Plano de Contingência at Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art
Until January 7, visitors can experience the exhibition Plano de Contingência at Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art gallery. Curated by Sérgio Mah, there are multiple perspectives, imaginations and worlds by Gonçalo Pena, Francisca Carvalho, Sérgio Carronha and Fernão Cruz.
With distinct paths, works and languages, these artists share the appreciation of creative processes waiting to be discovered. Artistic procedures open and attentive to the possibilities that come up with the activity, paying attention to what happens all around and drawing on the particularities of the means and materials – in painting, sculpture or drawing. Focusing on manual gestures, on the action of the body on matter and supports, they present multiple and complex works, materialized in the encounters and relationships between the elements worked, reworked, effaced and transformed.
In the set of works by Gonçalo Pena (1967), in references and situations, and in their intersection with the unseen universe of thought and imagination, comments and fictions produce dissonant chords and deviant meanings in ambiguous and parodic-satirical allusions to the real. We find this visual and conceptual reflection in the nine small drawings presented. In A4 format, they were made throughout this year in an intuitive, quick and uncompromising way. Some were done in graphite, others in coloured pencil, others in pen or watercolour. Some show things to read and each is unique, visible and sensitive, where we witness different ways of relating to reality. By the entrance of the exhibition is a graphite drawing, Sem Título (2022), in a funny reference to cinema, representing a film that could easily be a storyboard. The breakdown of a humanised house – several times we see eyebrows, eyes and mouths on buildings – happens in each frame, showing the potentiality of movement and its formal deconstruction through drawing.
With a grant from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Francisca Carvalho (Coimbra, 1981) did a hands-on investigation into natural kalamkari dyeing processes and hand block printing in Rajasthan, northern India. In Plano de Contingência, she presents three paintings that harness the malleability and mutability of materials, using scratching and the way vegetable and mineral dyes cling to cotton fabrics. While handling symbols, references and imaginations, the artist’s sensory orientation and musical sensibility conceive compositions in a seemingly infinite series of visual and formal permutations. Between abstraction and figuration, Fungi Yantra (2021), Pears in waterfall(2022), Twin bellies in outer space (2022) are singular, hybrid and metamorphic paintings, where forms seem in continuous movement. Fungi, fruits, bodies. The animal, the vegetable and the human world. By being plural, they create fertile, intense spaces from the graphic, chromatic and symbolic standpoint. They are formed by gaps, twisted and contorted planes, fluid cuts, repetitive forms, colours and precipitous lines. Libidinous statements that motivate and challenge us. We who look, feel and imagine.
Access to the natural and mineral world is also in Sérgio Carronha’s works (Cascais, 1984), whose process is based on collecting pieces of raw earth – iron and limestone clays, marl and sedimentary rocks – on walks through unpopulated territories, mainly in the Serra de Sintra and Alandroal, Alentejo. The journey is the first step in the creative process. According to the French philosopher Michel Onfray, it urges «a declaration of war against the control and timing of existence», offering the «opportunity to develop the five senses: to feel and listen more deeply, to look and see more intensely, to taste and touch more attentively», allowing the body and mind to open up to new experiences of what surrounds and engulfs them. The sculptural pieces in the gallery are part of the series os seres sensíveis nos mundos da forma e no mundo do desejo (2012-2015). And they use this deep connection of the artist to the earth, thoroughly investigating and experimenting. The collected raw material appears to be transformed in a more immediate and intuitive way. For example, in the imprint that the hands leave on the earth, by grabbing it or giving it loose shapes, reminding us of the ancient drawings on stone; or, in a slower way, through precise gestures that draw the texture of what could be a city map. Introduced as archaeological remains with other roles and lives, they allow us to access multiple times, closer or further away from us. We do not deny them the possibility of returning to their initial state or of being reused. They have never ceased to be pieces of raw earth. They exist within instability, fragility and possibility.
Fernão Cruz’s works (Lisbon, 1995) lie in the stratification of time and matter. His creative process requires erasing and repeatedly transforming what he paints through multiple layers of oil and alkyd resin, impasto and scrapings. These paintings acquire a skeleton, their own history, pasts that we can access through residual signs. They are beings in accumulation, with a complex and keen wit, confronting us with the restlessness of what does not exist. In Headbanger (2022), a head made of papier-mâché hovers above the dense pictorial mass, hanging by a rope. A falling head detached from the body. Falling implies trauma, body and mind beatings. Falling can also be liberating. For instance, when we enjoy the music mentioned in the title of the work, on the precipice on which there is also Alma triste a dançar (2022). On the other side of the room, we again encounter dismemberment in Dor fantasma (2022), a sculpture in patinated bronze and brass. The bones, the petrified hand ringing a bell. The title evokes the pain felt in an amputated body part, a missing limb. That absence is the present moment. The traumatic memory of loss knocks on our door and halts the normal passage of time – the watch on our wrist prevents us from seeing the time.
While seeing these works, I recalled the hallucinating episode described by Rainer Maria Rilke in the fictional autobiography of the Danish nobleman Malte Laurids Brigge. In it, at a point when he was drawing, little Malte, groping the floor in the darkness while looking for a red pencil, he sees his hand becoming autonomous, with its own will and intentionality:
«(…) I noticed that my involuntarily strained eyes bit by bit could make things out in the darkness. (…) I recognised first of all my own outspread hand rather like some aquatic creature moving down there all on its own searching the area around. I watched it, I still recall, almost with curiosity; it seemed to me as if it knew things I’d never taught it; as it groped around down there so sure of itself making movements I’d never seen it make. I followed its advance, it interested me; I was prepared for anything.» 
This free and imaginative nature about the real, where the hand and its work establish unsettling effects, seems to fuel the works in this exhibition.
After a period in which human relationships appeared to have become immaterial and virtual, it is important, in this Plano de Contingência – contingency plans are developed to be deployed in crises -, to put in dialogue works created by the direct action of the hand, of the body that provides them with active and reverberating energy. Celebrating gestures based on availability, on the quest and on a disruptive imagination, there are objects with their own universes, times and lives. Perhaps this free, sensual and imaginative living is what, paraphrasing Rilke, makes us interested in everything, making the darkness more and more transparent.
 Onfray, Michel (2009). Teoria da Viagem: Uma Poética da Geografia. Lisbon: Quetzal. pp. 15, 52.
 Rilke, Rainer Maria (2003). As Anotações de Malte Laurids Brigge. Lisbon: Relógio D’Água. p. 104.