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Fábio Colaço, Portraits, at Galeria Nave

Ambiguity. Maybe that’s the key to Fábio Colaço’s work. A “key-mechanism” that gives access to several cognitive doors that display different looks. The potential analysis contained in the propositional simplicity is the major success of this approach to social, political and economic themes. In his most recent exhibition, entitled Portraits, Colaço uses painting to expose an idea. Or rather, the twisting of an idea that manifests itself as a provocation. There are thirty portraits in oil on canvas, of by leaders of the 21st century, from different political and cultural backgrounds. 30 x 40 canvases, installed side by side, form two sequences of portraits fixed on a single surface.

The twisting is expressed through two formal “folds” created by the artist: 1. The figures are represented in a blurred, airbrushed form, to the point that the physiognomy is hardly identifiable; 2. Fictional figures imagined by the artist are among the portraits of contemporary leaders and the identity of those portrayed is not revealed.

The audience receives an invitation for recognition. Who are the leaders represented? The identification of some and not others provokes other questions: why is the image of some internationally relevant characters easily recognisable? Is the cosmopolitisation of some leaders causally linked to the image they construct? Are leaders – representatives of a collective – recognized by the use of their own image as an icon? Are we aware of our daily, repetitive and involuntary consumption of the image of leaders in different media?

Mercedes Céron, the gallery’s artistic director, writes in the exhibition catalogue: “The Portraits series is easily explained when we consider today’s society – and, as history itself has shown us, it is represented in a theatrical scene composed of leading figures who portray society”. Starting from the assumption that we are all involved in a “theatrical scene”, where we have roles to play in a narrative, the portraits of leaders as unidentified figures establish in advance a potential representativeness – the one who sees them can give them form and recognition, i.e., to affirm the role these people have as leaders.

Portraits, a solo exhibition by Fábio Colaço is at Galeria Nave until 29 May 2021, in Lisbon.

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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