Jorge Barradas Retrospective at MNAC
Jorge Barradas (1894 -1971) was a Portuguese painter, ceramist, illustrator, caricaturist and graphic artist.
One could open any biographical essay on Jorge Barradas with a similar sentence. But, according to the current narrative, it would make more sense to talk about the artist as an artist: with all the aspects and directions of his six-decade journey. This is the theme of the exhibition Jorge Barradas – No jardim da Europa curated by art historian Carlos Silveira: a chrono-typological line for a plural retrospective.
A modernist mindful of the avant-garde of his time, without overlooking the sociological edge of the post-war period (in Portugal), Jorge Barradas had an eclectic career. He first dedicated himself to caricature and satirical drawing, then worked in advertising and painting, eventually dedicating himself to ceramics and tiles. The artist’s name ends up being connected to the renaissance of ceramics (and its history) in twentieth century Portugal. New creations estranged from the dreamlike and naturalistic approach of Rafael Bordallo Pinheiro (endlessly repeated by artists and craftsmen to this day) and more in line with modernity.
The exhibition at MNAC showcases Jorge Barradas’ versatility. The four rooms feature works with a range of techniques and formats. Drawings, satirical and comic illustrations, in an initial phase close to the art deco aesthetics; in the second room there are paintings; and, finally, tile panels in dialogue with the unmistakable decorative ceramic pieces. An exhibition with a chronological concept, allowing us to rediscover the artist in his different career phases and eras.
The highlight is the second room. The large-scale paintings illustrate the artist’s stay in São Tomé and Príncipe (after a brief sojourn in Brazil). Canvases composed of island natures, with a vibrant equatorial exoticism, far removed from the conservatism of the Portuguese Estado Novo. An exploratory stage, with an experimental technique, which he quickly abandoned, although all these paintings are timeless. The saturation of colours and natural forms eventually reached the tile panels and the paintings at the end of his career, which were much more surrealist.
Throughout the artist’s career we observe a desire for constant exploration, arriving at the fine modelling of ceramics. With the manifesto “Ceramics Is Not a Lesser Art“, Jorge Barradas traced a new face or bust for clay modelling. Pottery was freed from function, becoming more decorative, aesthetic and depurated (close to the artist’s first drawings), albeit still popular and bucolic. Large ceramics that create sculptures and tile panels that break away from the walls to achieve an elusive three-dimensionality. Jorge Barradas’ legacy is relevant today and not only limited to the modernist phase – and is reflected in a new generation of artists dedicated to this discipline. For example, Inês Zenha or Francisco Trêpa (very present at the last ARCO Lisboa), among others.
The Jorge Barradas – No jardim da Europa retrospective is on show until August 27 at the Millennium bcp gallery of the The National Museum of Contemporary Art in Chiado.