Mais vale tarde – Mariana Gomes and Nuno Gil at aDrogaria

Mais vale tarde, the third exhibition of the cultural project aDrogaria (Corujeira – parish of Campanhã) brings together works by Mariana Gomes (Faro, 1983) and Nuno Gil (Lisbon, 1983), former colleagues from the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Lisbon, who are now exhibiting together for the first time, in a dialogue that reaches the architecture of the venue hosting them. The intimacy of the daily work in the studio, the commitment to painting and its appreciation, are part of the artistic practice of Mariana Gomes and Nuno Gil, whose enthusiasm and complicity are in this exhibition. Between drawing and painting, between being a thing and not being, in a question between manual craft and something done mechanically, Nuno Gil’s works on display at aDrogaria immediately captivate us.

Filled with many layers of meaning that we attempt to unveil, they surprise us with their materials. These, before our gaze, show themselves on the paper surface as if in a searching and discovering exercise. Acrylic, Indian ink, graphite, and staples; shapes, patterns, and overlapping colours; materialized textures and reliefs; holes that hide and reveal, originating a physical, tactile, and exotic body of work.

The surrounding and meandering images and patterns, in some cases with vibrant colours, remind us of a botanical universe and imagery, with vegetal motifs or aquatic environments. These forms sometimes go beyond the surface. The artist’s attraction for informality is visible in a methodical working process, whose compositions, between figuration and abstraction, result from the accumulation of several techniques and materials through the repetition of shapes, colours and patterns. Staples are used in the group of works exhibited, which the artist weaves into the surface of his works as if it were a rhythmic, vertical metallic rain. Simultaneously it allows a diffuse observation and a silent transparency that calls for contemplation. The superimposition of successive layers of colours, the combination and merging of forms that the artist draws/cuts and presents us with on painted paper surfaces reveal to us a reconfiguration and destruction process. Nuno Gil skilfully unveils what he has striven to cover up, showing several layers of time – which his work requires – as in the process of sedimentation that effectively dialogues with Mariana Gomes’ fragments and shards.

The irreverence and comicality of her artistic practice, the dialogue she establishes with the world, with her peers, and the attention to everyday life are found in this exhibition’s body of work. On a threshold between figuration and abstraction, we are seduced by paintings and sculptural objects whose forms, colours, matter, intensity, and lightness arouse our attention. With several reduced dimensions, Mariana Gomes’ sculptures cause some estrangement and puzzle us. They invite us to interact and contemplate them. Set inside two drawers and over the huge wooden counter – reminiscent of the store that once housed the new exhibition venue – in an apparent organized chaos, the three-dimensional modelling resembles rock formations. They are stones that acquire life and become organic, reminding us of a natural environment or a cosmic universe. The whole is organic, a game of balances between levitation and falling. Agglomerated stones, ruins, shards that establish a dialogue and an interesting relation with Nuno Gil’s works.

The simplicity stands in contrast with the earth’s evocative power of memory given to us by the geological elements, with multiple readings that they provide us, as microcosms that depict the passage of time and sedimentation. The stones, a recurring element in her drawings and paintings, while not being living beings or objects, are dubious formats as far as figuration and abstraction are concerned, an aspect that the artist finds interesting.

Considering that Mariana Gomes’ relationship with sculpture is closely tied to painting, as an extension of it and at its service, we see the two small oils on canvas on display on the aDrogaria walls. They attract the viewer by their forms and an apparent naivety that unsettles us. Also, colour, gesture, and matter are important, qualities of the artist’s pictorial activity. Experimental and obsessive in her method, the lightness Mariana exerts on her works results – like Sisyphus rolling the stone to the top of the mountain – from hard and demanding work. With a figurative nature – even when the figure is ambiguous like a stone – in both paintings we see the fascination for colour, its movement and the way it articulates on the canvas. We highlight the stone veins, the tactile sensation of roughness and irregularity achieved by the lighting of shapes and volumes, the shadows, and the skilful use of brown, grey, green, and white tones.

Finally, we could not end without mentioning the importance of composition and materiality, the representation of the brushstroke as matter. Finally, the relationship created not only with Nuno Gil’s works but with the venue itself. In particular with the floor, its pattern and the stairway leading to the patio, materialising in one of the canvases on display.

Mais vale tarde is on show at aDrograria until April 16.

Mafalda Teixeira, Master’s Degree in History of Art, Heritage and Visual Culture from the Faculty of Letters of the University of Porto. She has an internship and worked in the Temporary Exhibitions department of the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona. During the master’s degree, she did a curricular internship in production at the Municipal Gallery of Oporto. Currently, she is devoted to research in the History of Modern and Contemporary Art, and publishes scientific articles.

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