Paulo Brighenti in Três Estações Noturnas, at the Baginski Gallery/Projects

Books are papers daubed with ink. The painting is ink scattered on the canvas. This is the basic principle of formalism which downsized art to its materiality: ink, canvas, iron, stone, graphite. The art was, therefore, the free exploration of physical and expressive thresholds of materials, brushstrokes, colour and texture, assigning to the logic of the plane the much-needed rational logic of the painting. Generally speaking, these are the assumptions which Clement Greenberg would establish as principles of most of the modernist art and that would peak with the outstanding achievement in Pollock’s performative paintings.

However, the formalistic dogmatism, which precisely attached such logical rationality to this art, began to be strongly contested in order to be relinquished during the 70s, in favour of a greater creative freedom and an opening of visions and interpretations. Even if, from a formal point of view, a certain painting may take us to the formalist precept, there is always a depth that slashes the flatness and consubstantiates mental and subjective volumetric forms. Even for the painters who explore the materials and the internal systems of painting, granting them a formalist perspective can be simplifying. There is always something more beyond the appearance.

In Três Estações Noturnas, Paulo Brighenti recovers this ambiguity and paradox of formalism to instigate a debate between the narration about who is to be supported (Luís Veiga Leitão) and the joy of painting and exploring materials. Considering that the works being displayed are related to the formal compositions and this discipline’s game, it is also right to state that the weight – the unutterable weight – that they suggest are a manifest from a perceived dimension, which goes beyond a merely formal, objective analysis. Because the creation’s weight, the containment of a creative genius in a shackled mass which is the body, are manifestations that Brighenti tries to investigate, finding support in the poetry book of Luís Veiga Leitão.

This poet and artist, one should recall, deprived of his freedom of expression by the repressive Estado Novo, mentally build the work Noite de Pedra and only poured it onto the paper when he was released. Resistance, emptiness, loneliness, repetition, monotony are conditions that pierce the words on paper of Veiga Leitão and the dragged and pasty ink of Brighenti’s pieces. The linen loses the curtain’s fluidity. The encaustic and the oil paint establish a rigidity in the cloth. White flowers blossom in dirty and darkened inks. Only the yellow paste on the whelks offers the remote possibility of joy and hope; the sea in the background – an illusion trick of the senses.

Três Estações Noturnas is best understood as an exercise of plastic interpretation of the words of Veiga Leitão. It is not extremely formal, nor anti-formal. It does not refuse the narrative of whom is based on, nor it literalizes to give body to the matter. It is, perhaps, what can one designate as moderate formalism, in accordance with Nick Zangwill’s thought. Through the pictorial compositions, Paulo Brighenti emulates the aesthetical feeling which, among other things, can be read in the following verses:


“(…) they gave me a black ink

(black cloud of an arson)

And they put me in the inkwell…

In the ink, I drown the hands, the face,

my whole body:


The strength, the chant, the voice that closures,

nobody, ­nobody can drown

– like the roots of the earth

and the bottom of the sea.”


Luis Veiga Leitão, Incomunicabilidade, in Noite de Pedra, Porto, 1955


The exhibition is being displayed at the Baginski Galeria/Projetos, Lisbon, until 10 March.

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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