Mal-me-quer, by Rita Ferreira
Mal-me-quer is Rita Ferreira’s most recent paintings exhibition, at 3+1 Arte Contemporânea, until 30 January 2021.
The paintings are immense. Not in quantity, but in size. With an average height of almost 3 metres and a width of approximately 2 metres, these paintings, which are suspended in the air through an iron structure, occupy the vertical and horizontal space of the gallery in an imposing and almost monumental way, as if they were long curtains. The exhibition is formally divided into three nuclei, each containing (and presenting) a different number of paintings, in a total of eleven works.
On the gallery’s ground floor are two nuclei. One has six paintings and the other three. All the paintings are suspended, but their positions vary. Some are behind others, others have been placed with their backs turned and, finally, some are face to face. Considering the dimension and arrangement of the paintings, short corridors appear that we are forced to walk into, to see each one of the paintings. We immediately feel that, no matter how many turns we take, we will never be able to see everything. Discounting the paintings at the ends of these nuclei, since, between them, some room allows us to step back and look at a distance; moreover, we have the physical challenge of trying to capture each painting as a whole, as we walk along the corridors. It is a task that, due to the dimension of the works and the reduced distance between them, produces a certain sense of vertigo.
On the lower floor, the arrangement is different. The suspension and centrality remain, but the core has only two paintings, relatively smaller, one behind the other. We feel the whiteness of the walls. There is a circumstantial space and it is possible, without making an effort like on the previous floor, to see the paintings totally and at once. Already without the strong physical component previously felt, this is a moment (informally) more contemplative (and breathable), which allows us to approach and retreat based on the demands of the painting in question.
The paintings, with broad and irredeemable gestures, are in a limbo of verisimilitude – it is a constant swing between the figurative and the abstract. Although there are elements associated with the landscape or even a tendency towards natural or organic things, the pictorial approach feeds an imminent state of abstraction.
The whole set of paintings of Mal-me-quer is an exercise in a universe of forms and their potentiality. The positive and negative space is explored, through repetition and a process of accumulation and subtraction, from painting to painting.
On second thought, and even though until now I have referred to these paintings as paintings, the truth is that I consider them to be drawings. They present a work more focused on bodies and shapes than on anything else. It is related to one (or several) physical dimension, speeds, force, impression, gesture and, ultimately, performativity – in the processes, in the representation, in the way of drawing (even the support of the paintings is never a single piece of paper, but an endless number of glued sheets). Not even the colour, predominant in these works, is a painting instrument, as it does not generate appearances – nuances, glazes or depths. On the contrary, it is a “mere” tool for distinguishing between two or more planes which, although complicit, rarely merge.
In Mal-me-quer, we see a constant back and forth between the macro and the micro. There is a quest for the structure and skeleton of things, even if in a short or synthesised form. Perhaps that is the search for the most efficient abbreviation – to condense something in the smallest possible number of gestures. Only what appears to be essential remains; and then it is recurrently repeated, giving rise to one and the other “painting”. Each is what remained unsolved from the previous – each painting will be solved in the next.