Ana Vidigal + Hugo Brazão, at Galeria Diferença

Irony is the strength of youth and the desideratum of intelligence. In its ambiguity, there is a concept of layers and shades: from humour to terror, from reality to fantasy, irony is the acuity of a purposely contrived truth. Unsurprisingly, the great works (dramatic, literary, visual, etc.) that rely on it have a great narrative and interpretative dynamism. The dissimulated ignorance, translated from the original Greek expression εἰρωνεία, eirōneía, incites, mocks, demands and elevates the understanding of the individual as part of the universe and their anecdotal situations, to then extract – what was previously considered important – the truth.

In Sal nos Olhos and O’ mice an’ men, respectively assembled by Ana Vidigal and Hugo Brazão, we access the multiple dimensions of irony and the different generational and postmodern derivations developed. Irony unites both artists of different eras, whose efforts are diametrically dissimilar, even though sharing also the same pictorial, working field. Regardless of the means used, the irony is what vibrates Vidigal’s compositions and Brazão’s expanded paintings.

If in Vidigal irony is attached to political and social meanings – something recurrently seen in her career –, Brazão stands out with the unadulterated comedy of mundane life and the human being’s cosmic irony. In Sal nos Olhos, the narration is political, as the “lament” of the “fin de una era en Cuba”; of times that are joined in a clash of pointlessness, like the two ping-pong rackets, whose playful purpose is completely eviscerated; in which the difficulty of the situations is concealed in humour and terror-laden layers – fish that pop up on a donkey, which, endowed with conscience, then concludes: “they have begun to eat me”. The details are profuse; and so are the interpretations.

In O’ mice an’ men, on the other hand, irony shifts into post-irony, or into the new sincerity, something that is maybe in tune with a generation educated amid images, networks, filled with ironic or post-ironic memes. Situations are turned into weapons of mockery, and the serious and the ironic blur their own boundaries, which had been formalized by the arts. Interestingly, the discourse’s stylistic revision is also visible in the expression and formality of Hugo Brazão’s paintings. It’s not enough for the concept to be a remark on the ironic situation of a man who shares his daily life with a creature as minimal, insignificant and terrifying as the rat; or how the man’s comfort is the favourite bed of a pestilent animal like the rat. Also, the diffident, almost simple-minded or naïf outline of the paintings in jesmonite, and the crude and imprecise installation of vibrant color, made with aromas and peanut butter, converge into a materialized irony. Something absolutely primary – fundamental – is returned to us after O’ mice an’ men: laughter, the laughter of seeing a man chasing a rat, chasing what is insignificantly smaller than him and, yet, capable of shattering his peace of mind.

These are two curious examples of art discursiveness, of the word before or after the image, and of the pleasure involved in reading and witnessing the use of a stylistic form as old as the history of the arts. Before being seen, these are works that must be read.

Sal nos Olhos and O’ mice an’ men, at Galeria Diferença, until 27 July.

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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