Man as Archipelago – Exhibition Fernando Lemos Designer

When Fernando Lemos was photographing in the 40s, he repeatedly shot on the same negative until the image became saturated, cloudy, obscure and ghostly. When encountering the photo for the very first time, the viewer was challenged with different stimuli, faces to decipher, murky transparencies, enigmatic, intricate atmospheres.

The photographs were revolutionary at that time, an epoch still dominated by a nostalgic, tardy and symptomatic naturalism of a regime that forced him to leave Portugal in the 50s and to look for a better environment in Brazil for his artistic ambitions – as well as an atmosphere that allowed one to “think with freedom”, in the words of Chico Homem de Melo, the anthology exhibition’s curator.

Lemos freely and unrestingly photographed multiples of an image – similar to Man Ray’s polarizing surrealism – and in different times, to the point of erasing one of the most pivotal traits of photography: the fixed image, the captured instant, the act of fixing the moment.

During his visit to the opening of the exhibition entitled Fernando Lemos Designer, at Cordoraria Nacional –, an anthological exhibition centred on his work, which also reveals his less known activity as a graphic designer – Fernando Lemos spoke of his work, his life, with the same of fluidity and ease with of his photographic effort.

Just like the work of Lemons unfolds itself in different forms of art, from photography to painting, from tiling to illustration, from poetry to design, the artist’s discourse also entails different interpretations and ways of reflecting and debating. Fernando Lemos participated in the exhibition’s media presentation, organized by MUDE, and directed by Bárbara Coutinho.

While the graphic artist explained his graphic work to the journalists, which was the grand leitmotif for this exhibition, a lesser known aspect of his work, he spoke about the condition of design and clarified: “[design] is often mistakenly approached as drawing. Industrial design is not drawing. Design is the outcome of an idea, a dream, which has to be built, has to go through different stages of study, research and several assessments. It’s too complicated to be labelled as drawing”. Nevertheless, this perspective on the discipline is not disregarded by Lemos, quite the opposite, as Bárbara Coutinho’s text, found in the exhibition catalogue, proves. The museum director reveals “Lemos’ unique sensitivity”, according to Margarida Acciaiuoli, and “the acknowledgment of drawing as an autonomous plastic expression”, as well as a practice at the service of a specific project.

In any of the fields, Lemos – and in the sense of the artist “as an archipelago”, according to Chico Homem de Melo – developed his efforts with the same versatility and commitment, never relinquishing his belief in drawing, nor his core values. The dichotomy between light and shadow remains, deriving from his original exercise in photography, according to Bárbara Coutinho, and expands itself in several of his other branches, in a modern stylistic perpetuity, with references to abstractionism and cubism. Observably, these values ​​are enhanced and materialized in his wide array of creation labours, like the great tapestry created in 1960 for the TAP shop; the stampings from 1960; the striking contrast seen in the illustrations made of primary blue and black on white background, found in the book Voa pássaro voa, of 1978; in the different logos for the University of São Paulo; in the stunning book Recado of 1960; in the murals conceived in 1990, for the Brigadeiro subway station, São Paulo; in the catalogue of the exhibition Tanto Mar – Fluxos Transatlânticos do design, held by MUDE in 2018, among others.

Carla Carbone was born in Lisbon, 1971. She studied Drawing in and Design of Equipment at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Lisbon. Completed his Masters in Visual Arts Teaching. She writes about Design since 1999, first in the newspaper O Independente, then in editions like Anuário de Design, arq.a magazine, DIF, Parq. She also participates in editions such as FRAME, Diário Digital, Wrongwrong, and in the collection of Portuguese designers, edited by the newspaper Público. She collaborated with illustrations for Fanzine Flanzine and Gerador magazine. (photo: Eurico Lino Vale)

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