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Is it a light at the end of the tunnel, or is it an oncoming train? — Midlife Crisis at Francisco Correia’s Cosmos

The relationship we have with the end is apparently tied to the relationship we have with infinity. Among the dualisms fuelled by modernism, sipping from the cup of Christian axioms, this threshold between the ephemeral and the eternal is perhaps one of the deepest anxieties of the human condition nowadays. Francisco Correia’s rendering of the cosmos in Midlife Crisis serves as a foretaste of this quasi-melancholic bond between a past that ceases to be up-to-date and an aseptic future peppered with bits of fantasy.

Francisco Correia’s first solo exhibition, opened on February 22 at Galeria NAVE, presents six pictorial works and one sculpture in which the Universe is the common signifier. The artist brings us this imagination to reflect on midlife crisis, i.e. the internal conflict between space, time and body (or matter).

As Francisco Correia argues in the exhibition’s introductory text, midlife crisis “is a phenomenon occurring between the ages of 40 and 60. A period of hindsight analysis in which one is overwhelmed by nostalgia, a yearning for rejuvenation and a widespread dissatisfaction with the present, perceived as serious, boring or cheap”. Now, why is a twenty-seven-year-old artist telling us about a crisis that apparently still lies ahead of him by at least thirteen years? Indeed, we may consider the possibility that, in this day and age, such a crisis predates midlife: the threat of achieving a future, as promised by a still looming past – youth – halts any efforts at emancipation in the present. As a result, the lives of younger generations can be dominated by a series of “any age” crises from which the only way out seems to be through the artist’s comic-poetic lightness.

Cosmos is depicted through a futuristic imagination – mostly male, just like the mid-life crisis – where planets emerge under black backgrounds with such vibrant colours that they appear to exude light. The planets erupt on each canvas from different distances and emerge – over the penetrating, matte black of the acrylic paint that permeates the supports – through collage. Between painting and collage; colour and darkness; marker, graphite and acrylic paint. The duality of these material and pictorial choices apparently serves as a prelude to the conflicting nature of both the Universe and the Midlife Crisis. Cosmos and its surrounding imagination represent a series of binomials that bring about the same feeling of crisis, induced by “middle age”, or nowadays by “any age”: a petrifying commotion between a possibility and its immediate opposite. In fact, Francisco Correia’s exhibition, through this cosmic mise-en-scéne, produces more dichotomies than utopias. The symbolism of the Cosmos incites an imaginary populated by duality: between science and fantasy; the beginning and the end; reality and fiction; life and dream. This is primarily explained by the fact that the universe represents the “space” where any and all conventions become meaningless. Apart from this detachment from the principles defining reality today, there is a correlation between space and time when representing the universe. Actually, the distinction between space and place lies in how the latter is understood, constructed or organised by individuals, while the former is not. This is perhaps why we refer to the Cosmos as “Space”, as we do not understand it, nor have we built or organised it. Likewise, the unit of time measurement as we know it is swept away by an overwhelming ambiguity.

There is a degree of spatial and temporal uncertainty that falls upon a fatalistic conception when representing the Cosmos, something that Francisco Correia imparts through his canvases. Notwithstanding the implied fatalism, the artist does not accept this condition and, resorting to elements from the medieval (the dragon) and futuristic (the sports car) realms, he gives us the promise of fantasy and dreams – in other words, the ability to renew oneself. The same way that the future element – the sports car, a hallmark of a midlife crisis – triggers a principle of contingency, so too does the medieval element (the dragon) fulfil this premise. In the alchemist worldview, the dragon is a symbol of transformation. Intentionally or not, the artist offers us these references to past and future that emphasise the extent of optimism (even if veiled by capitalism, as in the case of the sports car): the power and scope of human action and will.

These may be rather unreasonable remarks, or perhaps I am puzzled by the fact that, since December 31 last year, I have been surviving through Sallim’s new record a dor o diagnóstico e o desejo, in which she sings: “fatalism is the evil of those who have everything to lose, the good of those who believe they are powerless, uh uh-uh-uh-uh”. To match the singer, Francisco Correia concludes the exhibition at Galeria NAVE with a sculptural piece. It depicts an interactive planetary system without any central star dictating the orbits drawn by the artist. However, we are the star: the planets move through the orbits devised by Francisco Correia only when the audience steps in. The end thus becomes infinite.

Midlife Crisis by Francisco Correia is on show at Galeria NAVE until April 5, 2024.

 

[1] Lowell, Robert. (1977). Since 1939.

Benedita Salema Roby (b. 1997). Researcher and writer. PhD candidate in Art Studies: Art and Mediations at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities of the NOVA University of Lisbon. She has a Masters in Aesthetics and Artistic Studies and a degree in Art History from the same institution. She is currently carrying out a research into the correlation between graffiti (transgressive creative writing) and the construction of the counter-public and proletarian sphere in the city of Lisbon. She has collaborated on independent projects with photographers and writers, such as the recent photo-book by the artist Ana Moraes aka. Unemployed Artist, Lisboa e Reação: Pixação não É Tag.

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