Samuel Silva: Portelos, Cancelas e Biqueiros @ CAAC

Asserting itself as a venue for creativity, preservation, research and promotion of contemporary art, Centro de Arte Alberto Carneiro (CAAC), in Santo Tirso, is now hosting the exhibition Portelos, cancelas e biqueiros[1], by artist Samuel Silva (1983).

On entering the first exhibition room, we feel welcomed by the ephemeral site-specific installation Chão (último estrato), 2023, which, merging with the architectural site hosting it, propels us forward. Magnificent and poetic, the installation spreads infinitely across the floor, occupying it like a landscape ruled by horizontality, bringing us out into a performative and intimate experience, unveiling layers that intersect through a logic of overlapping realities and metaphors. As a way of reflecting on antiquity, our roots and origins, the artist’s process of collecting plant and animal matter and inorganic materials from Monte Padrão – restating it as a place of spirit and memory – is materialised – an ideological encroachment into Land Art – as a minimalistic floor piece that we are encouraged to contemplate and partake in. This proposal to consider and communicate time is inherently about pondering what defines us most deeply, notwithstanding the stark contrast and simplicity of the materials the artist uses to develop concepts such as geography, temporality, ancestry and identity. In Chão, Samuel Silva plastically explores notions of territorial settlement, landscape transformation and immaterial remains, dealing with ancestral foundations and testimonies, plunging us into a profound relationship with time that goes far beyond contemporaneity. The artist presents us with the depth of time through the build-up and stratification of sediments; time that, by acquiring greater depth, expands over a horizon of more than two thousand years. The installation is a platform for action, and we walk through it, touching it and absorbing it, as part of a contemplative and sensory experience. As we walk by, the textures, scents and sounds envelop and fill the CAAC’s room floor as a fusion and dialogue between outside and inside, an intimate relationship between the visitor and nature, a territory of experimentation that reveals the earth’s secrets. The installation’s simplicity stands in contrast to the evocative power of the earth’s memory provided by plant, animal and geological elements, all microcosms depicting the passage of time and sedimentation as an eternal return. Leaves, tree barks, earth, trunks and branches, fern plants, rock fragments and also Roman tegulae ceramics make up ancestral and timeless evidence summoned up by Monte Padrão[2], where everything is gradually being reformed, but something remains. Art, nature and archaeology come together in Chão (último estrato), whose historical depth carries us through a plethora of sensations stemming from all eras, along with a memory as old as the world[3]. Samuel Silva’s Chão (último estrato) allows us to revisit the very essence and connection to the earth by understanding nature from the perspective of the body and senses, establishing a dialogue between the rural world and the artistic environment, Nature and Art, bringing us closer to Alberto Carneiro’s praxis (1937-2017), whose words, published in Notas para um manifesto de uma arte ecológica, on the signifiers of nature – a tree, a stone, a flower, water, a fistful of earth -, as well as their universal meanings, follow us as we admire the installation.

The same venue also features sets of graphite and vieux chêne drawings made by Samuel Silva ten years ago. Made from memory and inspired by man’s constructions in natural surroundings to delineate a specific territory, the drawings predate, as a visual echo, the photo project that is revealed to us later. Samuel Silva resorts to the natural world, geographies and territories to capture human intervention in the landscape in Portelos, cancelas e biqueiros, with drawings and photographs that reveal – like Alberto Carneiro – the artist’s awareness of the aesthetic appeal of rural workers showing artistic flair. The archival photographic project, started in 2013, contains more than three hundred images of a series of agricultural structures, reflecting the artist’s eagerness to understand the small ingenious gestures of the simplest people (…) to shoot and try to think based on that creativity[4]. Three slideshows featuring a selection of slides from Samuel Silva’s archive, in dialogue with Alberto Carneiro’s pieces, unveil gates, portholes and barricades: inventive and surprising constructions that, upon entering farm fields, have a powerful plastic character, turning them into unintentional sculptures and generating poetic scenarios. Drawing on Samuel’s fascination with reusing materials and unpredictability, the photos of agricultural ploys (having a functional rather than aesthetic purpose) made from simple elements – sticks, stones, ropes, cans, wires – reveal a mix of materials, constructive and compositional subtleties[5], as well as the artist’s perspective on these. Samuel Silva added more recent photographs to those from 2013, which took him on a fieldwork and experience of the place, revisiting the locations photographed between Alturas do Barroso and Cabeceiras de Basto. These images, involving human intervention but also a sort of ghostliness, reveal the suspension of time in the country’s rural hinterland, where gates, portholes and barricades act as seismographs for an economy/ecology of survival, so typical of these places[6]. Finally, we should mention the stand-alone work Lá de fora, muito cá de dentro, 2023, a soundscape by Samuel Silva and Fernando José Pereira that, as a post-exhibition event, sets out to revive the visiting experience through listening.

The exhibition Portelos, Cancelas e Biqueiros by Samuel Silva is on show at CAAC – Centro de Arte Alberto Carneiro until October 15.



[1] The exhibition opened on July 7th and will be on display at the CAAC until October 15.

[2] A strategic site that has been occupied for thousands of years – from the first chester settlements, followed by Roman constructions, all the way until today – Monte Padrão is considered a major cultural and archaeological landmark in the municipality of Santo Tirso and northern Portugal.

[3] CARNEIRO, Alberto – Notas para um manifesto de uma arte ecológica. First published by Revista de Artes Plásticas, Porto, n. 7, October 1973, p. 6.

[4] Quote from the artist’s statement during the interview on the exhibition Portelos, Cancelas e Biqueiros. Available in:

[5] Exhibition text.

[6] Idem.

Mafalda Teixeira, Master’s Degree in History of Art, Heritage and Visual Culture from the Faculty of Letters of the University of Porto. She has an internship and worked in the Temporary Exhibitions department of the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona. During the master’s degree, she did a curricular internship in production at the Municipal Gallery of Oporto. Currently, she is devoted to research in the History of Modern and Contemporary Art, and publishes scientific articles.

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