Uma cerveja no inferno at Galeria Graça Brandão

To be human is to be born aware of one’s end. Faced with this certitude, we can nevertheless find solace from death in passion: through love we are eternal[1]. In this spiralling encounter with the other, the deepest corners of our being surface. For to be human is to love and long for, but it is also to delve into the pain bursting from our vulnerability.

The group exhibition Uma cerveja no inferno is based on this reflection on life and death, pleasure and pain, the body and sexuality, bringing it into contact with Arthur Rimbaud’s poem Une saison en enfer, lending the exhibition its title. On show until March 14, 2024 at Galeria Graça Brandão, the exhibition features works by Carla Castiajo, Dylan Silva, Inês Coelho, João Paulo Balsini, Pedro Moreira, Raul Macedo and Susana Chiocca.

The first look at the exhibition is from above, through an opening that gives a glimpse of the gallery’s lower floor. This layer below the feet is where the earth’s core is located, the underworld, hell. Alternatively, an infinite root that provides access to the body, to our deepest or most unconscious desires.

As we descend the stairs to this netherworld, the body starts to loom large in Dylan Silva’s watercolours, with hybrid forms that constantly refer to the human figure, elongating or fragmenting. Dylan’s paintings present two moments. Firstly, blacks and blues spread across the paper, merging bodies, as in to come to an end (2023) or Pretending to be someone, (2023). Secondly, marked by oil painting, where black vanishes and gives way to pastel colours. When bodies come together, boundaries melt away, as in Conjointly (2022), where the alliance of forms verges on abstraction.

Provocation enters into dialogue with sexuality in Inês Coelho’s series of ceramic sculptures Hang in There (2023), all of which depict phalluses. Like hangers, each of the three sculptures holds a bag stuffed with two tomatoes. The fresh, red tomatoes will rot over time, and one can expect them to be shapeless and mouldy when the exhibition ends. The second version of this work sees the number of phalluses increase to ten, and the objects resting on them become crosses, toilet rolls, gloves and cloths thrown over the sculpture. The phallus-hanger is an object with a purpose, subverting and provoking, reminiscent of how art history is strewn with artists who have infinitely dealt with the female body, and how refreshing it is to presently witness the inversion of this narrative.

After Inês Coelho’s works, we find Carla Castiajo’s Obscene Corner (2012-2023) in the top corner of the gallery, starting the journey through her pieces, where human hair and fur emerge as the main material. Obscene Corner is repulsive but intriguing. The artist creates a series of small brown hair bundles that resemble the shape of insects. The clumps, together and overlapping, fill this gallery corner like a chunky, shapeless and unsettling blob. Pubic hair comes up later, in the composition Flourish I or in BodilyNature/TheGreat Orifice (2014-2015). By using human hair and fur, the artist harnesses attraction and repulsion, using the sensuality of these materials to intensify contradictory reactions in the viewer. Without ever overlooking the fact that, rising from within, hair is an extension of thoughts, fantasies and obscure desires.

João Paulo Balsini then takes part with two oil paintings laid face-to-face, where emotions and intimacy are the subject matter. The painting is typified by dense lines and aggressive gestures. The first work Sem título (2023) is a small portrait, dominated by black, red and some earthy tones. The face is an imprint of reality, with undefined, swift and unfinished strokes. In o livro (2023), the painting sharpens its clarity by depicting a domestic scene: a couple sharing the same bed, one sleeping, the other reading a book. Whilst it suggests an image that would ordinarily be one of comfort, the painting is cold and bears a hint of estrangement, pain and mystery.

Pedro Moreira’s work touches on the relationship between the self and the world through mysticism. In Tlön’s Scopophobia (2023), a ceramic mask is embellished with multiple eyes covering its entire surface, reminiscent of the image of a deity who watches and controls everything. The fantasy extends to his second piece Macrobioma III (2022): a small ceramic sculpture, a bizarre monster opening a feral mouth beaming with light. Masks hide their bearers, standing between the self and the world, and fantastic beings populate this same realm, between reality and fantasy, the visible and the hidden.

The exhibition’s final moment is dominated by Raul Macedo and Susana Chiocca’s videos, displayed on two televisions on the floor, syncing the first look at the show with the last.

In Raul Macedo’s Being Fond (2023), the bodies under the bed perform a choreography. The image is cinematic, the camera points at the scene from a bird’s-eye perspective, as we watch it from above. The scene opens with two people lying on a bed who gradually start to notice and engage with each other. The narrative unfolds as other people gradually enter the scene. The bed turns into a meeting place for different people, who touch, go round and kiss each other. As they appear, they also gradually leave the scene, and the narrative stops with the first two individuals. The viewer turns into a voyeur, witnessing intimate moments from a privileged position. It deals with the rapture of passion and the melancholy that stems from the transitory nature of human relationships.

Susana Chiocca’s piece rounds off the exhibition like a rumbling volcano. Saturation, superimposition, words and frenzied rhythms, BITCHO búzios (2024) is all these things. A red-lipped mouth is chewing and vomiting while a voice announces: “the arms grabbed lands, the screams cried foam, the foam fucked the hill, the bugs shat wombs, the houses flourished stars, the eyes sang whelks, the walls said mouths, the mouths climbed houses, the houses pierced children, the wombs devoured moons”. The image’s saturation and its many layers generate a sense of chaos and disorder. The atmosphere is visceral and intense, reminiscent of power dynamics, contamination, violence and sexuality. A proper hell.

Uma Cerveja no Inferno is a thought-provoking and insightful reflection on the essential elements of the human experience: love, desire, pain, pleasure, life and death. It delves into the depths of our condition, staring humanity in the face with everything it has to offer, from attraction to disgust, from the ephemeral to the eternal. For “to imagine hell is to be hell”[2], Arthur Rimbaud once wrote.

Until 14 March, at Galeria Graça Brandão.


[1] Montero, Rosa. (2017). A Louca da Casa. Porto Editora, p. 10.
[2] Rimbaud, Arthur, and Mário Cesariny. (1989). Iluminações: Uma Uma Cerveja No Inferno. Estúdios Cor, p. 118.

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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