Concentric Gestures: José Pedro Croft at Fundação Arpad Szenes-Vieira da Silva

“The origin of architecture is not the primitive hut, nor the cave, nor Adam’s mythical dwelling in Paradise. Before transforming support into a column, before placing stone upon stone, a man laid the stone on the ground to identify a place in an unknown universe: to recognise and modify it.” [1]

Perhaps this is the first gesture for the geodesic reference of a place. I dare say that the second is the one that José Pedro Croft pursues in Et sic in infinitum: the circle. The circle is a geometric shape extensively repeated in iconography since prehistoric times. To the circle we owe the outline of the Sun and Moon’s projection on Earth – the cromlech is its cosmographic representation. The surface or circumference where life happens is within its limits. This distinction between circle and circumference is important to make. As a line, the circle delimits the inner/outer dichotomy, the relative positions of objects in space: what is outside and what is inside. The circumference is between the empty, the waning or waxing and the full fills the plane. As a limit, the circle is also a border, the legal edge of a recognisable territory – a special protection area.

José Pedro Croft withdraws the circle from the cosmos to establish it in the two-dimensionality of the paper sheet or gallery wall. Open circles, semicircles, crossed circles, a near and far loop of light, matter and texture. Short encompassing planes or sloping to infinity. In situ off-centred or overlapping geometries generate open forms and interpretive possibilities, but above all invitations to enter – The same performative invitation of Please Come In that, in 1955, the artist Kazuo Shiraga (1924 -2008) built with the archetype of the primitive hut.[2]

Croft not only questions our relationship to the universe’s gravitational forms and forces. He also engages us, as viewers, in the dance of a predominantly visual space. Indeed, the artist’s work and architecture share the same compositional lexicon, contaminating each other – both in this exhibition and throughout. Et sic in infinitum operates on the brain’s remarkable aptitude to assemble and make sense of chaos. The pieces, placed on the white walls, are like unfinished texts, with swapped letters or lost vocabulary. The multiple incomplete lines are ultimately always simple circles. Whether we move away or closer, we always find perfect circles.

In this exercise of totality, light is paramount when perceiving the works, not only because it illuminates them, but also because it assigns them gradients of clarity, sub-line. Some are structured, and others navigate the binomial light/dark or light/shadow, revealing an imperfect blackness or faint lines drawn on the stucco. Circumferences ask drawing and painting if they are three-dimensional and sculptures if they simply want to be flat.

The balance between chaos and order is joined by an arched span, between what we recognise and control, and the experiment Et sic in infinitum curated by Sérgio Mah can be visited until May 28 at Fundação Arpad Szenes – Vieira da Silva.




[1] Vittorio Gregotti, 1983, cit in Keneth Frampton – Introduction: Reflections on the Scope of the Tectonic. Lisbon: Portuguese Association of Architects, 1998.

[2] Reference to the Japanese abstract painter, in particular the performance Red Logs (Please Come In), presented twice in 1955 at The Experimental of Modern Art to Challenge the Burning Midsummer Sun in Ashiya Park and then at The First Gutai Art Exhibition

Frederico Vicente (Lisbon, 1990) master in architecture (FA-UL), researcher and independent curator (postgraduate at FCSH-UNL). In 2018, he founded the Sul e Sueste curatorship collective, a platform that aims to be a hinge between art and architecture, territory and landscape. As a curator he has regularly collaborated with the INSTITUTO, in Porto, from which we highlight exhibitions such as "How to find the centre of a circle" by Emma Hornsby and "Handmade" by Ana Paisano. He was also the curator of the exhibitions "Espaço, Tempo, Matéria", Convento da Verderena, Barreiro; "Fleeting Carpets and Other Symbiotic Objects" by Tiago Rocha Costa, AMAC, Barreiro or "Do Território aos Lugares", Museu de Almada, Almada, among others. Professional activity orbits mainly around the multiple ramifications of architecture.

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