Hearts on Fire at AHomemMau

I think that May 26 was a very busy day for people who are often involved in the modern art scene in the Portuguese city. The day that ARCOLisboa opens to the public marks the end of a busy week of openings and the start of the new show cycles for spring and summer.

This was the setting for the opening of the group show Hearts on Fire. The exhibition at AHomemMau is conducted by PLATO, a project that was made by director Diogo Ramalho. It will be up until June 30. Hearts on Fire brings 21 Portuguese artists to Lisbon to talk about what it feels like to want something.

PLATO is a multidisciplinary platform to make modern art in Portugal less centralized. With its base in Évora, it works both locally and internationally, bringing together new artists, designers, and curators as well as those who are already well-known in order to make dialogues more lively.

Afonso Alves, André Velez Cruz, Brígida Machado, Bruno De Marco, Caio Marcolini, Claus Cordeiro, Diogo Henrique, Fábio Araújo, Fernando Travassos, Gonçalo C. Silva, Heron P. Nogueira, Hugo Castilho, Matilde Cunha, Miguel Miguel, Neuza Matias, Patrícia Rúbio, Pedro Feio, Pedro O Novo, Rui Mota, Tiago Leonardo, and Vera Matias are the artists that compose the exhibition. Even though the order of the names may make it seem like there are plenty of signifiers in the show… this is not the case. All of the artists’ works not only reveal how much they have in common, but also how their different styles complement each other.

And… how different things are!

The curatorship is already interesting because the offer to take part in an exhibition came with a single request: whatever they wanted to show had to have something to do with the title of the exhibition: Hearts on Fire.

One of the artists I spoke with said that the invitation was made in a clear and deliberate way, since the curator Diogo Ramalho was mostly looking for fun in how the image of hearts on fire was interpreted. So, the idea is to give artists the freedom to work together without an organized story that gets in the way of their own ideas.

With this motto, a show was put together with specific nuclei that “presented” themselves as mental spaces that are always moving. In the window display, which shows the work 3 HYB186 – série híbridos (2023) by Caio Marcolini, it says that this trip is about to start. In a way that is both powerful and subtle, it makes formal references to the works of Ruth Asawa and invites the viewer to join the exhibition by making them curious about what they are seeing.

Two oil works by Fernando Travassos called S/Título (2023) are shown at the beginning of Hearts on Fire. Then came As a statement (2023) and Attachment I (2023) by Tiago Leonardo, which were paired in a way that suggested a difference in size. As folk wisdom is sometimes right, the attached picture, which is only held up by the glass on the wall, reveals that the best perfumes are in fact in the smallest bottles.

As we talk about bottles and longingness, Patrícia Rúbio’s plaster statues Time in a bottle (2023) reassemble an important mental space that could make anyone’s grandmother’s dressing table come out from behind the veil of childhood memories. Right next to it, Diogo Henrique had 5 ophelia (inflatable) (2021), and André Velez Cruz had two photos With the lover, the car and the ring… (2023) and Unsure that this is what you want (2023). Bruno de Marco was at the end of this same nucleus, with the photo projection song for Iara (2020-23) and his etching a song for the fire (2023), working at the intersection of performance and recording.

Taking on the bias of an exhibition space is part of a movement that criticizes the sterility of the white box, something highly revered at the start of the 20th century. But making places that try to start conversations with the world around them and sometimes promote site-specific efforts is no longer a critical practice. Instead, it is the first thing that (so-called) disruptive spaces need to do.

Hearts on Fire takes place at AHomemMau, which is an art gallery. The room is in a great spot in the center of Lisbon, and it can be used for art without losing its own identity. Even though I understand the idea behind accepting the space as the viewer’s own creation, I don’t see what is so great about leaving a part of the furniture warehouse open above one of the most visually interesting sections of the show. A choice that doesn’t seem to have been made by the curators, but which gives the show an unneeded reminder of the other stories that happened in the space.

Even with this in mind, the organizers have done a great job of putting the mysterious S/ Título I, II (2022) photographs by Matilde Cunha at the center, a place where we have to (intimately) enter. Soon after, the viewer comes across Rui Mota’s magnificent Pómetro (2023), a minimal display that shows us the only thing that is left of us in any area: dust. Which is shown in a deliciously ironic way by the dust from two galleries. Tri-pé (2023), another piece by the same artist, is on the other side.

The installation Sleep now, O sleep now (2023) from Fábio Arajo’s performance on October 13, 2017, in Santa Maria da Feira is at the center of the next part of the show. The installation comes out of the concerted floor in a burst that takes us into our deepest dreams. The painting Zerkalo (2018-19) makes a reference to Tarkovsky’s homonymous film. Gonçalo C. Silva’s Untitled I, II (series What is left) (2022) and Miguel Miguel’s O que no brilho, curta (2022) also show that they are part of the same nucleus. Vera Matias’ oil on canvas painting O castigo da abundância (2023) makes the viewer feel like they are in the middle of the painting.

Diogo Henrique opens the section most devoted to figuration. He shows inner spirit self portrait (tanned legs)(2021), with a special focus on inner spirit self portrait (bunny) (2021), making any scary bunny from the movie world, even Donnie Darko’s, beg for Leatherface’s motivation not to be as real and common as it really is.

With llha dos Amores (2023), a big oil on canvas painting by Pedro O Novo, the viewer’s eyes are swept away by a rich approach. Next to it is a wall with works that are similar in style but have different meanings. Each requires time and shows that attention to detail was paid, forming a constellation with different signifiers. On display are S/ Título (2023), Pointer (2023) and O Medalhão (2023) by Afonso Alves; sem título (vórtex) (2021) and Machado (2022) by Heron P. Nogueira; I (2023) and II (2023) by Brígida Machado; JUCA (2023) by Pedro Não Bonito e Não há dois, sem três (2022) by Neuza Matias. Fonte (2021) by Claus Cordeiro also deserves a special mention. S/ Título (2022) and S/ Título (2023) by the same artist are also exciting and thought-inducing.

Lastly, Punchinello e a Lua de Mel (2023) and Era uma vez um coração (2023) by Neuza Matias gracefully conclude the exhibition by circling one of the greatest curbs of love: fervent naivety. Hearts on Fire shows that the non-traditional circuit is as interesting as the mainstream.

To the bold creativity of youth!


Maria Eduarda Wendhausen (Rio de Janeiro, 2000). She graduated in Art and Heritage Sciences from the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Lisbon and is a student of the Masters in Criticism, Curatorship and Theories of Art from the same institution. She also studied at Sotheby's Institute of Art on the Writing for the Art World, From Idea to Submission course. She works as a writer and curator in Lisbon, Portugal. She collaborated with Manicómio in the Pavilhão31 exhibition space and with Carpe Diem Arte e Pesquisa. Her last performance as a curator, took place at ARCOLisboa2022 with the exhibition CRACK THE EGG of the Millennium bcp Youth Art Prize, in 2022. In 2023, she started collaborating with CentralC as content manager. She writes regularly for scientific and specialized magazines as a freelancer in the field of art criticism, as well as features and academic essays, with the aim of disseminating and promoting to the general public, the multiple facets of art studies and their unfolding in everyday life.

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