Canhota, by Mariana Gomes

Canhota [Left-handed], an individual exhibition presented by Mariana Gomes at Fundação Carmona e Costa (extended until 20 July), stands out for its dynamism and boldness. It’s irreverent, disruptive, dashing, humour-laden and unpretentious. It surprises, it knocks the wind out of the viewer, it sets booby-traps, disorienting and bamboozling them, extracting both a smile and a smirk of strangeness and/or discomfort – subtle and insecure, since Canhota’s terrain is honestly and delightfully shaky. It forces us to question clichés in art and to question ourselves as well. And this is such a laborious task, particularly in this day and age, and considering the national exhibition scene.

In Canhota, curated by Bruno Marchand, Mariana Gomes presented a wide-range collection of works on paper (about 50, produced in different years) that get materialized in drawings, paintings, collages and sculpture-like objects. Sinister, odd and frightening beings, such as vampires, bandits and beastly creatures (more or less friendly), appear after the Cabeçudos, slashed fingers, resin-made morbid self-portraits, stones, inverted columns, intestines or teeth, reflecting the representation’s eschatological component. The figurative element, without any perceptible cadence, gives place to an abstract imprint, often with a graphic nature. The panel Le grand accrochage v. 2019 deserves to be mentioned in particular, due to the energy and strength emanated, and because it can be interpreted as a synopsis of the whole lot on display.

The exhibition at Fundação Carmona e Costa accurately represents Mariana Gomes’ prolific creative universe, which purposely keeps itself hybrid to remain open and not hermetically shelved. The artist’s own trademark is also based on the deconstruction of the idea that such is essential for its recognition and validation. Mariana Gomes is disruptive through a cunning device of conscious and consistent detachment from the expected and contextualized, and that effort appears to be absolutely natural. That transgression is felt in many of her works, which seem to be born of the urgency of doing, embedding both error and randomness, forbidding the existence of any previous declaration of intent.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that one cannot identify in her practice, which privileges the deconstruction of paradigms and that somehow fits into the concept of “expanded painting”, more or less unusual associations with expressionism (the avant-garde) or, more recently, with neo-expressionism, particularly akin to Philip Guston’s work. Pop Art references are also summoned, mainly through the association with artists who, although not rejecting the movement’s influence, while also favouring the idea of easy communication, attributed a more introspective, less massifying, consumerist and spectacular dimension to their works. We can recall Patrick Caufield and also Ruy Leitão, Caufield’s student at the Chelsea School of Art in London. We also identify in the artist’s eclectic work different references to film (film noir, for instance), popular culture (the unexpected portrait of the similarities between the pimba singer Marante and Donald Trump), music, literature or marketing. Almost everything appears rescuable, without any hierarchy involved.

With this exhibition, Mariana Gomes, for whom “to paint is to depict”, a self-declared left-handed, assumes herself as an artist who has already conquered, through her boldness and inventiveness, her own place in the Portuguese art scene. In the exhibition catalogue, Mariana dedicates the exhibition “to the ambidextrous of another world”, which, deep down, are any and all of us.

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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