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Fury of life: works from the FLAD collection at Arquipélago – Centro de Artes Contemporâneas

Those discovering Portuguese-speaking poetics for the first time may be surprised by the many references to nature in songs and texts. There are images of infinite skies, colours, landscapes, sun, forests and waves.

The link between nature and culture is perhaps the oldest in the history of representation: it emerges before everything, from all styles and schools. It is tied to the life of men and community.

Representing, describing and imagining nature is the first step towards knowing the world around us; this world so vast that leaves any visitor dumbfounded – a territory brimming with vitality and extraordinary elements.

Festa. Fúria. Femina., a group of works from the Luso-American Foundation FLAD collection is on view until September 4 at Arquipélago – Centro de Artes Contemporâneas, Ribeira Grande, São Miguel. The mission is to recognize themes of nature, the body and femininity, as well as identity and memory, in Portuguese visual and plastic art of the last century.

The Luso-American Foundation was born in 1986. The collection began to be formed a few months later by Manuel Castro Caldas, followed by Manuel Costa Cabral and Rui Sanches, reaching almost 800 works in 2003. At that time, acquisitions were suspended, having only been resumed in 2019.

Today, curators António Pinto Ribeiro and Sandra Vieira Jürgens say it is necessary to show the collection, given the changes in Portugal’s and the world’s cultural realm.

Featured are artists who mix writing and painting to talk about the current world, remind us of the past and emphasise social messages: for example, Vasco Araújo prints on a background of tropical palm trees the verses from the books Yaka by Pepetela, and Caderno de memórias coloniais by Isabela Figueiredo.

The painting is called É nos sonhos que tudo começa, 2014. Through this image, we see several ongoing and past abuses. It is a representation whose paradisiacal background cannot mask racism and excesses.

The only person able to see reality – in Isabela’s Caderno de memórias – was a girl, a settlers’ daughter. Her sensibility translated what her eyes witnessed in the “normal” life of the whites and their relations with the ex-slaves, at the end of the colonial era.

Margarida Lagarto, in a drawing more than six metres long, in charcoal on paper, speaks of a nature beyond the white. She establishes a very beautiful dialogue with the small houses of limestone and baked clay of Manuel Rosa. This is an archive of Atlantic imaginations, encompassing the notion of settlement, tradition and literature. We remember the house by the sea of Crisóstomo, one of the protagonists of the book O filho de mil homens by Valter Hugo Mãe.

We cannot ignore the continuation of the exhibition in the cell area. Here, Festa. Fúria. Femina. becomes even more intimate. The breakthrough is pure. The shadow of nature, vanished from the world of the natives, is in a small work by Carla Cabanas, whose sky is painted in gold while a family figure is absent. Where has it gone? Why?

Furthermore: the beautiful lead piece by Pedro Cabrita Reis (Pudor/ Desejo/ Esquecimento, 1988), next to the landscapes by Alexandre Conefrey and Gabriela Albergaria (Vale dos Fetos, 2020).

To finish off this intense, sweet and throbbing exhibition is the colossal Paula Rego, with an acrylic on paper and canvas signed in 1981. We see animals and hybrid creatures in the painting. The conclusion is hope in achieving true equality between the beings of the world.

In addition to Festa. Fúria. Femina., there is also the exhibition Chave na serradura. This is the result of the Visual Arts course taken over eight weeks by nine young artists. They worked with artists and theoreticians, among them Gabriela Albergaria, Ana Mendes and Rómulo Conceição.

Until September 4, we can find out the inspirations of the works by Catarina Lopes Vicente, Gabriel Siams, Inês Carvalho, Joana Hintze, João Amado, Juliana Matsumura, Mariana Malheiro, Rita Senra and Vasco Marum. They are paintings, sculptures, projections, drawings that enter dialogue with the Masters of the collection about the common ideal to develop so as to achieve a more egalitarian society in both rights and responsibilities. And also a look at the protection of the environment and the roots common to us all. To open the door to tomorrow.

Festa. Fúria. Femina. curated by António Pinto Ribeiro and Sandra Vieira Jürgens, and chave na serradura are on show until September 4, at Arquipélago – Centro de Artes Contemporâneas, in Ribeira Grande, island of São Miguel, Azores.

Matteo Bergamini is a journalist and art critic. He’s the Director of the Italian magazine exibart.com and also a collaborator in the weekly journal D La Repubblica. Besides journalist he’s also the editor and curator of several books, such as Un Musée après, by the photographer Luca Gilli, Vanilla Edizioni, 2018; Francesca Alinovi (with Veronica Santi), by Postmedia books, 2019; Prisa Mata. Diario Marocchino, by Sartoria Editoriale, 2020. The lattest published book is L'involuzione del pensiero libero, 2021, also by Postmedia books. He’s the curator of the exhibitions Marcella Vanzo. To wake up the living, to wake up the dead, at Berengo Foundation, Venezia, 2019; Luca Gilli, Di-stanze, Museo Diocesano, Milan, 2018; Aldo Runfola, Galeria Michela Rizzo, Venezia, 2018, and the co-curator of the first, 2019 edition of BienNoLo, the peripheries biennial, in Milan. He’s a professor assistant in several Fine Arts Academies and specialized courses. Lives and works in Milan, Italy.

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