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Mirror, by Rui Sanches

In a partnership between Galerias Municipais and Museu Coleção Berardo, the work of Rui Sanches is presented in two interconnected exhibitions: one at Torreão Nascente da Cordoaria Nacional, curated by Delfim Sardo, and another at Museu Berardo, curated by Sara Antónia Matos.

Rui Sanches is from a generation filled with artists, who gained visibility in the eighties and nineties. Being a sculptor with a clearly recognizable work – without ever obeying a formula – he kept having regular exhibitions. And, naturally, he was included in almost all the relevant collections.

At the very beginning of the research, the curators realized that Rui Sanches’ drawing should be exposed independently, not because it was an activity disconnected from thought process behind the sculptural production, but because it had a considerable dimension and an autonomous character. Drawing and sculpture have parallel paths in the daily life of the studio, but they do not mix: they share only beliefs, perspectives and models of structuring, not only in relation to visible space but to intellectual and phenomenological components of the immediate context.

Rui Sanches’ work explores Kantian meta-concepts about space and time. These two concepts, more intuited than understood, are the field of artistic work, in production and reception, with possibilities of interpretation and “connection to life” much wider than the tangentially related artistic universes. The work of Rui Sanches is a reflection on space. A formal essence of architecture appears to be an almost universal matrix in all his objects – hence the architects’ fascination with his work –, but there is always an almost obsessive predilection for two-dimensionality: even when the pieces have the third dimension, the memory of an intellectualized two-dimensionality remains visible, as if the artist could not completely disconnect from representation in an orthogonal projection, therefore feeding a tacit complicity with architecture. Paradoxically, this trait manifests itself in distinct manners both in sculpture and drawing.

But space is only one of Rui Sanches’ many obsessions. Delfim Sardo, in 1999, stated that «Rui Sanches’ sculpture communicates with time». The chronic dimension is central to the artist’s work in at least two ways. If his typical predilection for plywood communicates with time in the aging of matter (the pieces are humanized, they become sweeter and softer as the plywood yellows – with patina and subtle modifications – and loses its industrial character as raw material, becoming an affable and domestic matter, quite clearly in the Cordoaria exhibition, where the temporal arch of the pieces covers more than three decades), the moment of execution is showed in the artist’s words. It reveals the significance of the decomposition process in his methodology, in sculpture and in drawing. The pieces in the gallery’s antechamber at Museu Berardo are an example of the importance of time in the execution of the work. Rui Sanches recovers, much later, disturbing photographs of unpopulated and even inhospitable landscapes. Diptychs are created, where the drawing on the complementary panel enters the photograph, creating a structure capable of uniting both. More than an exercise on the space of the piece, the artist focuses on tripartite time: the time of photography (still on film), the time of drawing (which formally rationalizes the surface) and the time of reception (where we recompose the whole in an entity with a new global and participated sense).

The space-time fusion happens with the series that is in the gallery’s first interior room at Museu Berardo. There, the artist explores in various ways the house where he lived his childhood and youth; it is an investigation of the marks that space adds to memory – the drawings are created many decades after these experiences and are based on technical drawings of architecture. There is space for the infinite possibilities that the house, not as an object but as an affective phenomenon, provides for artistic exploration. From the relationship to the space of the house, reduced here to its technical and two-dimensional representation, we move on to the sheet of paper where, with freedom, Rui Sanches adds fluid and organic drawings with the same naturalness with which he intuitively works poetics in his three-dimensional pieces. This strategy can be interpreted as a counterpoint to the formal process of his sculptures. A visitor without any context might think that Rui Sanches’ three-dimensional production comes from orthodox modernism, characterized by formal exploration and a refusal of non-plastic contents. Only the knowledge about the artist, shown in some titles of older works, allows us to understand his postmodern tendency and the narrativity of his work.

In relation to drawing, it is important to underline the curator’s choice to include pieces that, despite the inherent controversy, are considered three-dimensional drawings. The inclusion of these pieces as part of the field of drawing is an important and courageous statement, which can feed a reflection on the ontology of drawing and its borders. Rui Sanches intends to take drawing to territories far from the canon and this ensures him a very important place in our artistic panorama. As Delfim Sardo said many years ago, Rui Sanches is a rationalist who feeds on feelings and this is clear in these exhibitions.

Graduated in Architecture and with a post-graduate in Theory of Architecture, he owned a studio for several years until he stepped into other art-related practices. In 2007, he curated the Praxis cycle or how we do what we do at António Arroio School and, between 2008 and 2014, he was the co-creator and curator of Escritaria. He experimented documentary filmmaking, directing several short and feature films focused on literature and the built herit-age, and, following a grant from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and having obtained training in photography at Ar.Co, he focused himself on the artistic production, presenting works at the BoCA Biennial, Forum Eugénio de Almeida, Coimbra Biennial of Contemporary or the New Art Fest. Right now, he is finishing a post-graduate Degree in Art Curation in FCSH at Universidade Nova.

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