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Antes do início e depois do fim by Júlio Pomar and Hugo Canoilas at Atelier Museu Júlio Pomar

Without a permanent collection, but based on dialogues and crossed perspectives, the Atelier-Museu Júlio Pomar continues the exhibition program that has transformed the work of the deceased artist into a constant novelty.  Now, Hugo Canoilas (re)activates Júlio Pomar’s work, taking it to the end of the world. Or, at least, to the end of humanity.

Antes do início e depois do fim has a scenography-related side. In addition to the monumental unclassified painting made by Hugo Canoilas, fallen from the “sky”, affecting the exhibition environment, the public is the only human witness to the pre- or post-apocalyptic vision of the exhibition’s logic, developed with the curator Sara Antónia Matos. On the walls of the Atelier-Museu, there are animals of all kinds, flying or climbing; ceramics, paintings, a tapestry, small objects, assemblages and drawings – magnificent, one must say – reveal the remarkable bestiary that Júlio Pomar created throughout his vivacious career. Cats, insects, horses, tigers (of course), camels or Pegasus. All these animals are familiar to us and seem to spring from a natural imagination, despite their artificial mediation: the focus of these works is on the transitivity of (human) experience and not so much on their representation.

The paintings of Canoilas and the bronze fragments scattered on the floor take this game between reality and fiction, ephemeral and perennial, to the limits. In the two paintings of the mezzanine, which are replaced over the months, we sense the criticism of the current model of civilization. The representation of creatures that existed in a time before ours are reflections on existential questions of contemporary thought. We are transported into an undefined and fantasized territory.

In the context of a neo-liberal and capitalist society, Ailton Krenak characterizes Western culture as an apologist for a conservationism more concerned with protecting the records of existing things (places, species, rituals, etc.) than with learning to live with things themselves. Rather than altering destructive behaviour, it extends them in favour of economic values. At the end of the world, there will remain an archive of a nature that we helped to destroy. These ideas have always been part of Western art, the inculcation of time in objects. Perhaps because art is the closest expression to death, to the possibility of extinction.

Here, the approach to the subject is full of irony. Artists can also subvert codes with new readings. For example, the sculpture of Pomar, where a small ape is placed on a black square [Quadrado Negro (Homenagem a Malevich) 1953-2003]. And the two paintings by Canoilas, where creatures, who have succumbed to their process of extinction, make comments about being alive. Or also the small bronzes, created equally by Hugo Canoilas. They are contemporary fossils from the cretaceous period or perhaps from a toy store.

The symbiosis between the creatures more or less fantasized by the two artists and the noisy vibration of the surrounding space are guaranteed. Artificiality is subtly incorporated into the display, making it real and tangible. For a moment, humanity has become extinct. What is left, art, becomes more real than ever.

To visit until March 1st, 2020, at the Atelier-Museu Júlio Pomar.

Francisco Correia (b. 1996) lives and works in Lisbon. He studied Painting at Faculdade de Belas-Artes at Universidade de Lisboa and finished the post-graduation on Art Curatorship at Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas at Universidade Nova de Lisboa. He has been writing for and about exhibitions, while simultaneously developing his artistic project.

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