One Second Plan: Teresa Murta at Bruno Múrias Gallery

The experience of looking up at the sky, regardless of where one happens to be in the world – directly or through an image – is always understood as something beyond its phenomenological nature. This is not about a transcendent, divine or metaphysical realm, ever so prevalent in our culture. I speak of a second plane, not theological, but rather close to a force stemming from childhood experiences, as Goethe said[1]. The sky – and images of the sky – is a poetic metaphor for its shifting contours, ever-changing colours and patterns. This potential is not wasted in the images and, perhaps for this reason, it is such a recurring theme in the history of painting.

Teresa Murta is not painting skies or clouds – at least not literally – but the “ineffable reading”[2] is a trait she shares with these topics. And she too is not lost in her work’s images.

With the greatest of embarrassment – and I do this all too often in this place – I must admit that, although I have been an avid follower, with much admiration, of Teresa Murta’s work since she moved from the Portuguese capital to Germany, I had never seen one of her paintings. Any contact I had with her was based on photographic replicas. I was afraid of this first encounter. Not that I lacked full confidence in the artist’s work, but I realised that the – very topical – way in which I related to her painting was inexorably coming to an end. It is like watching a film alone in one’s home, controlling the time, pausing, moving forward, re-watching, and turning that work into a personal experience. Experiencing a film in a cinema, like an exhibition room, is something entirely different.

I believe it is universally accepted that photographic reproductions of artworks – which ought to strive for a certain degree of accuracy towards the object they represent – are not only a promotional tool these days, but also a way, and sometimes the only one, of relating to a particular work. Within a world where the ceaseless and hurried consumption of images is normalised and encouraged, cultural players – and everyone else – try to “stop” the “potential viewer” from their never-ending scrolling, and grab their attention. How? Often by setting accuracy aside, editing colours, cropping out imperfections, and focusing on a spectacularisation that, in the art field, often puts the spotlight on spaces – which, having a key importance here, are often rigged to look more pleasing – and sometimes on the photographer’s creativity and talent. But that is a whole other issue, and anyone who wants to see it worked out creatively must come across Robert Cummings’ work, which thrives precisely on photographic replicas. The question at stake here is that a Teresa Murta painting has the astonishing quality of not needing any device to stay a painting, even if mediated by a photograph, and that first contact is not a substitute, as it differs, but an aid; it makes the painting a little more our own.

During the time I spent in the exhibition room of the Bruno Múrias Gallery, four people entered and left. Whilst I allowed myself to be fascinated for the first time by these brushstrokes already so familiar to me – but now on a level that only a monumental canvas can provide -, I overheard a visitor, keenly aware of developments in the Portuguese art community, commenting on the unique opportunity to see this new body of work; a foreign citizen, who, whilst passing by, looking out of the window, was drawn to enter the gallery to take a closer look; and a group of two visitors, more inexperienced than the first, commented that they had seen reproductions of the paintings and were driven by curiosity. What do they all have in common? For all sorts of reasons, all these people stopped and decided to look, to see, to spend time, to be gripped, to let themselves be caught, to pay attention. In two of the cases, reproduction brought them to this point, and this is even more of a testament to the quality of the artist’s work managing – true to itself – to stand out from the millions of images uploaded each day. And they were not just an assembly of connoisseurs.

Like the sky, Teresa Murta’s paintings are endless in their possibilities, tapping into something primal and innate, childlike. They are an ambiguous and perverse exercise in denial without ever stopping asserting themselves. I borrow an expression opposite to that of a religious nature to keep in line with what I said at the beginning: when your eyes are lured by an unrecognisable familiarity – in a desperate attempt to decipher it – allow yourself to be lead into temptation.

The exhibition One Second Plan is on show at the Bruno Murias Gallery in Lisbon until March 16, 2024.


[1] António Guerreiro used this same wording from Goethe in the exhibition catalogue of écran cego. e projeção de céu by Carlos Nogueira.
[2] Quote taken from the exhibition text, written by Eva Mendes.

Tiago Leonardo (Lisbon, 2000) graduated in Art and Heritage Sciences (FBAUL) and attended the Cultural Journalism course (SNBA). He is currently finishing his master's degree in Aesthetics and Artistic Studies, specializing in cinema and photography (NOVA/FSSH) where he focuses his research on post-photography within the Portuguese artistic context. In his work as a writer, he collaborates with several publications; such as the CineBlog of the Philosophy Institute of the UNL, FITA Magazine, among others.

Signup for our newsletter!

I accept the Privacy Policy

Subscribe Umbigo

4 issues > €34

(free shipping to Portugal)