Two-sided mask

Photos: Francisco Ferreira.

The exhibition Tudo o que é profundo ama a máscara [Whatever is profound loves the mask] aims to question the viewer about the ontic trait of the mask. And studying this ontology of the mask is to, necessarily, understand its bewildering essence, of what it is capable of hiding and revealing, of the sort of identity that conveys and pretends to have, of its interior and exterior, the exogenous and endogenous expressions, its isolation as an object, and its touch as an extension of the body.

The mask is part of the truth realm, given that the latter is the consequence of a mediation and an inquiry provided by the former. In other words, the truth is subjected to an interplay between appearances and a further development. The mask hides truths; the truth comes to fruition through the mask, entwined in a thorough hermeneutical exercise.

At a time when discourses end up fragmenting themselves in expressions that rely on post or poly prefixes (post-truth; post-modernity; polysemy; polyphony; polymorphic), the mask then acquires new interpretations or, alternatively, it sees its own essence being expanded and revised. As put by Ana Cristina Cachola, the exhibition’s curator: “the pictorial gesture and the image creation are exposed as frauds, deceptions and pretences which allow the surface of anterior and ulterior truths, showing that all these gestures are essential to establish a new way of making or something new”.

From its ritualistic trait to its artistic character, the mask is the reflection of a discursivity that is always attached to the creative, inventive and mystic traits of life and death: from the Greek theatre masks to the funerary and carnival masks. And, for this very reason, its complexity has no boundaries.

What this exhibition attempts to show is the engraving of the truth in a representative logic. The works by Rita Ferreira and António Neves Nobre are gestures of a disingenuous creation. These are masks on a stage where the spectator is invited to roam, looking for senses and clues that may give information about a truth. Performativity is crucial for this; the quest for the truth cannot be passive.

The works authored by Rita Ferreira flagrantly reveal this duplicity between the mask and the truth: the pictorial supports give access to both sides, which are two different representations. The exhibition keeps establishing several chances for dialogue, not only through those supports, but also through the works of António Neves Nobre.

One has also to keep in mind that the materiality of these works embodies as well this ambiguity of the mask: there are overlapping, glued roles, which multiply themselves until they reach considerable dimensions; paintings on translucent types of paper, such as tracing paper, add a trait of uncertainty to its reality. On the gallery’s ground floor, we are invited to make mistakes as we get entangled in an imagined landscape made of indiscernible objects and sentences, giving room to the imagination to outline a discourse about this sort of wandering.

And if the association to the mask happened to be more immediate in Rita Ferreira, given the physicality of the structures that held the paintings, in António Neves Nobre that has more to do with the pictorial abstraction and the uncertainty that we have to face when looking for his interpretation and/or contemplation. Of what that seems to be, of what it may be or of what it might be in the future. The absence of titles also opens the door for a restlessness of wanting to know and being frustrated in the process, as we are only capable of extracting a parcel of some truth.

The outcome will not match the unveiling of whatever there is or will be. As it happens with the study of things and beings, nothing is crystallized and the factual certainties often lack revision, given that many times, unlike what we initially expected, we only had access to a false consciousness harvested from the semblance of a mask. The truth lies in the mask, but only in its invisible depth.

Tudo o que é profundo ama a máscara is now on display at Galeria 3+1 Arte Contemporânea until September 16 and is commissioned by Ana Cristina Cachola, with works authored by Rita Ferreira and António Neves Nobre.

Photos by Francisco Ferreira

José Rui Pardal Pina (n. 1988) has a master's degree in architecture from I.S.T. in 2012. In 2016 he joined the Postgraduate Course in Art Curation at FCSH-UNL and began to collaborate in the Umbigo magazine. Curator of Dialogues (2018-), an editorial project that draws a bridge between artists and museums or scientific and cultural institutions with no connection to contemporary art.

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