Leaky Abstraction – creation as a continuous pursuit

This is not a comprehensive tour, but a sample. Ana Cardoso’s one-room exhibition, a finalist for the EDP Foundation New Artists prize at MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, the context behind the exhibition, is a trailer for all that is to come.

The lobby shows us more recent essays, outside the artist’s comfort zone, with a curtain made of canvas strips in yellow and grey tones, featuring the dyeing process itself. This piece stands in stark contrast to the rest of the exhibition.

The modernist influence is abundantly clear in her approach to painting: unfolding colours and self-contained palettes of shapes, bringing together Matisse and Rothko, whilst including remnants of figuration in the form of masks or animals, this is not just pure reproduction. The drawing comes in to complement the painting, in a discreet manner, adding an abstractionist touch to what could be a purely chromatic experience.

The three-dimensional aspect of her work is the centrepiece, however, as she experiments with the constituent elements of the paintings themselves. Her trademark seems to be the brightly coloured shaped canvases. These cut-out canvases with strict geometries, in the wake of artists such as Ellsworth Kelly or Neil Williams, and cutting across the exhibition, take on a new spatial dimension in two zig-zag works that take up the room’s largest wall – one with eye-catching colours, the other with colours dyed with natural pigments.

Viewed as a reaction to modernism and abstract expressionism, Kelly and Williams’ minimalism is rooted in the New York scene. The artist’s biographical experience in this city appears to have had a profound impact, or at least has deepened a pre-existing interest in her artistic path. Her creativity even seems to stem from a combination of the twentieth century’s different artistic movements, to which she adds a permanent need for identity.

A further interesting aspect of Ana Cardoso’s oeuvre is the purposeful disconnection between the works and their titles. Names such as Guardanapo-Dobrado or Comer com as Mãos force the viewer to find relationships between the word and the image that are hardly evident, if they do exist. The title of another work in a direct tribute to Jack O’Diamonds by the aforementioned Williams, the latter openly related to the painting’s colours, emphasises the immediate nature of the images they transport us to: Vinagre de ameixa iogurte de cabra leite de aveia (Plum vinegar goat’s milk oatmeal).

And finally, in a short film halfway through the exhibition, the artist takes one of her triangular canvases around the locations she visits on a family holiday, images that predate the painting that forms part of this material. The experience of artistic construction is thus extended. This is an apt representation of her relationship with painting. After all, Ana Cardoso’s work is best defined in the words of the National Museum of Contemporary Art – her painting is «a performance in progress» (Echoes on the Wall – Artistas Portugueses no Estrangeiro, MNAC, 2015).

Ana Cardoso’s Leaky Abstraction exhibition, curated by João Pinharanda, is at MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology until September 17.


Inês Almeida (Lisbon, 1993) has a master's degree in Modern History given by the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, part of Nova' s University of Lisbon. Inês has recently completed a Post-Graduation in Curatory of Art in NOVA/FCSH, where she was part of the collective of curators responsible for the exhibition "On the edge of the landscape comes the world" and has started collaborating with Umbigo magazine.

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