OH MY DOG!: João Marçal at Galeria Minuta

A set of paintings – with distinct registers, dimensions and formats – are in a unique venue, in an exploratory exercise that asks the visitor to reflect about what unites all the works. We might think that a temporal interval could materialise the union, but some were produced almost twenty years apart and in no way resemble each other. This distance is physical within the exhibition venue, reinforcing its division into two moments. But let us start from the beginning.

We are in the lift; we wait to reach the fourth floor of the CMS building – where Galeria Minuta lies. The doors open, we step forward and we are in the centre of the exhibition. A large vertical painting is just to the right; it is an almost blue monochrome – with a beautifully flowing side – interrupted by a yellow circle that suggests three-dimensionality. Could it be an egg yolk? We check the exhibition text and see that it is called Porta. With this information, we go in the opposite direction, intimidated.

This situation is a common feature in João Marçal’s painting. The pictorial surface dialogues with para-graphic elements, taking the spectator into a mixed experience between these two dimensions. In this case, when we read the title, Porta, the experience, previously about the domain of the visible – evoking in the spectator a certain pictorial side, even reinforced by the draining – enters a different plane, where literality almost defeats illusion; the defeat of the abstract by the concrete. The constant clash of both dimensions – the inner is specific to the support and the outer transcends physicality – is double and paradoxical.

Let’s look at the first moment of this exhibition – in the opposite direction to the aforementioned Porta. We see some more recent and even unpublished paintings by João Marçal. I highlight the numbered series Jouhatsu. In this one industrial-looking patterns are evoked, close to the total erasure of the handprint. The title is not very familiar to us; a brief survey leaves only the suggestion. However, one of the paintings contains a different element. That feature is the false sense that it is incomplete. Its unfinished aspect – only visible plastically – rejects the modernist fear of fabrication and allows the viewer to reconstruct the manual process. From here on, even if the other paintings in the series do not benefit from this ‘absence’, their apprehension is contaminated by it.

Then we see four paintings that represent bus doors along the windows of the gallery. Their perpendicular feature in relation to them, together with the less conventional way in which they are exhibited (on the floor), amplify the possible space expansion, transporting an experience of everyday life into the artistic field, without replacing it; in a game of possibilities and impossibilities of painting, which simplifies and complexifies with each new piece of information acquired.

The expression that gives the exhibition its title results from the subversion of a cliché, which follows a process similar to that used by the painter. As stated in the exhibition text, Marçal’s paintings already exist before they are found and painted.

We set off on a journey – not by bus, but in a time machine – towards other times and experiences; some of common memory, recognisable by several people; others are personal, but sometimes unveiled – for example, the painting Quarto n. º15, a reproduction of the pattern of the textiles from the painter’s childhood bedroom.

This is not a suggestive exercise of real forms through painting, but a complex transposition of forms, memories, matured images, narratives and personal histories; towards the autonomous territory of painting as an object – with respect to its material and physical properties. And, paradoxically, in the opposite direction. All this provokes a tension between literality of the pictorial imagination and the promise of abstraction. The possibility of deconstructing this binomial characterises João Marçal’s poetics and unites the paintings in this exhibition.

Oh My Dog!, curated by Natxo Checa, is at Galeria Minuta until November 5, in a partnership between Galeria Zé dos Bois and CMS.

Tiago Leonardo (Lisbon, 2000) graduated in Art and Heritage Sciences (FBAUL) and attended the Cultural Journalism course (SNBA). He is currently finishing his master's degree in Aesthetics and Artistic Studies, specializing in cinema and photography (NOVA/FSSH) where he focuses his research on post-photography within the Portuguese artistic context. In his work as a writer, he collaborates with several publications; such as the CineBlog of the Philosophy Institute of the UNL, FITA Magazine, among others.

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