Seres Imaginários at Galeria Carlos Carvalho and Álbum de Família at Appleton [BOX] – Carla Cabanas

Seres Imaginários, Carla Cabanas, Galeria Carlos Carvalho

Four structures are made with long golden tubes, which fit together. As if they were small spiders or sinuous satellites, landed in memory or on distant planets.

Irregularly shaped, mantles tinged with images from past childhoods or family albums sit on these golden structures.

Bucolic memories lost in time, which never stops, with its great stems and tentacles. They tie up existence and snatch life from it.

In this exhibition Seres Imaginários, the focus is on a different family album. Long robes cover the aged but glowing tubes, in positions chosen by the artist Carla Cabanas. On one side of these robes, we see contemplative faces of children who seem to be looking in the same direction; on the other side, we discover landscape niches. Would they be looking at the same place? After we go around the sculptural piece, the mantle also reveals another angle of the photograph. Can we see the nostalgia of a holiday home? With tilting tables, topped by portable televisions in a bulbous taste, reminiscent of the 70s’ expanded plastic? On other faces, which cover the structures in the most varied positions, the mantles show architectural fragments. It is a Warburgian detail of some historical building.

If we read “The book of imaginary beings” by Jorge Luís Borges, a reference for this exhibition, we see a kaleidoscopic and transforming effect in the slender structures of the artist’s works. The philosopher alludes to this, as does the line, the plane, and the hypercube. The golden, phantasmal pieces, arranged in the gallery’s large room, seem to indicate small fragments of this four-dimensional reality. It is as if, in the words of Borges, we were travelling through “a high place, where we could see a wonderful landscape of the world, and where, on a long circular terrace, we could have a clear perspective of the horizon all around us”.

Cabanas’ images seem to stir memories, which change with the days. They change as life strikes. It’s a question of time and movement. It is necessary to reinvent the days – perhaps a catharsis – and the gaze on the self.

The gaze remains locked on the tubular structures. Macerated by time, they ruthlessly reveal the era in which the images were made. Those who lived through that time know the material used. In an anthropological and archaeological poetics, the material also documents an epoch or a time. It embraces it.

The artist uses family albums, but recreates her memories, recalls ours, or even makes us feel disturbed. It forces us to deal with the past. Perhaps that is also why she asks us to look at ourselves. In that exercise, will sorrows or joys be discovered?

As Merleau-Ponty would tell us, “I am not the spectator, I am involved. My involvement, from a certain point of view, makes possible the finitude of my perception and the opening of it to the whole world, a horizon for all perception”.

In the intricacy of the days, just as in the bark of the trees, the knots that sublimate life can also arise. The knots are like material proof that the trees have managed to sublimate their difficulties and the hardships of inclement weather.

Matter contains memory. In the “interventions on gelatine and silver proof”, works by Cabanas made between 2010 and 2013, we can see the accumulation of crepuscular paper fragments that fell at the base of the frames when the artist scraped the surface of anonymous people’s photographs.

The photographs in this exhibition are also subject to intervention. But scraping is replaced by the kintsukuroi technique to repair memories or dress them in new clothes.

The artist models bodies or hides faces, integrally or partially. With the golden line, and in a patient way, she draws magical beings on their surfaces. She covers them with enigmatic textures.

 Álbum de Família, Carla Cabanas, Galeria Appleton

The room housing Carla Cabanas’ exhibition Álbum de Família is dark. We must wait a few moments for the human eye to get used to the subtle nooks and crannies that define the venue’s squared shape.

First, we see, in the distance, luminous golden points on a rectangular, horizontal black plane hanging on the wall.

The eye gradually identifies a seat in front of the piece, which invites us to sit down. The work demands more attention.

When we come closer, we see that the small dots are coloured fragments, the result of cuts in the photographs’ surface.

As in the exhibition Seres Imaginários, time and memory are summoned. We observe the contemplation of a wonderful starry sky, but a sky where the presence of light is sensed through its absence. Only the trace of past affections can be seen. The faces, smiles, and glances become volatile for brief instants.

Randomness resurfaces. Disorder opposes the natural order of things. It reveals its transitoriness, unevenness, the disintegration of matter. Leonardo de Vinci once exclaimed: “Movement is the principle of all life”.

The luminous points of Cabanas’ work reveal the cinematic binomial motion-time. According to Huyghe, matter in flux, unlike the order, does not oppose the flux, it accepts it and embraces its transformation: “an order that sustains itself, that imagines itself, according to a fixed, immutable principle of a model, which resists against time and its actions”.

We feel powerless against the inevitable erosion of time. As Ricardo Escarduça writes in the text that comes with the exhibition, we perceive the “dust that remains”. We are faced with what has been lost and that the artist materialises in the grooves of the photograph, wounding it and showing the absence of those we love, their finitude and ours.

Seres Imaginários is at Galeria Carlos Carvalho until May 21. The exhibition Álbum de Família at Appleton [BOX] ended on April 30.

Carla Carbone was born in Lisbon, 1971. She studied Drawing in 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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