common, soaked in daily normality.
Therefore, the painting emerges as a reaction propelled by purely pictorial aspects, it is born as a reaction to what the artist considers interesting from a pictorial standpoint. Images and objects are no longer images and objects, they are turned into paintings, albeit never completely autonomous from the initial image or object.
This implies a look obtained beforehand, a painter’s perspective on an image, different from a photographic look, although it is an equally conditioned look, since it is also pictorial-driven. For Luís Paulo Costa, photography is regarded as an image and seen as a medium for painting and is not taken as the end product.
In painting, the images, once chosen, are worked under a logic in which they are no longer a framework but a composition. The artist carves out the quality of the images, emphasizing their rawness, and then he prints them on canvas, which is the starting point for painting, physically speaking. Then, using ink, he gradually fills the empty spots of the initial image.
Therefore, painting works as a skin whose intention is to show something apparently new image-wise and then something entirely new property-wise. Luís Paulo Costa declares that “after the painting is finished, I recall what was there before, but the issues I raise are completely different from those that stood before. I recognize what was there, but with a different height”.
The concept of echo reaches a different level in this exhibition, since, for the first time, the artist presents a set of canvases filled with images that are the outcome of photographs of objects painted by him. Thus, paintings about the image of a painting. “There’s a table that supports a series of painted objects, including a set of charcoal bits painted on top of it, white gloves and an asparagus sauce. And these objects, after completed, after being turned into paintings, hence acquiring a different reality, are used as a matrix, as a reference, to create paintings about them, after having been images of the paintings they are.”
It is a layered process, a constant act of revisiting the same object, a reference point to mise en abysme narratives found in the cinema, in literature or in painting itself. Commonly translated as “narratives into the abyss”, these encompass other narratives, as if they were an endless infinite mirror, quoting the exhibition statement.
In addition to the issues brought by the concept of echo, mastering the art of painting is yet another theme found in Luís Paulo Costa’s work, related to the exhibition’s subtitle based on a true story. The artist takes hold of images that are not entirely clarifying, thus pointing to something that is not there. Thus, he expresses his interest in a principle of representation.
The cardboard boxes painted in a similar fashion to what is presented in Composition (Carpet), again painted on the canvas’ two-dimensional plane, based on images of the boxes that were already paintings in themselves, display a palpable interest in what the box represents, whether it is closed and therefore completed, finished or in transit, or open and therefore not finished, still in the middle of something.
The reality of the cardboard box image is a painting and, therefore, another reality pointed out by the representation of the box itself. A similar logic is found in the painting entitled Looking Down, in which a girl is staring down, propelling the audience to think that she is looking at something out of the painting frame, although not in a physical sense. Therefore, the image does not end in itself.
“Whenever I look at an image, the things I see are as important as what appears as a clue from what I see, allowing me, on tenterhooks, to step inside a territory where the visible is not quite clear, eventually forcing me to resort to guesswork.”
This peripheral and decentralizing sense of the representation of painting, which extends its foreground beyond the physical limits, is often found in Luís Paulo Costa’s work. His paintings are fragments that may hypothetically indicate a whole, but not a self-evident whole, which is edified in the viewer’s mind.
Although the paintings, as real objects, appear as pictorial objects, they refer to things that are not entirely gathered in the pictorial plane, they point out to something beyond it. The piece Sete igual a um is a good example of it, in which a single piece is presented in seven different elements.
The seven paintings are fragments of one that depicted a sky detail shot by the artist. Unhappy with the whole, Luís Paulo Costa opted to cut the canvas to bits, and grabbed seven of these. Seven fragments of a totality, which was already a fragment of another greater totality.
The room where these fragments are found is intentionally the one located at the gallery’s lowest floor, the only whose walls are painted in something other than white. The choice was made to emphatically underline the physical character and presence of the wall as an obstacle, and not just as support.
A strain is then reckoned between the sky’s ultimately ethereal, oneiric element within the different frames, and the weight of the greyish walls, which amplify the gravitas and the low level where the paintings are exhibited. Whatever is summoned from the representation found in the paintings falls here into contradiction.
Paintings that are repetitions of a specific image or object, inaccurate yet indivisible repetitions of their origins, akin to the echo produced from a sound. Paintings based on true stories but not narratives. Stories that will ultimately be written by each individual confronted with the observation of Luís Paulo Costa’s pieces. A work delved into painting, questioning this field of art and experimenting its different dimensions.
The exhibition Eco | Echo based on a true story by Luís Paulo Costa is on view at gallery Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art until February 16.