É o cenário que se move / It’s the scenery that moves from Luísa Jacinto and Isa Melsheimer at Brotéria

The sunlight upon the closed eyes generates elusive spots, impossible to bear. The blind man who tries to see by touching. The body that falls eager to fall asleep. Both resist and grow tired.

É o cenário que se move / It’s the scenery that moves, the most recent exhibition at Brotéria cultural centre, in an invitation from the artist Luísa Jacinto to Isa Melsheimer. The aim was to develop a joint exhibition, always on the edge of slumber: there is a force and a gravity that they want to give in to. The gallery’s first room is almost clear: the clean, open light shines on the few works at a distance. Some are on the wall, others hang from the ceiling, increasing the venue’s lightness. In the same chromatic line, there are white, beige, muted tones, dialoguing with the antique floor of Palácio dos Condes de Tomar.

The exhibition’s starting point are two paintings by Isa Melsheimer, whose title is literal: Nr. 476 and Nr. 475 – two deserted streets, between lime and concrete buildings. On one there are electricity poles with decorative and colourful ribbons, signs of a folk festival. These paintings were created for a residence in Porto, where the artist sought to explore the dwellings of the Bouça neighbourhood, created by Álvaro Siza Vieira and built according to the SAAL project after the Carnation Revolution. The consequences of this journey are evident in the work seen in this exhibition. Melsheimer uses the ephemerality of painted decorative ribbons to convert them into sculptural material through the interventions in the space at Feston. Instead of clusters of coloured paper, we see pieces of glazed ceramic with shapes – squares, triangles, circular moulds. In one room, the festoon finally tumbles to the floor and resembles a snake. In White, with a similar ceramic material, converted here into square tiles, we see an almost beige-toned tile. The weight and tactility of these works is visible, hanging from a wire that connects them. In fact, everything here is tactile, from sculpture to textiles. That which is not seems to have a wholly contrary, ethereal effect.

Luísa Jacinto’s intervention that shares its name with the exhibition, It’s the scenery that moves, is a large painting on canvas. It is shown here without the frame base, converted only into fabric. There are scattered stains, folds, revealing a time gone by with faded colours, on the verge of fading, like a sleepwalking being.

Luísa Jacinto’s works stand out for their colour, always with materialities that seem to reject their condition. Thirst, on the gallery’s second floor, shows us an intense triangle, painted in a gradation from purple to red, replicating a volcanic magma’s intensity; but the work is painted on a very thin polyester, contradictory in relation to its apparent weight. Moiré patterns are also evident in the in-between gaps of the less obvious translucency. In Breath 2, undefined stains seem to x-ray the canvas structure. The silhouette of a window emerges, with another stain of stronger, more intense colour, similar to a curtain. The tension between transparency and opacity seems to show that colour does not allow one to see in Luísa Jacinto’s works.

This translucent and hypnagogic state, the edge between clear and opaque, almost ethereal, invisible and by no means static, is the key to this exhibition, where the different works meet. Even Melsheimer’s chromatic sobriety uses this radicality, this difficulty of vision in her Tuch, white letters on a white background. The textile scrawls and weavings become figures. One of them looks like someone on a horse, stepping on a dragon: it reminds us of the iconography of St Michael the Archangel. The sentences in the work seem to reveal a related hope: “What will be the legacy of this proletarian utopia?”. The work joins the decorative festoons, the socio-political apprehension of the first paintings visible here. Her intervention on the Palácio’s staircase statues, There is plenty more fish in the sea, is also mythological, violent and dialogic. The festoon chain embraces a lion and a dragon that try to suffocate it, in a fight between good and evil. This emphasises the decorative programme’s dramatic scenography. One of the lion’s eyes is covered, preventing it from escaping and resisting. It makes it fall. The subsequent act, which we do not see, is pessimistic, just like Everything by Luísa Jacinto. Here, someone, in a wide, bright space like that of a church, looks away (as we visitors do when viewing the work), to a black, enclosed place. The clarity is unattractive. We close our eyes and see spots, Apnea’s. Almost transparent fabrics emit colourful patterns, impossible to reach. The tones fade. The exhibition is sober and the curatorship careful. We are calm. It may be that we can finally fall asleep, letting the scenery move for us.

É o cenário que se move / It’s the scenery that moves, is at Brotéria until July 2.

Miguel Pinto (Lisbon, 2000) is graduated in Art History by NOVA/FCSH and made his internship at the National Museum of Azulejo. He has participated in the research project VEST - Vestir a corte: traje, género e identidade(s) at the Humanities Centre of the same institution. He has created and is running the project Parte da Arte, which tries to investigate the artistic scene in Portugal through video essays.

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