Painting without beginning, middle and end

In 1763, an anonymous pamphlet about the Salon du Paris, the official exhibition of the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, stated “never had the different parts […] [of that] rich collection been arranged with more intelligence, both for the beauty of the whole, and for the particular benefit of each of the works of art which compose it” [1]. This praise was from Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, an artist and scholar who, that year, had the job of “tapissier” – something like “decorator” – of the exhibition. Responsible for the aesthetic and ideological arrangement of the pieces, the veteran creative – who exhibited his works in 24 editions of the Salons between 1737 and 1779 – knew that the final effect of the whole place was as important as the individual quality of each work.

Two hundred and sixty years later, in a house even older than the Salons or the Louvre Museum, slightly more than a hundred works cover the walls of Brotéria, an artistic centre in Bairro Alto where Christian faith and contemporary urban cultures coexist. In Pintura Sem Fim, artists from A to (almost) Z, from various origins, languages, techniques and careers stand side by side in a show that wants to underline the pictorial timelessness and indispensability in the geographies of the visual arts, practically affirming that all the paths in the History of Art lead to painting.

To the nonchalant visitor, the juxtaposition of the pieces in the Aula da Esfera and Home Espuma rooms will seem random. To the viewer who wants to analyse each work in detail, the intensity of the clustering of paintings – together with the difficult exercise of identifying titles and artists – will trigger an almost vertigo-like experience.

But there is an interesting puzzle to be discovered if, as writer Carola Saavedra does for literature, we use the permaculture rules to find a kind of permacuratorship: “1. Observe and interact; 2. Collect and accumulate energy; 3. Have the harvest as an objective; 4. Use self-regulation and accept feedback; 5. Use and value renewable energies and services; 6. Produce little waste; 7. Create a model first and the details later; 8. Integrate instead of separate; 9. Find small and slow solutions; 10. Use and value diversity; 11. Use boundaries and value margins; 12. Enjoy change and face it with creativity” [2].

As some of these principles have more obvious aesthetic applicability than others, number 11 is particularly interesting: what can the brief horizontal and vertical gaps between works tell us about each piece and exhibition layout? What stories and dialogues lie between the frames? If each wall were to represent a continent or ocean, what borders would we cross or what islands would we want to visit? To forge connections that are not initially given – neither to the indifferent gaze nor to the rigorous one – questions such as these can make us see the same blue character jumping from Macau (2009, Nadir Afonso) to 2045 (2022, Pedro Batista).

They may also help us to shed light on the irony with which, according to the introduction to Pintura Sem Fim, the show revisits the exhibition methods of the Salon de peinture et de sculpture: at the time, the zenith of the spatial hierarchy was the spiritual realm of Mythology, History and Religion, while the lower genres, such as landscape and still life, were within arms’ reach; but, in the halls of Brotéria, an anonymous seventeenth-century portrait almost touches the floor and Gabriela Machado’s silver mountain, in Meus Amigos (2018-21), invites us to stand on tiptoe. On the borderline, oil on canvas and a paintless painting with bleach and cotton embroidery line up – Sem Título(2010) by Gonzalez Bravo and Log on (2021) by Manuel Tainha.

More than underlining a purported equivalence or similarity between distinct works – we should remind ourselves of points 8 and 10 of the manual for permacuratorshp -, Pintura Sem Fim appears to affirm that each painting is more than an object in itself, greater than each author, it is also part of a dynamic and self-sustaining ecology. In other words, the exhibition challenges us to recognise that, without ontology or teleology, the next painting is being painted from always and forever.

Pintura Sem Fimwith the support of the Millennium bcp Foundation, is at Brotéria until February 15, 2023.




[1] Whyte, Ryan. (2013). Exhibiting Enlightenment: Chardin as tapissier in Eighteenth-Century Studies, 46(4), p. 531. Free translation.

[2] Saavedra, Carola. (2021). O mundo desdobrável: Ensaios para depois do fim. Belo Horizonte: Relicário Edições, p. 81.

Laila Algaves Nuñez (Rio de Janeiro, 1997) is an independent researcher, writer and project manager in cultural communication, particularly interested in the future studies developed in philosophy and the arts, as well as in trans-feminist contributions to imagination and social and ecological thought. With a BA in Social Communication with a major in Cinema (PUC-Rio) and a MA in Aesthetics and Artistic Studies (NOVA FCSH), she collaborates professionally with various national and international initiatives and institutions, such as BoCA - Biennial of Contemporary Arts, Futurama - Cultural and Artistic Ecosystem of Baixo Alentejo and Terra Batida / Rita Natálio.

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