Ambiguity and Contamination: Júlio Pomar, André Romão, Jorge Queiroz and Susanne Themlitz at Atelier-Museu Júlio Pomar

With a title taken from a text by Júlio Pomar – Em Matéria de Matérias-Primas – the exhibition at Atelier-Museu Júlio Pomar, curated by Sara Antónia Matos, is based on the understandings and disagreements about raw materials used by André Romão, Jorge Queiroz and Susanne Themlitz in relation to Júlio Pomar’s work.

The artists engage in conversation with Pomar’s work, in particular the series Mascarados de Pirenópolis (1987-88). In this set of works, the artist addresses the theme of the Whitsun festivities, where the inhabitants of the town of Pirenópolis ride decorated horses wearing masks in an allusion to death and the devil. Pomar captures this atmosphere in the colour festival in each of the series’ paintings: colours that challenge us like a jaguar, leading us to delirium and delight.

According to the artist “all the work points outwards, that is, it feeds on the other’s so as to search for its own truth” . If we think of the way the exhibition was made, we can pinpoint this idea – finding the world’s materials that bring energy into the work. This is contamination, but also construction or composition, different ways of making. The works in the exhibition dialogue with each other according to these ways of making, composed of bits of the world – pieces of cloth, wood, bamboo, paper, colours, objects -, elements that unfold one into the other.

In Júlio Pomar’s case, and based on the Mascarados series, these are paintings marked by ambiguity, i.e., the very essence of these works. They seem to attack the spectator, not only by the scenes portrayed – human figures mounted on horses that threaten to run us through -, but also by the coloured work in which we discover a tension between figure and background, solved through the dilution that produces that (con)fusion – the figures get lost in the background, contributing to accelerate or heighten the colour throbbing, the artery of these works.

Susanne Themlitz, in the different mediums with which she works, echoes Pomar’s appeal concerning the making of the work, its connection with the outside, but also in relation to colour. The works presented by the artist clearly dialogue with the colours of Pomar’s Mascarados, both in her textile and ceramic pieces. Themlitz’s ceramics are delirious-forms, a potential three-dimensional expression of the atmosphere of Pomar’s paintings. The artist and her objects, which are also raw material, extend the painting universe to other realms, emphasising the notion of contamination and movement, something that can be seen not only in the ceramics but also in the glass pieces. Through the coloured glass, in Entre (nous), 2009-2022, we see colour in action, because water, as raw material, ascribes that living body. A coloured density. Elsewhere, in the details of Entre (aberta), 2022, where the artist accumulates oil on paper under the magnifying glass, we note the intensity of the paint. From a spatial perspective, the artist’s textile work is all over the exhibition. On a bamboo scaffolding Entre, 1997-2022, Susanne Themlitz has hung coloured fabrics, in shapes similar to the spots in Pomar’s paintings. The work, due to its height, can be seen anywhere in the exhibition, contaminating all the others.

André Romão, with the fragments of sleeping bodies and the natures surrounding them (Dick-sonia antartica), also adds an object-based profile to the festival. The sleeping head (Peito, 2022) in dialogue with an 80s mask collected by Pomar is a symptom of an affinity with the collecting gesture that draws both artists together. Besides the presence of the fragment, which qualifies Romão’s work, the natural world is also in the exhibition, confirming once again that artwork and world have a close connection. Also on the subject of heads – or masks -, the exhibition shows several of André Romão’s drawings, entitled Mask, 2022. The vegetal forms are blurred with faces – eyes made of shells, tree trunks or foliage -, something that seems to recapture an ambiguity similar to that in Pomar’s paintings, but with different media. In Romão’s works – ink on paper -, there is no dilution exercise like in Pomar’s chromatic efforts, but a kind of illusion, a sober ambiguity – already at the end of the festivities. Maybe.

But another set of Júlio Pomar’s works, made with a ball-point pen, establishes a point of contact with André Romão’s drawing series. They are also drawings of plant landscapes, some from the Brazilian region (Coqueiros, Brasil, 1987).

On the upper floor, Jorge Queiroz presents a group of paintings in which the dilution of the figures in patches of colour establishes formal connections with Pomar’s series.

There is also an ambiguity in the paintings presented by the artist, this time shattered – in comparison with Pomar’s vibrant works. A splintering arising from the scenes and planes dissolving into each other – shifting patches that are figures, backgrounds, bodies, backdrops – of another scene. All the layers of Queiroz’s paintings share the same starting point – the paint becomes body, figure, passage. A painting that contaminates itself. The blurring of the represented (or presented), in favour of simultaneity, action and intensity, where a colour fever is the painting’s main subject – blotches masquerading as body and situation.

Em Matéria de Matérias-Primas is at Atelier-Museu Júlio Pomar until March 12.

Rita Anuar (Vila Franca de Xira, 1994), is an interdisciplinary researcher, graduated in Communication Sciences, Postgraduate in Philosophy (Aesthetics) and Master in History of Contemporary Art, from the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences of Universidade Nova de Lisboa. She has been part of the research group in Literature, Philosophy and Arts (FCSH / IELT), since 2020. She is interested in the intersections between visual arts, philosophy and literature, indiscipline and wind. Apart from her activity as a researcher, she writes poetry.

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