Red Flowers, by Henrique Pavão

All things are an exchange for fire, and fire for all things…[1]

I rest my gaze in the penumbra. Subtlety overtakes the retinal field, giving way to the smell of raw earth. As on a clear night marked by the full moon, my body progressively adapts itself, and the silhouette of a few monoliths in rammed earth add a light humidity to the exhibition space. The senses become intertwined and the fire element goes through a cycle of transformation expressed between revealing and concealing.

Terra-cotta objects stand on top of the monoliths. In the bowels of the earth are born these sculptures baked in soenga, small urns[2] that remind us of the paws of two feline animals that fought each other to the death. But is this tragic narrative a random encounter between tiger and lion in the forest? Or, on the other hand, is it the result of a construction, where both animals are led by the human being to partake in a mortal combat, under a script where the instructions to be followed by the actors are described? Technique prevails, hiding the particularly dangerous animal that is man himself. As Arendt tells us, “It is the use of reason that makes us dangerously “irrational,” because this reason is the property of an “aboriginally instinctual being”.[3]

The moving image is replaced by the stillness of a black and white photograph, which references the movie The Adventure Parade: Lion Tiger Fight. The artist refuses to repeat the narrative conceived on film and destroys one of its physical pieces of evidence in the fire. The ashes of the film are placed inside the urns, where the representation of the paws of the feline animals is expressed as a sacred container-content. The Promethean ritual expands into the living, into that which gives symbolic meaning to the remaining body-sculptures.

In the same exhibition space, five photographs of an old Alentejo cinema from the village of Salvada are projected at the same time. The projections in ochre tones subtly change until the destruction of the slides by the devices.

The refusal to repeat the film and the symbolic act of its combustion represents the possibility of constructing new narratives. It is through fire that the artist becomes an element of the fundamental principle – doubly constructive and entropic – that underlies material mutability.

Red Flower, a solo exhibition by Henrique Pavão, at Galeria Bruno Múrias until April 17.


[1] HERACLITO in McKirahan, Richard, Philosophy Before Socrates: An Introduction With Texts and Commentary, Hacket Publishing, Indianapolis, 2010 (1994 ed. original), p. 120, frag. 90

[2] The urns created by the artist are “replicas of pre-Columbian artefacts, which are part of the archaeology collection of Mexico City (…) Zapotec and Mixtec civilisations, documented by the artist on a research trip to Mexico in 2019″ (in Red Flower exhibition text).

[3] ARENDT, Hannah, On Violence, Edições Relógio d’Água, Lisbon, 2014 (1969 original edition), p. 68

Margarida Alves (Lisbon, 1983). Artist, PhD student in Fine Arts (FBAUL). Researcher by the University of Lisbon. Degree in Sculpture (FBAUL, 2012), Master in Art and Glass Science (FCTUNL & FBAUL, 2015), Degree in Civil Engineering (FCTUNL, 2005). She is a resident artist in the collective Atelier Concorde. Collaborates with national and foreign artists. Her work has an interdisciplinary character and focuses on themes associated with origin, otherness, and historical, scientific and philosophical constructions of reality.

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