The Bedroom Series, Martîm

What does Art and Art History reveal about Love? Now without capital letters, lest this question be considered somewhat pretentious: what does art and art history reveal about love? A love with no filters, without any moralising, intellectualising or blemished looks. Where can we find an art history written under the banner of love? Straight, homo, trans, narcissistic, pornographic, sadistic love. Where is this art, this history? With no theory, no context. Where is this visual, plastic, sensual history, where love is an enigma, an attraction, a confusing sentiment of fear, passion, affection, and the artist is the lightning rod and mediator of sensations and feelings between beings, registering the bodies’ unnoticeable vibrations, the deepest and most epidermal physical and chemical bursts, the aesthesia and anaesthesia of post-coital love?

Martîm’s The Bedroom Series brings us to these questions. The artist’s perspective is a passionate, infatuated look, the eyes of a lover recording his and Diego’s intimacy in their bedroom. The bedroom is where love is understood, where love is built, where the silences, disagreements and petty turf wars of a relationship occur. A place of reunion with one another’s histories, of reconciling past, collective histories, which find a sublimation there that transcends all the times and places they have travelled through or have touched. The paintings are euphoric, but also insightful. The vivid colours depict quiet, languorous moments and gestures. Martîm captures the moment. Diego is the moment in dialogue, a dialogue that is sometimes ridiculous, as the poet once wrote, sometimes critical, incisive, cutting, recalling the historical relationship between artists and their muses.

The Bedroom Series revives in this context a great deal of the queer theory of art and art history, the revisiting of the historical narrative, the construction and deconstruction of language and the way of looking: the one that is seen (the model), the one that captures (the artist), the one that sees (the observer), the one of the exegete, writer and historian.

If Equal Dignity (2020) states that we are facing the celebration of equality and difference, the conquest of a decades-long struggle, Pão de Açúcar (2023) establishes this history in a transatlantic geography. Love is a political gesture and sometimes echoes a turbulent past, of colonisers and colonised, both strong and weak. Several representations of sugar loaf shapes adorn the exhibition, as they were used during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Sugar Route on the island of Madeira, where Martîm was born, and bridge the gap with Rio’s geological icon, the Sugarloaf mountain, which bears Diego’s imprint on his homeland. The phallic and erotic symbolism is followed by an emotional postcard.

The bodies are posing for the viewer. The gestures are at times restrained and at times unashamed. Martîm and Diego are photography and painting, honesty and theatrics, candour and performance. This is an artist couple: not only do their identities shape each other daily, but the very concept of art and its practice is built on this relationship, in a fruitful and intense dialogue that does not end in a passive look. Eros walks alongside Apollo. Eroticism is part of Apollonian reflection.

This is the portrait of a couple and of a time that transcends all genres, in which feelings are blended in a vibrant, nervous, muddled, intense atmosphere, before all social conventions or, even, indifferent to these labels. We wander around uncertain as to whether we want to see these works. Voyeurism, which is both primal and complex, was previously estimated by Martîm and Diego, and the tension of an intimate moment peeked at and layered with our own fantasies seems undeniable to us on a second reading. Yet the celebration of love, without binarities, complexity or modesty, is still imposing, here perpetuated on paper for everyone’s communion.

The Bedroom Series by Martîm, and curated by Mariana Baião Santos, is on show at the Plato gallery in Évora until February 9.

José Rui Pardal Pina (n. 1988) has a master's degree in architecture from I.S.T. in 2012. In 2016 he joined the Postgraduate Course in Art Curation at FCSH-UNL and began to collaborate in the Umbigo magazine. Curator of Dialogues (2018-), an editorial project that draws a bridge between artists and museums or scientific and cultural institutions with no connection to contemporary art.

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