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Um oásis ao entardecer, at MAAT

The exhibition Um oásis ao entardecer [An oasis at susnset], at MAAT, Lisbon, is curated by Inês Grosso and Rosa Lleó, and ends on February 18, 2021. The exhibition commemorates the 20th anniversary of the EDP Foundation awards and, as the curators say, is a response to life in 2020.

The title Um oásis ao entardecer is a reference to fertile space in a desert. A heavenly shelter surrounded by an inhospitable environment. The 2020 pandemic has brought several global challenges. The cultural sector had to reinvent itself and deal with the uncertainties of the future. The curatorial proposal of this exhibition invokes the idea of art as a territory of freedom and resistance, an oasis amid chaos.

Celebrating the twenty years of the New Artists Award and the Art Grand Prize of the EDP Foundation is also bringing together conceptual and visual differences of the twenty winning artists. Instead of a chronological retrospective, we see an “open, non-linear and fragmented narrative”. In a sequence of fluid and continuous areas, works by artists of different generations and styles cohabit to “create poetic wanderings and mistakes, mutual disruptions and contaminations” – as the curators write.

Occupying MAAT’s entire ground floor, the exhibition is divided into five fluid zones. In the first (transgression, geometry, enigma, action and body), we see the works of João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva, Carlos Bunga, Álvaro Lapa, Artur Barrio and João Leonardo. The enigmatic films of Gusmão and Paiva produced in 16mm and 35mm at Instituto Inhotim, in Brazil, dialogue with documentary installations of Artur Barrio’s actions during the dictatorial period, also in Brazil. Next to them, on the curved wall, there is an intervention by Carlos Bunga, an expanded drawing of a line that divides the space. The site-specific installation talks to the paintings by Álvaro Lapa. Between abstraction and figuration, the selected paintings display the complexity of the Portuguese painter’s lexicon. The work exhibited by João Leonardo was controversial in 2004, in the 6th edition of the New Artists Award. It is a camera performance, where we see the artist drinking a glass of beer and his own urine.

The second zone (line, silhouette, shadow, transparency) presents works by Diana Policarpo, Ana Santos, Ana Jotta, André Romão and Lourdes Castro. In this section, we find mainly sculptural pieces and multimedia installations. Diana Policarpo’s unpublished work shows her research on the relations between parasite and host, based on abstract images and sound compositions extracted from visual data and biosensors. Ana Santos’ works are tubular sculptures with industrial materials. Two works by Ana Jotta are also exhibited. Esperança, a small sculptural piece composed of everyday objects, red lights and a sign with the title of the work, and an untitled painting from 2008, a star formed by stairs in different colours. André Romão and Lourdes Castro present an installation that occupies a large space in this area. These are new and old works by Romão, in dialogue with works from the 60s by Lourdes Castro. The title A Sombra da Raposa is a reference to oriental literature in which foxes are spiritual creatures.

The third space (desire, nature, design, architecture, matter) exhibits works by Claire de Santa Coloma, Vasco Araújo, Mário Cesariny and Leonor Antunes. Claire de Santa Coloma’s wooden sculptures are installed to be used as a resting seat. The work of Leonor Antunes, between the sculpture and the functionality of the furniture, is a kind of plant in a polished steel tube. Se pensavas que te livraravas de mim…, a new work by Vasco Araújo conceived for the exhibition, has pictorial and graphic elements, image cut-outs and quotes taken from poems by Mário Cesariny. Paintings that evoke the sea and the figure of Cesariny’s sailor are displayed next to Araújo, creating a dialogue between the two generations.

The fourth zone (melancholy, spectrality, perpetuity, abyss) contains works by Eduardo Batarda, Mariana Silva, Jorge Molder, Vasco Araújo and Gabriel Abrantes. Eduardo Batarda’s paintings of the 80s and 90s, with black tones in prominence, explore an interplay of concealment and revelation from the artist’s layered painting process. Mariana Silva’s work is displayed in a black box-like structure, where we watch a documentary video produced in 2020 about the use of animal species for genetic research. The exhibition includes two photographic series by Jorge Molder, Uma Taxidermia de Papel and Malgré Lui. The two series are related to the new film by Mariana Silva: the first work deals with the cataloguing and inventorying of extinct species in Natural History and Science museums. The second reveals the artist’s face in a sequence of deformed and enigmatic images, in a relationship between “life and death, presence and absence, ephemerality and eternity”. Another work by Vasco Araújo is also present in the exhibition, a sound piece heard throughout the exhibition area. Repeat After Me is a sound sculpture in metal and wood. A male voice repeats commanding sentences like the one in the title. For this exhibition, Gabriel Abrantes proposed an illustrated children’s book with watercolours. The fun narrative shows contemporary themes in a language accessible to all.

The last area of the exhibition (humour, abstraction, leisure, feminism, handicraft) has works by Priscila Fernandes, Joana Vasconcelos and Lourdes Castro. Never Touch the Ground, a film by Priscila Fernandes conceived for the exhibition, is part of the artist’s research on the relationship between leisure and work. Joana Vasconcelos presents two works, an installation from 2004 – Volupta, a tower composed of crochet, tile and ceramic elements – and a film from 2008. In a circular movement, the film documents the knitting and crocheting work done by women of different generations and cultures in renowned monuments of the country. Finally, the last room of the exhibition shows a work by Lourdes Castro produced in 1972. It is a collection of shadow records with about a hundred botanical species, captured directly in the sun on paper.

The exhibition Um oasis ao entardecer, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the EDP Foundation awards, brings together different generations of Portuguese artists, creating a vast contemporary aesthetic perspective in the visual arts.

Maíra Botelho (1991, Brazil) has a multidisciplinary education within the fields of visual communication, arts, philosophy and performance. She worked as a graphic designer in Brazil after graduating at PUC-MG, having also studied arts at Escola Guignard – UEMG and at Faculdade de Belas Artes da Universidade de Lisboa. She recently finished a Post-graduation in Aesthetics – Philosophy at Nova Universidade de Lisboa.

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