Arpad e as cinco, by Ana Vidigal

60 years of life and 40 years of work are celebrated by Ana Vidigal (Lisbon, 1960) in the Arpad e as cinco exhibition at Fundação Arpad Szenes – Vieira da Silva, curated by Hugo Dinis.

Following her work, the artist uses elements that she collects and keeps, that she inherits, that she finds or that are offered to her. She recovers and recontextualises them, reconfiguring them into collages that incorporates into her paintings. She works on sediments, memories, time, developing an aesthetic research infected by her typical kind of humour and irony.

In the Arpad e as cinco exhibition, she presents works that pay tribute to five women – Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, who in her words “used the telephone book to find beautiful names”; Ana Vieira, “who knitted furiously in New York”; Paula Rego, “the half-ant half-lion”; Lourdes Castro, “who does not stop in time, but stops time itself”; and a fifth woman, a possible self-reference.

Almost like a provocation, with irony and sarcasm, Ana Vidigal restructures the expression “behind a great man, there is always a great woman” by honouring female artists who are more successful professionally than their male partners, who are also artists, and by mentioning in the exhibition title the name of the museum’s patron: Arpad Szenes.

Although the collage clippings on display come from Ana Vidigal’s personal and family archives – clippings from magazines, books, posters, excerpts from drawings and academic works, among others – some elements may be related to the work of each of the artists honoured.

Perhaps the most direct link is in Acabou o glamour – para MHVS, where we glimpse the clippings of Maria Helena Vieira da Silva’s famous poster on the 1974 Carnation Revolution, showing a few words from the phrase “poetry is in the streets”. The arrangement of the clippings on an orthogonal grid reminds us of the typical geometries of Vieira da Silva’s paintings.

In Bandalha, sou mais mazinha do que ela – para PR, we read stories and recognise the universe of characters from the animal world and the spontaneity of Paula Rego’s drawing. A spontaneity that Ana Vidigal admires and yearns for, referring to this work as “the most deranged thing I could do”.

An assemblage of paper bags stapled together, with expressions such as “dead fly” or “wet blanket”, is Nós, os sonsos essenciais – para LC. The “clean” aspect of this work is a reference to the clarity of the formal juxtaposition in Lourdes Castro’s work. In Ter mais fôlego para sobreviver – para AV, the cuttings of embroidery magazines and their organization define a kind of perimeter, a table set, in a reference to the typical domestic universe found in Ana Vieira’s work.

Finally, at the beginning and at the end of the exhibition, we are surprised by the smaller work Errar por último não implica desequilíbrio, where the artist refers to herself, laughing relaxedly at her as a woman. Even so, she assumes a deaf feminist position, without resorting to propagandistic stridency.

Ana Vidigal’s compulsive archivism, always with a personal side that makes her work self-referential, motivates the viewer to embark on a journey of observation and reflection motivated by the image-filled universe she creates through her collages, with titles chosen in a process “as fun as painting”, as she states.

She generates narratives, tells stories, addictive plots that involve us. We observe, we decipher, we look again, we connect the dots, we question it and we want to look at it again. It’s a continuous loop, but one that’s not tiresome, as we find something new at every glance. As Clarice Lispector says at the end of the book Stream of Life, “what I write to you is a “this”. It will not stop: it will continue”, Ana Vidigal’s paintings are also a “this”, they do not stop: they continue.

Arpad e as cinco provokes not only a reflection on the role of women in the arts and in society in general, but also on many other stories wrapped in the typical humour of Ana Vidigal’s work. An unmissable exhibition, at Fundação Arpad Szenes – Vieira da Silva until 17 January 2021.

Joana Duarte (Lisbon, 1988), architect and curator, lives and works in Lisbon. She concluded her master in architecture at Faculdade de Arquitectura of Universidade de Lisboa in 2011, she attended the Technical University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands and did her professional internship in Shanghai, China. She collaborated with several national and international architects and artists developing a practice between architecture and art. In 2018 she founds her own studio, concludes the postgraduate degree in curatorial studies at Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas of Universidade Nova de Lisboa and starts collaborating with Umbigo magazine.

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