Isabel Simões’ gravity and grace and Diogo Evangelista’s magnetic fields

As soon as we enter Galeria Francisco Fino, the space is transformed. The magnetic fields are immediately perceptible. The rhythm slows down, time stands still and the light dims; we feel that we have entered another universe or reality. We notice the different bodies and materials in the room. But strangely, everything seems one, despite the varied media (painting, video and installation). It seems that each work perpetually works in association with the others, even if one day they are separated. The scant lighting comes only from the works and a few spotlights.

The first piece is a pentagram-shaped acrylic painting, red and mirrored; it reflects our image, containing symbols of the urban environment, of graffiti. This pentagram is only the first. It is part of the Farewell to Earth series (2022) made up of nine pieces that we find on the exhibition trail.

Our gaze doesn’t know what to see when we enter the main room. There are several movements of sound or image. The sound decides where our eyes should look; Bonus (2022) is a large format video on the left wall and the feeling is eternal. We see images of our planet through space, in real time; Diogo Evangelista used the live stream from the International Space Station (ISS) around planet Earth. The sound of the video is an expanded version of the Beatles’ song Because. Here it presents an ethereal sound, as if it were also floating in the solar system. In Bonus (2022), we notice its successive pauses, even when the broadcast stops streaming due to connection failures between the space station and the communication channels; besides these oscillations, Evangelista eventually cuts the broadcast, alternating it with the other pieces, mainly The One and The Others(2021). It is a light sculpture that intensifies its luminosity when Bonus (2022) pauses.

Suspended from the gallery ceiling, The One and The Others (2021) has nine ellipses of varying sizes, which emit blue, white and red. These luminous ellipses seem to be orbits that, as they hover in the atmosphere of Galeria Francisco Fino, create a system; the sculpture acquires multiple compositions as we move and view it from different vantage points. In this room, the pentagrams are mirrors that allow us to see the other works from a different perspective.

We are again attracted by a restless and abrupt sound. Curious, we go to the gallery’s darkest niche, where we find the work that encapsulates Diogo Evangelista’s universe. Ylem the Egg (2022) is a video that shows the hatching of a bird. We see in detail the several egg transformations, and the struggle the bird faces to break the shell. The restless bird tries to burst the shell and, when it succeeds, its body starts to move frantically, waking up to the outside. Its chirping is intense and breathless, its body trembles and its eyes finally open; its strength comes in waves, its eyes close several times. In those moments, it remains calm, trying to gather all its strength to try again. The word Ylem derives from the Greek hylē meaning “matter”; this term is used in cosmology to define “the first primordial substance from which the elements were formed” and is related to the Big Bang theory; on the other hand, the title of the work suggests the notion of a cosmic egg. In many creation myths, the universe originates in an egg.

Diogo Evangelista perfectly executes the will to make us dive into his world.

Marvila is full of ether and, at Galeria Bruno Múrias, gravity is achieved by Isabel Simões through painting. A gravidade e a graça is the title of this new solo exhibition by the artist. It is a place of suspension and fall, inspired by Japanese martial arts techniques (Ukemis) and by the concept of Ki, a primordial energy of our body.

The main room of Galeria Bruno Múrias replicates a training arena; on the floor were placed several tatamis, Japanese mats used to line it. On the surrounding walls, six paintings the exact size of the tatamis nourish the gravitational force existing between them and the canvases. In greenish pastel tones, they all have horizontality and depth. They seem to be reflections of the tatamis on the gallery floor. Arena 1 (2022) even seems like a representation of the mats; Arena 2 (2022) is a reproduction of the arrangement exhibited on the floor. This is the only work that shows a detail in another colour: red; the rice fields from which the material for the tatamis comes from appear in Arena 4 (2022), taking us into that typically Japanese landscape; the artist also sets the reed mats vertically when she places them on the canvas in Arena 5 (2022). Simões underlines that which is on the floor, on the ground, on the surface. Or even that which supports the fall.

The law of gravity compels everything in the world to fall: the rain, leaves and petals, ripe fruit, planes, bridges and even our body. However, in the ukemi technique (in the Japanese martial arts), ways of controlling the fall are studied. This way, when we hit the ground, we manage to keep a favourable position; the idea is to teach the body how to fall, avoiding serious physical damage. Isabel Simões recalls this physical training through painting and performance, which takes place in the arena set up in the room; the gallery is the stage for the artist and her teacher’s performance of Aikido, the Japanese martial art closely related to the concept of Ki, a natural energy that flows in the human body. This was a concept widely explored by choreographer Steve Paxton. In 1972, he began developing Contact Improvisation, a dance form that uses the laws of physics, gravity and inertia to explore the relationship between dancers – a concept recaptured by Isabel Simões.

The presence of Isabel Simões’ body still seems visible to us, her energy continues in the room even when she is absent. The Japanese mats make us see the gracefulness of her falling body during the performance. Her action continues by another route: she has woven the tatamis on which she now walks. The past, present and future of Isabel Simões’ gravity hover in the room.

The exhibition’s final nucleus shows three drawings that the artist has named Invólucros (2022). Here Isabel Simões depicts a traditional Japanese garment (hakama), where she seems to recover the concept of Ki, giving this piece of clothing a graceful energy. Ki is not only in the human body. It also exists in animals, plants, objects; it is primordial energy in the universe, everything that exists possesses Ki. Ki energy seems obvious in these Invólucros, made with charcoal and black acrylic paint. The organic forms levitate on the paper surface.

At the artist’s performance with her teacher, excerpts from Gravity and Grace, Simone Weil (1963), Gravity, Steve Paxton (2018) and Eye and Mind, Merleau-Ponty (2002) will be read. The next and final performance will be at the close of the show on 30 April.

Isabel Simões’ gracefulness lies in the way she makes us levitate through her works.

Galeria Francisco Fino and Galeria Bruno Múrias are immersed in a cosmic and ethereal aura. Isabel Simões’ A gravidade e a graça lasts until April 30. Campos Magnéticos by Diogo Evangelista until May 6, 2022.

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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