The forms of thought – Martim Brion at Sá da Costa

“The description of forms, or the principle of understanding what exists, through the focus on forms, may be insufficient to know anything, but it may allow making speak that which is silent (…)

Maria Filomena Molder, in O Pensamento da Forma: Consentimento e Louvor do Caminho Intermédio


Martim Brion recently presented at Galeria Sá da Costa, in Lisbon, the exhibition Intersection Points. The title clearly explains one of the most important aspects of the artist’s current research, which consists of the fading – or abolition – of the frontiers that normally separate painting from sculpture and these two from photography.

When viewed in isolation, this topic of Martim Brion’s work seems to be in line with what Donald Judd exposed in his manifesto Specific Objects (published in 1965), where he announced the broadening of the field of art, through the overcoming of genres and styles, and the cancellation of the artisanal aspect of the artist’s hand in the work of art – utopian statements that led Robert Smithson to consider Judd’s architecture made with antimatter.

The same could be said of the polychrome sculptures – in polyurethane on MDF – and the numerous photographic series (in photographic paper, acrylic and aluminium) that Martim Brion brought to the public. The enameled brightness of the painted sculptures and the photographs on display, in addition to their perfect finishing, together with their vibrant polychrome, suggest an intrinsic immateriality of the works, and establish in space a parallel reality that provokes a sensation of inaccessibility; a vibrant territory that is an exclusive prerogative of artistic creation, where the senses, perception and thought derived from them are compacted into a single cognitive faculty, exclusively focused on the essence of the sensitive – also in the form “as a vestige of a formless reality” (Plotinus, Enneads, VI); a living energy that radiates from objects into space and affects our perception of the whole. In this sense, this exhibition by Martim Brion was also an installation, whose identity and coherence were based on the harmony, importance and complementarity that the works manifested among themselves, and on the atmosphere that they propagated in unison throughout the exhibition space.

By implicitly adopting some of Judd’s principles – which also extended the horizon of artistic intervention to architecture and the production of everyday artifacts and objects – Martim Brion, through different and combined operations of repetition and differentiation of elementary forms, proposed to us a platonic, minimalist, abstract itinerary that developed on the subtle borderline between the material world of beings (the world of doxa, of illusion) and the world of pure ideas and the forms that correspond to them; both clarify each other and filter the essential in the swamp of indifference.

Sustained by an imperceptible transcendental memory, where “that which can only be felt (the being of the sensitive) makes the soul aware, makes it ‘perplexed’, that is, forces it to pose a problem, as if the object of the encounter, the sign, were the bearer of a problem” (Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition), Martim Brion incorporates the essential shapelessness of the ideal Form, assumes it as a “problem” that requires an answer, giving it an apprehensible material configuration. Or, as the artist states, “I try to materialize ideas, concepts, feelings, problems, arguments, by the artist, for the artist and the public.”

Metaphorizing, it is impossible to grasp the essence of form without digging into the limit of divinity, into that necessary and constant (re)beginning plunged into the original fog, into the obscurity that surrounds the world and soul, where the intrinsic reason of the Work is fixed, because “where the origin is, there must also be its end, according to the decree of destiny” (Anaximander, On Nature).

Points of Intersection culminated in four floor sculptures from the 2020 series Column. The medium format of these works subverts common sense and opens a breach in the current assumptions that we immediately associate with the idea of a column, the image of the thought normally linked to it – a pedestal, a more or less anodyne support on which we place a sculptural work worthy of our admiration. These painted sculptures have no monumentality and ask the viewer to assume a performative attitude. They are pure, elementary forms, painted with radically simple geometric motifs, on whose faces the artist sometimes places cut-outs, objects, changes in perspective, colour, light, reflection and scale, causing small deviations that show Martim Brion’s research on the essence of form and the associated emergence of simulacrums that limit it; on the ideal world of ideas and the material world of illusion, briefly put. This ambivalence was present in the itinerary before this apex exhibition, especially in the photographic series Repetitions, where the artist chose, in the chaotic magma of everyday life, details of situations or objects that, when removed from their natural context, show essential formal aspects – “Forgotten, it is in this way that the thing appears in person to the memory that essentially apprehends it. It does not address memory without addressing oblivion in memory. The memo is also the immemorial.” (Gilles Deleuze, idem).

José Sousa Machado. Was born in Luanda, Angola in 1956. His school education was in Lisboa, Portugal, where he attended the french school, Charles Lepierre, Colégio São João de Brito and completed secondary school in Liceu Pedro Nunes. Still in Lisboa attended Instituto Superior Técnico. In 1975 moved to Brazil and graduated in Economy in the Faculdade de Ciências Políticas e Económicas in Rio de Janeiro where he also studied literature for 3 years in the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. In 1981, back in Lisboa, worked as journalist, art critic and cultural coordinator for the newspapers Correio da Manhã, Semanário and ABC magazine. Gave his colaboration in the cultural area to the Jornal de Letras, Diário de Notícias, Diário Popular, Diário de Lisboa among other publications and periodicals. Founded and directed the magazines Artes & Leilões, Arte Ibérica, Agenda Cultural de Lisboa and Aprender a Olhar. Since 2014 in charge for project Livraria Sá da Costa.

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