Desabrigo: Rui Chafes at Fundação Arpad Szenes – Vieira da Silva

Desabrigo is the title of the exhibition by Rui Chafes at Fundação Arpad Szenes – Vieira da Silva, in partnership with Fundação Carmona e Costa and in collaboration with Galeria Filomena Soares. This is also the title of a series of three sculptures presented here, two of them for the first time, in the first of two moments of the exhibition.

These three sculptures, as always wrought in iron, are suspended side by side in the museum’s large gallery. This causes a “floating paradox of a weight that seems immense”[1]. They are reminiscent of cocoons, where we sometimes see the negative spaces through openings. These are occupied by flames or fire; this makes possible the almost ritual character of forging, and, in all its violence, allows light objects to be created. For Chafes, iron and fire are not matter, but forces.

We walk around these capsules in a room where there are no more doors, but we know there is more to see. We are forced to invade the rest of the museum, without a defined route, in search of the sculpture we have yet to visit. This one was specially made for the occasion and divides two rooms of the Pombaline building, blocking the way. To see both sides, we must walk around the space once more, creating our own circuit.

Isto não sou eu is the name of this sculpture which illustrates – at least through its title – the separation between art and life, something Chafes has always believed in. It is a different sculpture from the previous ones; less organic, with few means, almost minimal. It seems to fit in with the reflections on space and time as a common characteristic between the work and the spectator, giving the latter a new perception of the space where the work is. But to know the work of Rui Chafes is to understand that the sculpture was not made for the place, but stands in the place where it appears. It is not occupying space, but seeking emptiness as “the only possible outcome of art”[2].

In an interview over twenty years old, three weeks after Rui Chafes won the União Latina prize, António Guerreiro draws attention to the paradox of the objects produced by the artist, where he always maintained that he built “iron objects without believing in the existence of objects, without believing in matter”[3].. He asked him if the thought of art he defends is more associated with poetry than sculpture. Chafes masterfully replies that each object is only a possibility, an almost architectural display. But this set of opposites is ongoing. In this tension, the object occupies “an amazing vacuum that needs to be filled”[4], something initially done by the activity responsible for populating voids: architecture.

The exhibition can be visited until January 15, 2023.




[1] Sardo, D. (2011). O silêncio da noite é ensurdecedor. Em D. Sardo, A visão em Apneia.   Lisbon: Babel.

[2] Exhibition text

[3] Chafes, R. (2006). O silêncio de… Lisbon: Assírio e Alvim

[4] Ibidem

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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