It’s not a landscape, It’s a battlefield: Alexandre Conefrey at Galeria 111
The exhibition It’s not a landscape, It’s a battlefield, on view at Galeria 111, brings together a handful of drawings made by artist Alexandre Conefrey, in dry pastel on paper. The drawings extend throughout the gallery space, in a linear fashion, and emerge in a vibrant way, thanks to the colours displayed, and which the artist uses with abundance.
Colouring, in addition to causing an impact or delight, reaffirms, or recalls, the effectiveness of colour studies carried out by painters in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. You can see, side by side, in Conefrey’s work, the light gestures, evoking Degas, or the vigorous brushstroke, suggesting a Van Gogh painting, with its yellowish, melancholic palette, full of sunflowers, in addition to the other solitudes with which the artist struggled throughout his short life.
However, the question arises, if the gestures of Impressionism are evoked, if the vibration of Fauvism is mentioned, or the insistent and accentuated pointillism of the time, what does the artist intend with this work? Does he seek to elevate art, with the expressions suggested in the work, to a level that leads the observer/visitor to abandon their most rooted archetypes, about what is old and new in art, about the idea of progress, about the hierarchy still existing in works of art?
Conefrey, as a skilled observer, and simultaneously masterful performer, manages, with a distant look, and some neutrality, to demonstrate to us, through confrontations, comparisons, appropriations, connections, to evoke the past, with everything that implies historicisms without taboos.
A past wrapped in an effort to overcome art over itself. Conefrey’s works on display seem to collide with ways of seeing, ways of doing, games whose codes are in perpetual tension. Techniques clashed. They claim for themselves progress, originality, the most advanced discovery and originality, such as the belief in technology, which, according to Adorno, represented human domination over nature. And that, as observed nowadays, could, ineluctably, lead to the extinction of life on earth. In the impressively coloured drawings, which cause an irrepressible delight, not to mention the artist’s technique, of unquestionable quality, we observe the representation of nature, in a verdant landscape. However, if we look closely, we will see that it suggests a constructed landscape, alluding to golf courses. The man’s absence is all too evident. We can only realise, on this side, the existence of artist Conefrey, as João Pinharanda, the exhibition’s curator, has said. So, if that’s the case, where is the man now? Or where is he to be found? Was the man removed, as well as were the birds? Was he extinguished, in the same proportion, as the water was polluted?
It’s not a landscape, It’s a battlefield is on view at Galeria 111, in Lisbon, until November 6.