A Partir do Surrealismo – At Millennium BCP Collection
Curated by Raquel Henriques da Silva, the exhibition represents one of the several praiseworthy initiatives of this institution, whose intent is to make the works of its collection more known. The commissioner has opted for a selection of works conducted by artists who, in a direct and/or indirect way, have trailed the paths of the imaginative and dreamlike realm which has characterized this artistic movement “inaugurated” by his number one mentor André Breton, in 1921.
The singularity of Portuguese Surrealism – which started in the 40s of the 20th century – does not portray a delay, as some art historians defend, it rather reflects the political and cultural conditions of a certain historical Portuguese period.
In Portugal, from the 40s onward, alongside the political opposition which made itself blatantly palpable against Salazar’s regime, the “politics of spirit” guided by António Ferro, who was in charge of the SPN (Secretariat of National Propaganda), started to be challenged by the Portuguese artistic community. The official policy, for the most part, shelved the arrival of the echoes of the European vanguards. Nevertheless, the artistic and literary magazines, like Presença and Seara Nova, and the journeys of some artists to Paris, prompted brand new experiences and aesthetic options that impacted the Portuguese art of the mid-40s. These experiences emerged from the necessity to recreate new sorts of imaging dominions, based on the exploration of new means of plastic expression, including, among others, the fragmentation, the overlap of styles and interdisciplinarity.
Expressionism and abstractionism, in their origins, serve as opposition to social realism, which was the prominent force back then. The artists felt the urge to act, to change, using, to attain this purpose, all fields of human knowledge. It was the impetus of political action with art.
As put by Rui Mário Gonçalves in the book Pintura e Escultura em Portugal – 1940 – 1980, “the generation of the 40s introduced in modernity a conscientious historicism. Intrinsically, through an awareness of the transformation of languages based on avant-garde proposals; and, consequently, through the comprehension of the aspirations of the contemporary man”.
Art at the “service of politics”, something that roughly depicted neorealism, did not encompass, in temporal terms, a wide array of artists of that period and so, in 1947, the surrealism appeared to be capable of answering the aesthetic and ideological concerns which affected part of the Portuguese artistic community.
The differences, the lack of cohesion and the inability of collective action both from the “Grupo Surrealista de Lisboa” – O’Neill, Dacosta, António Pedro, Fernando de Azevedo, João Moniz Pereira, José Augusto-França and Vespeira –, and from the dissident group “The Surrealistas” — Cruzeiro Seixas, Henrique Risques Pereira, Mário Henrique Leiria, António Maria Lisboa, Pedro Oom, Mário Cesariny, Carlos Eurico da Costa and Fernando Alves dos Santos – soon led to their disintegration.
Even though they cannot be encompassed as part of historical Surrealism, the works of Paula Rego and Graça Morais are characterized by a dreamlike, “jumbled” and “chaotic” imagery, which throws back to the surrealist automatism. Paula Rego, actually, despite rejecting surrealism in her work, assumes its influence, from an aesthetic point of view, in the beginning of her artistic work, particularly the set of collages and drawings that she exhibited at the Galeria São Mamede, in April 1971, an exhibition entitled Paula Rego expões, in which she showed the collage that integrates the O Lenço dos Amores.
With the exception of Mário Cesariny and Cruzeiro Seixas, who never relinquished the principles of “absolute freedom” (personal and artistic), loyal to the principles of Breton, all the remaining artists followed different “paths”. Nevertheless, the works presented and the artists represented, such as Carlos Calvet, Eduardo Luiz, Marcelino Vespeira and António Dacosta, draw away from the real and the reason from an imaging standpoint, and recreate new realities, sometimes “unreadable”, but equally truthful and legitimate.
Like Cesariny would say: “I think one is a surrealist not because one paints a bird, or a pig upside down. One is surrealist because one is a surrealist!”
(LAND)SCAPING NORMATIVE THINKING is the exhibition of the artist Rui Macedo, whose work has been recently focusing on the articulation between the museum room and painting. Macedo edifies an inquisitive narrative: his paintings were being exhibited in the gallery room, when, for some reason, the “the paintings of others” arrived to top his. The contamination, on the one hand, and the fragmentation, on the other, takes the visitor to a chaotic, confusing and unexpected universe, quite similar to a sort of game played by surrealists, particularly the principles of collage that they tended to put in motion: the fragmentation and the subsequent confluence of elements – montage.
A Partir do Surrealismo – At Millennium BCP Collection is a show that we can visit until 6 January 2017, at Galeria Millenium.