Mode of Use, by Claire de Santa Coloma

The sculpture was born public, between architecture and ornament: “the smaller the object the closer one approaches it and, therefore, it has correspondingly less of a spatial field in which to exist for the viewer.”[i] At Galeria 3+1, Mode of use, by Claire de Santa Coloma, is an intimate journey with nine pieces, where the artist asks us to relate to the them. Claire takes us to a time where, like children, we relate physically with the materials resulting from nature, including the different types of wood. But she also forces us to question the relationships we have established with the pieces and how our senses interfere in that process.

And, while the work on wood talks about the physicality and the manual trait of sculptor work, Claire reveals a process of conceptualization that is inseparable from manual efforts. In Mode of use, the text of the exhibition is an instruction manual that accompanies us along the way, but with a warning: “It is not compulsory to read it, nor to comply with it. You can observe other visitors, who are familiar with the manual, and follow their example. You can also ignore the text completely and relate to the works as you see fit”. The visitor is responsible for the more or less satisfactory enjoyment of the exhibition.

3+1 has all this. Pieces that we can touch, smell or even use, and a bilingual manual with instructions accompanied by drawings. Some for the visitor, others for the gallery owner, or for the buyer. It is also possible to recycle a purchased piece that is no longer wanted.

This discourse allows us to reflect on the place occupied by the work of art and how we relate to museums and galleries (could this exhibition be thought of in the same way in a museum?) and the works on display. In the case of sculpture, the visitor usually cannot touch them. Even the title talks about a deconstruction of the usual enjoyment of a work of sculptural art: it is to see, not to touch and even less to use. Here, the artist allows us to touch a work of art and, through its tactile qualities, makes it even irresistible.

In the beginning, two pieces set the motto for touch: Enter (CSC176) (2020) and Absorb (CSC177) (2020), respectively made of unpolished French oak and polished holm oak, allow us, among other things, to touch a trunk where we can almost feel the barbs and the smell of the earth, and also a piece of polished and treated holm oak, with a varnished finish, soft to the touch and odourless. Recline and release (CSC182) (2020) is the latest work in the manual and the route. It goes further by including a carpet where two pieces establish a dialogue that allows the visitor to sit reclined, barefoot (something mandatory to access the work), feeling the softness of the carpet under the feet, while leaning on pieces that, although not fluffy, have no relevant roughness.

Mode of use extends the work developed by Claire de Santa Coloma, dedicated to an almost mapping of a material like wood (which we have already seen in Chuva at Appleton Square). Here, it expands to the realm of usefulness, and the loss of a certain artistic sculpture-related hysteria, in the direct relationship with those who enjoy the work. Claire de Santa Coloma removes the work of art from the podium and from its serious, contemplative and untouchable place. She adds physical enjoyment and humour without adulterating its conceptual and artistic character. It allows us to use the works, without them ceasing to be sculptures. And this is obvious in a piece like Reflect (CSC181) (2020), a chair where it is not possible to sit down, although we are presented with this invitation. Therefore, sculpture in its static and unchanging quality becomes part of an installation where physical fruition shapes the quality of the work itself.


[i] Art in Theory 1900-2000. An anthology of Changing Ideas, ed. Charles Harrison & Paul Wood, Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 1992, p.831


With a career in film production spanning more than 10 years, Bárbara Valentina has worked as production executive, producing and developing several documentary and fiction films for several production companies including David & Golias, Terratreme and Leopardo Films. She is now working as Head of Development and Production Manager at David & Golias as well as a postproduction coordinator at Walla Collective. She is also teacher at ETIC in the Film and Television Course of HND - Higher National Diploma. She started writing articles for different magazines in 2002. She wrote for Media XXI magazine and in 2003 she began her collaboration with Umbigo magazine. Besides Umbigo she wrote for Time Out Lisboa and is still writing as art critic for ArteCapital. In 2010 she completed a postgraduation in Art History.

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