Polka Dot Brain and Sobrevoo: António Olaio and Rita Gaspar Vieira at Galeria Belo-Galsterer

The worlds of António Olaio and Rita Gaspar Vieira meet now at Galeria Belo-Galsterer. With a room for each one, Rita Gaspar Vieira presents Sobrevoo and António Olaio shows Polka Dot Brain. The two artists have also worked together on Upstairs, Downstairs (2022).

Rita Gaspar Vieira begins the exhibition in the entrance hall of Galeria Belo-Galsterer with the work Modos de usar(2022), an installation with two pieces of cotton paper suspended on the wall from two pine wood fragments. The cotton-paper sheets are circular, both with a central hole that allows them to be stuck to the wood trunk. The cotton paper shows signs of having been intensively used, the exercise of which is visible. There is history, traces of liquid and wrinkles. The use of water on the surfaces she works with is a determining factor in Rita Gaspar Vieira’s art. She often also plays with the production of the cotton paper she uses. According to the caption of the work Modos de usar (2022), the paper used here was manufactured on mat boards from the Leiria Paper Mill, where the artist was born. We underline that the Paper Mill became known for being the building where the first paper mill operated in Portugal. Leiria was a pioneer region in the production of paper and in the art of printing (topography)[1]. Rita Gaspar Vieira extends topography’s legacy, mixing it with drawing and installation. The history of this paper and the marks it shows are associated with the place where it was crafted and the symbolism of the birthplace.

There is another similar object in the first room, also manufactured on the mat boards of the Leiria Paper Mill. It is also suspended on a piece of wood but attached to an MDF board that mimics the dimensions of the entrance door to Galeria Belo-Galsterer. Rita Gaspar Vieira seems to have with her all the places she passes by.

Sobrevoos also happen in this room, with two works that almost mirror each other at opposite ends. On our right side there is Sobrevoo 3ª aproximação (2021) and on the left side Sobrevoo 2ª aproximação (2021). In these works, the old shelves from the artist’s studio are the support for the cotton paper worked and pinned on them; arranged on the wall in a more or less linear fashion, a sheet of worked cotton paper with the same dimensions was hung on each. The marks on the cotton paper depict the traces and irregularities of the shelves in the artist’s studio, on which the paper was manufactured. The process of printing a place on paper happens again, in an exercise where the procedural repetition is evident, the paper’s continuous handling, and the need to perpetuate the wrinkles of a place (her studio) on a sheet of paper. More than just drawing details of places that are intimate to her, Gaspar Vieira places on paper her presence in those locations, as if it were a log of the performance she exerted on the paper in that particular spot, or her flight over it.

While we fly over Rita Gaspar Vieira, we hear music from António Olaio’s room. The sensation is one of a journey, perhaps nostalgia. The song is by António Olaio in partnership with Richard Strange; it is called Polka Dot Brain and seems to have been the fuel for all the other pieces in the show. Olaio sings:

If I had a polka dot brain,

A polka dot life, a polka dot sight

What would become of my world? What would become of me?

Breath without breathing, life without living

What would become of me?

His heavy, reflective voice echoes throughout the gallery. The clarity of his words increases as we enter the room dedicated to his world. In the brew he created to form the musical sound and his voice, Olaio seems to have added two cups of Pet Shop Boys and one of Nick Cave. On display is the music video for the song; theatrical, dramatic and pop, António Olaio’s face appears against a black backdrop in backlighting.

Still through the audio-visual medium, the artist shows a video on a small screen that extols melancholy. He wanders through a house full of antiques; he takes frames, candles, glasses, cutlery, lights the cooker, opens the fridge, raises and closes the blinds, and picks up a brass knuckle that the camera shows in detail (which also originates a painting of this frame).

Olaio’s sullen aura reaches the paintings and drawings in this room, always in grey tones; the canvases and drawings are circular, with words (sometimes excerpts from the lyrics of Polka Dot Brain), eyes, silhouettes, natural elements, birds, and other abstract shapes. Everything seems to have the same mouldable mass that organises António Olaio’s nonsensical universe. Between the absurd and the existential, Olaio deconstructs the normal expectations of the contemporary art public.

The shows of both culminate in a collective work at the entrance hall of Galeria Belo-Galsterer. Upstairs, Downstairs (2022) looks like a mock-up for an exhibition in a two-storey space. In this imaginary location, we see two paintings from António Olaio’s universe and a strip of cotton paper by Rita Gaspar Vieira that reaches both floors, ending up suspended in the air when it goes beyond the perforation made at the base of the latter. Here the artists “converge senses of gaze and thought, without seeking unity or consensus”[2].

Polka Dot Brain and Sobrevoo are at Galeria Belo-Galsterer until April 30, 2022.

[1] About Leiria Paper Mill:

[2] Excerto presente na folha de sala da exposição

Laurinda Marques (Portimão, 1996) has a degree in Multimedia Art - Audiovisuals from the Faculty of Fine Arts of Universidade de Lisboa. She did an internship in the Lisbon Municipal Archive Video Library, where she collaborated with the project TRAÇA in the digitization of family videos in film format. She recently finished her postgraduate degree in Art Curatorship at NOVA/FCSH, where she was part of the collective of curators responsible for the exhibition “Na margem da paisagem vem o mundo” and began collaborating with the Umbigo magazine.

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