Conceal/Convey – Select! Select! Select! – the works of Beatriz Neves Fernandes in the limbo between material and immaterial
O Multiverso – Um Regresso ao Futuro, the exhibition programme of Cooperativa de Comunicação e Cultura (CCC) for 2023, begins with Beatriz Neves Fernandes’ first solo exhibition. The premise is that «there is no definite reality, nor absolute fiction». This statement allows us to grope the contours of the limbo between material and immaterial where Câmara Escura, CCC’s most recent gallery, emerges, with the presence of the pieces crafted in multiple supports and formats by a rising young talent in contemporary art who has been exhibiting her work since 2016.
The participation in a programme of RAMA – Residências Artísticas de Maceira e Alfeiria was the artist’s first contact with the context and the public of Torres Vedras. Again in this territory, and looking at Câmara Escura, the viewer’s vision and mind is inevitably fed by reminiscences of elements that characterized the Minimalism movement born in the 50s of the last century, especially the three metallic pieces upon arrival and the drawing on fabric (?) placed between them.
At first sight, we can notice an apparent impersonality of the artistic objects, a minimisation of randomness and of the accidental with aesthetic significance, an emphasis on the surface and a focus on the whole rather than on the parts. The intention is to convey an idea of unity and to facilitate clear and direct communication between object and viewer, also controlling the latter’s perception of space and time. The three aforementioned pieces, with undisclosed titles, are marked by objectuality, where the particularities of individuation are not prominent, «hiding» to protect the perception of the whole. This factor immediately brings to mind the exhibition title, where the play between things revealed and what the artist has chosen to hide (consciously or unconsciously) is unveiled, underlining how difficult it is to free ourselves from uncertainty and also from the near obligation, arising from the process of artistic creation, to select certain features, paths and possibilities.
When we analyse the meanings of the words Conceal/Convey – Select! Select! Select! as we enter the gallery, we see the pieces from various perspectives, discovering two-dimensional elements hitherto invisible, guided by the words of the artist and Rita Oliveira. With this, we realize that the connection to Minimalism is not all that linear and is impacted by conceptual limitations with philosophical roots from which emerge reflections on what is Art and the «creative act» (expression used by Marcel Duchamp to describe the process of artistic creation).
In the exhibition route, the spectator is now in the centre of the gallery and contemplates the works on the wall as he descends the ramp. There is only one piece: the drawing of a cupboard with repeated circles; to the right, there is a metal plate also with concave circles, vertically positioned through an almost unnoticeable support; to the left, a metal sheet folded over a white block, also practically invisible when seen from some perspectives. When we approach the objects, we notice some indecision or vagueness. From a distance, this minimalist aesthetic seems more solid and a compact unit at first glance.
When passing through the gap filled by the metallic sheet over the block, the spectator finds a suspended metallic piece, almost two-dimensional, with geometric cut-outs (repeated but different from each other), parallel to the wall. In turn, this is running parallel to the entrance ramp. It is perhaps the most impacting work considering the setting, the possibilities of contemplating it according to the different effects of light and shade that influence the room and condition or enhance the interpretation of the work(s). This impact is exacerbated by the almost transitory aspect in the limbo between material and immaterial mentioned above.
On one side of the gallery we have objects that are more harmonized with each other, on the other side are two works that are distinct from this line. The first, next to the suspended piece, is a set of blurred photographic self-portraits – an almost abstract pictorial profile, but with a corporeal plasticity – and intertwined by white ribbons, in an act that is perhaps intentional or spontaneous and gestural. Finally, on the wall most hidden from the entrance, is an isolated canvas, almost a synthesis of all the ambiguity and uncertainty – more visible or invisible – of the exhibition. By its position and recurring circles, it seems to distortedly mirror the drawing and the vertical metal piece positioned next to and on the opposite wall. But the dark background with threads of dripping paint, as well as a light and half ghostly stain, seeming more like the reflection of someone, fit in with the work beside it (especially because of the colours and blurred bodily figures, which are also reflections). This transition seems to move away from apparent minimalism, adopting a more abstract expressionist profile. Above all, it makes us rethink the process of artistic creation and the intervention/participation during the exhibition.
When we finish visiting the works, the aesthetic experience may seem incomplete. Besides the presupposed characteristics of each piece and its distribution in space, there is also the viewer’s position and observation, whose presence impacts each work. We should question Beatriz Neves Fernandes’ intentions in creating these pieces. In the introductory text to the exhibition, the artist states that they translate «a reluctance to free oneself from the addiction of uncertainty (…) and to enter the realm of the material, which demands a process of individuation, building a permanent bridge between non-being and a defined identity». This underlines the responsibility inherent in every material (or immaterial) choice. Also highlighted are the keywords of the creative process and exhibition path in Conceal/Convey – Select! Select! Select! – ‘position’ and ‘presuppose’. The former relates «to the immediacy of material existence» and the other «to the universal/essential context, reflecting how matter/objects acquire meaning depending on context and how this influences notions of social universality». We understand that the term ‘position’ is bound to the artist’s creation process and ‘presuppose’ is something actively done by those who observe the objects and understand their meanings, besides the context and the experiences (aesthetic and otherwise).
The artist quotes Hegel to explain the conflict between infinite aesthetic choices and understandings, where the latter relate to materialisations. Considering not only the artist’s intentions, but also the viewer’s assumptions, when understanding reality according to the study and speculation on symbolic and subjective artistic objects, bridging the gap between the individual, the material world and immaterial values such as culture, art and structure – another relevant name to conclude these reflections. In the essay The Creative Act, Marcel Duchamp states that artistic creation has two poles – the artist and the spectator – and that it will become posterity. He therefore relates the creation instant of the work of art to the concept of the «open work» (by Umberto Eco), which is only completed by the journey between the two poles. Still, this has different interpretations, depending on the creative and the receiving subjects, as well as on how creation and contemplation happen. This thesis fits in with Rita Oliveira’s (from CCC) words about the exhibition and the focus not only on the materiality of the pieces, but on the reflections (and musings) of the observers. «The formal properties of metal vaults enable works that bring to mind questions about the intention of the reflected figure – to hide or reveal something -, a series of pieces that underline the paradox of representing an image of the hidden and the possibility of using observation and reflection to create theories about the unseen.»
Conceal/Convey – Select! Select! Select! by Beatriz Neves Fernandes is at Câmara Escura (CCC) until February 18; on the 4th (at 4 pm), the artist will lead a guided tour of the exhibition.