Cycloptic: Paulo Lisboa at MAAT

Light is the key material in Paulo Lisboa’s artistic expression. With a body of work that goes beyond the traditional boundaries of drawing, light is the medium that sets the work in motion and takes it to a concealed, cosmic dimension. The exhibition Cycloptic, on show at MAAT until February 12, 2024, takes us on a sensory journey where light not only shines, but also creates new meanings for drawing.

The surroundings are dark, with occasional spots of light enveloping the four works in the first room. There are three drawings in charcoal on circular aluminium sheets. We see gradients of different tones, ranging from grey to black, always in a circular pattern. The light shining on the drawing makes it hypnotic, tricking our perception whether we are standing still or moving. When we approach the drawings, the charcoal’s texture is visible and the grains are revealed, bringing to mind 19th century Pointillism [1], but, in this case, abstract and monochrome.

As the exhibition text indicates, Paulo Lisboa’s working process uses different types of sandpaper and various ways of sieving the charcoal. Once the transformation is complete, the charcoal powder is spread over the aluminium surface on a rotating table that keeps moving while the drawing is being made.

The rectangular shape of a black flannel cloth also stands out from the rest of the pieces in this first room. This cloth inhabited the artist’s studio for three years of production, blocking the sunlight from entering his space. It resulted in an object with colour gradients, but drawn here by the sunlight.

The exhibition’s chromatic balance extends into the second room, occupied by an installation of three suspended drawings and three light projectors. Like the works described above, the drawing construction process is the same, but in this case it is carried out on glass, which is also circular in shape. The possibility provided by the glass is due to its transparency, allowing the light from the projectors to pass through the drawing. The three pieces were hung from steel cables at eye level and aligned in the centre of the room, and the projectors are on the wall behind each one. This arrangement between the drawing and the projector light generates the reflection of each work on the opposite wall. As the light touches the glass, it casts the drawing’s different opacities and transparencies.

Notwithstanding the compositions’ abstract nature, perception of what we see takes us into the imagination realms. The drawings take us to archetypal images of the celestial bodies forming part of the universe. The circular shapes are reminiscent of planetary orbits or rings. The light on the drawing, the reflections and the shadows that occur all point to a cosmic alignment between the Moon and the Sun.

The exhibition Cycloptic, curated by Sérgio Mah, is a sensory experience based on combining drawing and light. Paulo Lisboa‘s work, founded on light as a transforming agent, invites viewers to explore the frontiers of perception, encouraging them to think about how images are produced.


[1] An artistic movement stemming from Impressionism, in which artists used tiny coloured dots that, through their juxtaposition, generated optical mixtures in the viewer’s eyes.

Laurinda Marques (Portimão, 1996) has a degree in Multimedia Art - Audiovisuals from the Faculty of Fine Arts of Universidade de Lisboa. She did an internship in the Lisbon Municipal Archive Video Library, where she collaborated with the project TRAÇA in the digitization of family videos in film format. She recently finished her postgraduate degree in Art Curatorship at NOVA/FCSH, where she was part of the collective of curators responsible for the exhibition “Na margem da paisagem vem o mundo” and began collaborating with the Umbigo magazine.

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