When water is the ultimate metaphor: Carlos Nogueira at Palácio dos Anjos
Attempting to write something new – of any significance – about Carlos Nogueira’s work reveals what is most frightening about the concept of “challenging”, considering that so many extremely skilled people have already undertaken it. Not just about the work, but about the themes – not to mention the interviews.
In fact, we are dealing with one of the most prominent artists of his generation, for whom the definition of “visual artist” is narrow – “aesthetic operator” fits him better –, because not everything that is expressed in space is sculpture, and not everything that is two-dimensional can be framed within the drawing and painting disciplines. At times this is a venture into other slightly broader and less straightforward fields; or an “architectural and landscape project and edified design” , using a terminology that is not mine, but is more appropriate.
In saying that this is an uphill struggle – that of writing –, I am not at all saying that everything has already been said, least of all by Carlos Nogueira. My point is to clarify that, as far as the artist is concerned, everything is not – and never will be – done, as neither the green, nor the sea, nor the sky – let alone the night sky – are ever exhausted. I believe this exhibition is also about that.
If we look at this exhibition as a whole, we notice that some of the pieces here are more than 40 years apart – from 1980 to 2023 – and some have been resurrected. As if the artist, who always said that spaces called him to intervene, restoring forces and energies that they already possessed – labelling them with an “L” for Lugar (place), like the charcoal piece in one of the rooms – was now analysing all his work as a single entity, a continuity, the house he has been building. And that house is a world. Despite not belonging to him, it does belong to the viewer, as everyone sees the world from their own doorstep . Carlos Nogueira builds this structure.
As the drawing reveals, water flows and traces a bed, adding to its reflective and translucent properties – as well as all the significance it has acquired over time in the artist’s imagination -, making it the exhibition’s perfect metaphor – were it not for the poetry of the titles, which is also essential to understanding his work.
A special mention goes to the piece Da Natureza das Coisas Tudo Acaba, where more than 140 objects (materials, studies, traces, fragments) are assembled on steel shelves that reminded me of Sol Lewitt’s Autobiography, where he photographs all his possessions.
I went over to the shelf and snapped a picture of two glasses with my phone. In the silence of the room, I heard a voice asking if I was interested in knowing what they belonged to. By chance, I met Carlos Nogueira only to find out that those two objects were studies for a stained glass window he had drawn for a chapel in Bern.
After a chat and a few lessons – the habit of a lifelong professor –, he gave me some of his exhibition catalogues that he had at home because like work, he needs it less and less.
The exhibition água. e a casa é o mundo, curated by Catarina Rosendo, is on show at Palácio dos Anjos, in Algés, Oeiras, until December 29.
 SARDO, Delfim. (2011). “Três proposições sobre o trabalho de Carlos Nogueira”. In: A visão em apneia. Lisbon: Atena.
 GRAU, Carolina. (2022). mais desenhos de casas. para ti. Exhibition text at Galeria 3+1 Arte Contemporânea, Lisbon.