Echoes of Nature by Manuela Marques at MNAC – Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea
Echoes of Nature is an exhibition that is on display at MNAC – Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea, evocative of the most recent career of the artist and photographer Manuela Marques.
Most of the works represented, now in the museum, are comprehended between 2018 and 2022.
Echoes of Nature presents, at its core, the observation of the natural environment, but in a plural way, as curator Emília Tavares mentions, in the room text: “in its various facets, putting scientific, perceptual and aesthetic discourses in dialogue”.
The reference places, the stage for the artist’s observation, cover both the landscape present in continental territories, such as Portugal and France, and insular territories, namely the Azores archipelago.
In the various rooms of the exhibition, the following works can be observed: in the first room, Porteuse 3, 2022, and Extraction 1-5, 2022; in the following rooms: Sismique, 2019, Dans L’oeil du cyclone 1, 2022; Topographies 1 – 9, 2022; Porteur 2, 2019; La mesure du Soleil, 2022; Where 2; Where 3, 2022; Passage 2, 2022; Replica 3, 2022; Explosion 1, 2022; Pump 1, 2018; Surface sensible 1-6, 2019; Replica 1, 2022; Réfraction, 2022; and Fusions, a video also from 2022.
The photographic images that emerge from Marques’ works do not seem to be limited to a simple reproduction of natural forms, but rather, depart from them to assume new identities and domains that are not those of mere representation. Rather, therefore, they appear to be means to achieve a more autonomous existence for photographic culture itself.
Surface Sensible is one such example. It summons us to a deeper level, that of a new stage of meanings. Not only does it transmute the organic and geological forms of its natural bosom, but it also exalts them through the brilliance of volatile and aquatic colors. Its diaphanous effect is a feast of color, offered to our eyes, but also a confrontation, perhaps, between the natural and the artificial, the real and the illusory, the enchanting and the raw. What is certain is that we are lulled by the melody of the forms/mantles (that cover), or undulate around what we imagine to be organic configurations(?) Or rather perishable substances(?).
In the artist work, from which we cannot dissociate a telluric relationship, and something embryonic in terms of matter, we find the effects of transience, the traces of chance, the vague breath of the indiscernible.
We also apprehend the curve, the property of what is reticulated, the stain itself, the trace, the shadow. The flow of watery matter. Away from the rule, however, in an opposition to it. It rather resides then, as a suggestion, as a counterpoint.The gaze discerns the properties of images, sees them as allusions to an idea already taken from history, to an idea of romanticism. But of course, this judgment is made up of multiple exercises, countless attempts, previously carried out. It was Merleau-Ponty who said that “vision learns only by seeing, it learns only by itself”.
In an extensible way, art is also obedient to its history, to what one is able to see through time. Art crosses and shifts its properties to the present sphere, as we can observe in Point de Fuite, the last work exhibited in Echoes of Nature’s space. A sumptuous natural landscape covers the entire photograph. While, in background, an enigmatic figure, with its back turned, contemplates all this magnificence.
We can even imitate this contemplative act, focusing on the delight of the work Dans L’oeil du cyclone 1, or lingering our gaze on Fusions, with its permanent variations.
Echoes of Nature is on show until 29 January.