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Sindicato dos Pintores: Dialogues on painting

“Painting begins where one can no longer speak of it, where words fail and drift away.”

Júlio Pomar

Painters delving into painting, an open dialogue, that’s the proposal of the whole set of exhibitions of pairs of painters who are part of Sindicato dos Pintores, organized by the painter Mariana Gomes. Having started in December 2018, it already has two editions and there are more to be announced soon.

Joana Duarte – As a painter and organizer, how did Sindicato dos Pintores emerge?
Mariana Gomes – I wanted to talk to pairs of painters, since I’m of the opinion that we recoil ourselves too much in the studio, each person is entirely focused on their own work. Sometimes, talking about painting is helpful to think about our own, to find other things about each other, to establish a dialogue. Also, I think there has not been as much room for painting as it could.

JD – Why?
MG – The fear of seeing a still image is quite present. But painting does not have to be a moving thing, nor an interactive one for that matter. A painting is a painting, discovered while looking at the image itself.

Perhaps, nowadays, it is easier to exhibit something that relies on technology and interaction. Even painting exhibitions have some sort of scenography aspect attached to them, something “installation”-related, often interplaying with wallpapers, etc. It is not just about the work exhibited, but something that makes it more appealing, as if it were not sufficiently alluring enough to begin with. Maybe that’s why painting is dropping behind in comparison to installation or video.

JD – What is Sindicato dos Pintores, whose presidents are actually the pairs of painters of each exhibition?
MG – The idea of a cooperative, and even movements, which have already been attempted, is not something new. Although, generally speaking, everything tends to vanish. Sindicato dos Pintores is part of a realm that is a bit facetious, since each painter, each artist, wants to be the only artist. Regardless of how much we are interested in the work of others, we are always focused on our own in specific. Deep down, the project of Sindicato dos Pintores has that sarcastic side of being its own opposite.

On the other hand, there are plenty of painters, especially of older age groups, who, in other countries, don’t get the treatment they have in Portugal. There is no room to step outside the circuit, to show people of all generations, types, origins, audiences, influences, etc. No one wants to know of a set of painters who have had brilliant careers. The choices, generation-wise, have also to do with that, given that there are top-notch works conceived by people who are barely visible.

Logically, the idea of a union is something related to making demands, standing for our rights, etc. And Sindicato dos Pintores also has that whimsical side, of demanding a painting-devoted space, which exists, but has been reduced. The participating painters are the presidents of each edition and the decision to show the pair’s photography at the entrance of the exhibition is the intent to reveal the faces behind their choices, their dialogue. It works as the exhibition’s family photo.

JD – As for the target audience, is this set of exhibitions more geared towards the painters themselves or to other audiences?
MG – It’s not only geared towards painters. My idea is to take the conversation outside, one that often takes place inside walls, inside the studio. To open the doors to that painting realm, of those who experience it. Because it’s a disease!

JD – Why did you opt for pairs?
MG – I’m just the mediator. The painters choose their works and decide what they want to do in the exhibition. And I thought that, for now, considering that my availability as an organizer is not particularly all-embracing, two people mutually accessing their universes would be easier.

JD – Do you only chose Portuguese painters?
MG – Yes, for now. I wanted these first editions to include only Portuguese artists, precisely because we have so many and so good! Nevertheless, if the possibility of integrating a foreign painter comes up, and if it makes sense for that edition, I will not decline the opportunity.

JD – Both editions of Sindicato dos Pintores had, as pairs, Carlos Correia and Pedro Calapez, as well as Pedro Chorão and Sérgio Fernandes. Tell us about them.
MG – As for the first edition, Pedro Chorão is a painter that I like very much, whose brush stroking effort, as he puts it, is quite active. He is lively, deeply genuine about what he does. I thought Sérgio was the right person to talk to Pedro, because he is also a very genuine person about what he does, a painter who has had few opportunities in Lisbon to display his excellent work. Finally, I don’t actually know how to put this, it has to do with intuition, I thought “this is going to work and it will be good!”. And it was. Amazing, everything went fine and I think both painters won something with each other.

The second edition was different, its dialogue was built based on that what was expected to happen. In other words, Pedro Calapez was contacted by Carlos Correia, before his death, and the meeting was postponed. When I spoke with Pedro about organizing a Sindicato edition, he immediately stated that he wanted to do it with Carlos Correia.

Therefore, the work that Pedro encounters Carlos’s, creating a completely different kind of dialogue, which never stopped being a celebration of Carlos’s work. His efforts were put on display, because they are what remain.

JD – What is the duration and structure of each Sindicato dos Pintores edition?
MG – The duration of each edition depends on the availability of the exhibitive space. At most, it can last a month and a half and it is never shorter than a week. There may be exceptions: if, for instance, there is an opportunity for an exhibition to happen in an unexpected space that can only be used for two days, why not? There is room for everything, as long as it makes sense.

As for the structure of each edition, there is always an inauguration at the start. An ending session conversation may also be organized, normally mediated by another guest painter. In the first edition, the chat between Pedro Chorão and Sérgio Fernandes was moderated by the painter Paulo Brighenti. The conversations, as well as studio talk videos, will be uploaded online. The idea is to compile documents about painting and painters.

JD – The last two exhibitions took place in different places, where will the next happen?
MG – Sindicato is a bit itinerant, therefore it can happen anywhere, within our realm of possibilities. As for the spaces that have believed in the project and generously opened its doors to welcome it, we have Armário and Appleton – Associação Cultural, both in Lisbon. This doesn’t mean that the upcoming editions take place there as well, since Sindicato does not have a fixed place and is a project open to collaborative proposals.

JD – How many exhibitions will Sindicato dos Pintores organized and how long will the project last?
MG – In the current gallery year, there will be four exhibitions, displaying the work of eight painters. And, perhaps, there will be another exhibition in September or October. Next year we may be able to keep this pace going.

I never want to stop this project, but I don’t know if that would be possible.

And then there is the album… When the album is complete, we will try to publish it and maybe organize a collective exhibition with the participating painters and other invited painters. So… a painting party.

JD – Tell us about the album and the stickers found in each exhibition.
MG – The sticker album was an idea of mine, a kind of document from the exhibition, working as well as a collective, multi-artist book. As a union, these would have to be affordable to be bought and collected. Therefore, we thought about having each painter conceiving a sticker related to their exhibition, which could be purchased by the audience. Since there is no gallery, the money from the stickers’ sale is for the artists and the amount derived from the album is invested in production efforts.

JD – This is an unfunded project.
MG – Yes, I do it passionately. I decided to start the project to see if it would work, without asking for help, to present something tangible, which I think I have managed to.

Essays on painting and on the nature of perspective, a painter’s glance, can be seen in the next edition of Sindicato dos Pintores in July.

Joana Duarte (Lisbon, 1988), architect and curator, lives and works in Lisbon. She concluded her master in architecture at Faculdade de Arquitectura of Universidade de Lisboa in 2011, she attended the Technical University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands and did her professional internship in Shanghai, China. She collaborated with several national and international architects and artists developing a practice between architecture and art. In 2018 she founds her own studio, concludes the postgraduate degree in curatorial studies at Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas of Universidade Nova de Lisboa and starts collaborating with Umbigo magazine.

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