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A Vida Sensível: Pedro Vaz at Galeria 111

Pedro Vaz has long tried to establish an artistic engagement with nature and its elements. He observes them, analyses them, approaches them, chooses fragments, steps away, understands the whole, approaches them again. In a back and forth between the different scales, the artist seems to seek a deeper look at nature, beyond the conventions, constructions and models that Western culture has sedimented into our understanding of its truth.

The artist has also revealed, unveiled, recreated the landscape, layer after layer. And, in a duty towards art and life, he has also been part of it. We see it especially in images captured in the head strap videos, where he inhabits that space of nature, goes for walks or interacts with the elements. One example is the video shown at Galeria 111 in 2018, in the exhibition Azimute. Vaz walks erratically, inserted exquisitely into the cold, natural landscape; he searches for water, sinking his heavy boots into a mantle of deep, white snow.

In the first room, and in the initial contact with the exhibition A Vida Sensível by Pedro Vaz, currently at Galeria 111, a film is projected onto the wall. An area covered by vegetation, mainly trees, is illuminated through a clearing. Intersected by branches and trunks, we see what first appears to us to be a human figure passing by calmly. This apparition is vague, somewhat veiled. It suddenly bursts out in various directions and disintegrates immediately afterwards. It is faster than the human eye. We must strain our eyes to discover the figure behind the «mist»: whether it is a man or a woman, whether it is covered by clothing and what that represents. Most probably, we are betrayed by our anthropocentric perception, concluding that it is a human figure in its most primitive condition.

In this possible and brief mental conclusion, the thought process may believe in a conception of the savage in perfect symbiosis with nature. An idea of the human being as an element of that natural environment and not a usurper of its sources or an imperialist of the things of nature. Always keeping an external gaze.

In this video, we dive into the idea of the deepest and wildest forest. In it dwells the longings of a remote nature, where men may not yet have penetrated. And, ironically, where there may be an opportunity for humanity. «In Wildness is the Preservation of the World», Thoreau said. A land where purity would be possible beyond artificial images, beyond «paintings» or «landscapes» made in «intellectual factories», as Cauquelin would say.

In the second room, which is wider, we find a possible illustration for the idea of paintings or versions of nature. Several canvases suspended from the ceiling, in different positions, open a meandering, labyrinthine path. The route suggested by the artist gives movement to the gallery, the trajectory normally taken in a forest. Rarely in a straight line. The canvases are images that unfold in our gaze and recall the various paintings we establish around the landscape. The route in the second room of the exhibition shows the non-linear movement that is often felt in the natural environment.

Finally, some cubic and transparent showcases in this exhibition display fragments of this forest. We can see small plants taken from their natural environment, preserving the root and the soil. Throughout the gallery, the small boxes on the floor, between the canvases, recall the birth of museums, the small old cabinets of curiosities, the wunderkammern of the 16th and 17th centuries. Living organic matter (plants) is arranged in museums so that we can all see and access it. It allows us to learn about its beauty or its usefulness. But, although we want to keep it in museums, and this may be the only way to preserve it, it will never be possible to reproduce the truth of the plant outside its original context, part of a whole and its elements.

A Vida Sensível by Pedro Vaz is on view at Galeria 111 until September 11.

Carla Carbone was born in Lisbon, 1971. She studied Drawing in Ar.co and Design of Equipment at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Lisbon. Completed his Masters in Visual Arts Teaching. She writes about Design since 1999, first in the newspaper O Independente, then in editions like Anuário de Design, arq.a magazine, DIF, Parq. She also participates in editions such as FRAME, Diário Digital, Wrongwrong, and in the collection of Portuguese designers, edited by the newspaper Público. She collaborated with illustrations for Fanzine Flanzine and Gerador magazine. (photo: Eurico Lino Vale)

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