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Main Entrance. Quinta do Monte (1983-88) by Lourdes Castro

Essentially documentary, the exhibition Main Entrance. Quinta do Monte (1983-88), at Fundação Carmona e Costa until November 9, displays part of Lourdes Castro’s (Funchal, 1930) life and artistic career. The focus is on her return to the island of Madeira in the 1980s, after 25 years in Paris.

Paulo Pires do Vale’s curatorial project is divested and intimate, as is the artist’s production. It shows the specific context in which the plastic works on display were produced or inspired: Quinta do Monte, where Lourdes lived until the house she designed was completed, also on the island (Caniço). Several drawings (the highlight is Sombras à volta de um centro, which, from a vessel with flowers on paper, and illuminated by a spotlight, registers the contours of marigolds, camellias or crane flowers), but also tile panels, a tapestry or an embroidered towel (among others). These are the last pieces that the artist has produced and decided to make public (some of them unpublished), already several decades old. The project is complemented by drawings by her companion Manuel Zimbro (focused on the archipelago’s endemic vegetation), a painting by her friend Manuel Amado (portraying the interior of the eighteenth-century palace), objects from the most illustrious inhabitant (Charles of Austria, an Austro-Hungarian emperor who, in exile, lived on the farm and died there), and a screened interview.

But the exhibition starts and focuses on another object: Álbum da Quinta do Monte, publicly presented for the first time. Lourdes Castro developed it during the first five years (between 1983 and 1988) of her definitive return to the island. During this period, she lived, on loan from the Rocha Machado family, in the historic and imposing Quinta do Monte, together with Manuel Zimbro, co-author of many projects.

The album, shown in the traditional museum devices of a documentary installation, allows the exhibition to acquire an archival side. The composition of the book, which began as white, incorporated drawings, photographs of the space’s interior and exterior, of the artistic couple, and also a collection of records of some of the island’s vegetation. In addition to original or photocopied clippings of various publications (books, newspapers or magazines), alluding to the space and its most illustrious resident. The Quinta had its doors closed for many decades until the artist’s arrival. Who, in this project, combines the present with the past, in an attempt to reconstruct the space’s characteristics and memories. The time for Lourdes Castro is long and she respects it according to the natural order of things.

Lourdes Castro often emphasizes the artist books that she devises. Books-objects, with a diaristic component; pure works of art, guardians of her unmistakable and delicate trace, of her interests and inspirations, of her memories. Catalogues on her habit of contemplating, collecting and gathering, mirrors of her daily life, where art inevitably intersects with life. The exhibition Todos os Livros, organised and curated in 2015 by the Art Library of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, presented the several forms, techniques and materials that Lourdes Castro uses to design her artistic books (unique or with a very limited edition): from magazine and newspaper clippings, to collages of photographs or product wrappings (such as chocolates and soaps); postcards and even objects (matches, fabrics or buttons). The inclusion of silkscreens, plexiglass, stamps or aluminum cutouts is also frequent.

Lourdes Castro’s artistic production was always marked by spontaneity, the rejection of traditional canons and media, and the consequent experimentalism. Starting with abstractionism (with a lyrical profile), then letting herself be seduced by the neorealism (without neglecting the Dadaist vanguard), her work reflects some of the cornerstones of contemporaneity: the conceptualization, the dematerialization and the desacralization of the artistic object. But she ends up distancing herself from that same contemporaneity, by privileging the contemplation of nature, but also of daily life and the domestic realm. And also the apparently invisible, the details. What is normally seen without contemplation. For the artist, everything is precious and potentially amazing. But her most consistent plastic and conceptual research has been dedicated to the shadow (drawing it, cutting it out and shaping it into canvas, plexiglass or fabric, as is the case with the towel on display).

A hermit, who stepped away from the artistic environment and the imposition of constant production from an early age, this exhibition once again places Lourdes Castro on the exhibition circuit. With no news in relation to her plastic work, it shows aspects of her life that have conditioned her, unknown up until now. Reasons good enough to justify the visit.

At Fundação Carmona e Costa until November 9th.

Cristina Campos has a University Degree in Modern and Contemporary History, as well as two Post-graduate Degrees, one in Cultural Management and another in Journalism. She was a founder, coordinater and writer for Artecapital magazine. She was the main writer at Artes & Leilões magazine and a correspondent for Arte y Parte magazine. She currently works as a cultural mediator, mostly in Calouste Gulbenkian Museum.

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