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Menstruum by Ana Manso at Pedro Cera Gallery

Colour, a formidable tool for artistic expression, able to create aesthetic, communicative and sensory experiences, is matter in Ana Manso’s exhibition.

The artist, known for her rhythmic and moving creations through colour, makes no exception in this, which is her fifth exhibition at Pedro Cera Gallery. By manipulating and coordinating colours, the artist offers us a sense of immersion. She leads us through intuitive gestures, which sometimes light up and become more obvious and clear, and other times are hidden by a sort of haze resulting from the coloured veils. Layers upon layers upon layers gradually build up shapes, transparencies and depths. The result extends beyond what is used on the surface – this is a set of vibrant, partially diluted compositions built from the artist’s mishmash of colours and lines, creating fine details and shapes that echo like energetic waves.

Colour is nothing new. We all know that Ana Manso is colour. Colour and layers. The novelty comes from the techniques that appear more or less visibly in this exhibition’s pieces. Bringing in tie-dye, stencils, stamps, space manipulation: all this leads to and sets the tone for a visual and sensory experience faced with the nine works, sometimes horizontal like friso ou a mão invisível (2024), sometimes vertical like menstruum (2024), in diptych (cariátide, 2023-2024) or mural (êxtase, 2024).

Influenced perhaps by Ana Manso’s words, who considers painting to be like a magical stone[1], I see the works with a ritualistic, even mystical quality. Some belief systems claim that all objects radiate a unique energetic vibration. The visual trepidation resulting from Manso’s way of manipulating colour and working with layers taints the paintings and leads me to perceive them as a kind of crystal – a magic stone – able to absorb and even, perhaps, considering the renewal and regeneration process Ana Manso seeks through her artistic practice, cleanse and convert energy. In this exhibition, I would propose that we see Manso as a kind of healer, a possible bridge between different dimensional planes, expert at capturing the frequency of things, slowing down time, crystallising and fossilising energy in her paintings. We experience almost a blur resulting from the vibration, a moment in a different dimension in which everything is throbbing, everything is moving. This is what drives it, with impetuous and unscripted gestures, at the behest of the magic-painting-stone, making visible the dynamism, kinesics and energy of deserto (2023), of veios veias (2024) or of ouro vermelho (2023).

Sometimes amazed by the outcome, Manso gradually develops a merging of lines and shapes born of movement, of annihilating supreme immobility. As if external forces were turning points into rippling, vibrant lines, the fruit of different external forces and combinations[2]. The maximisation of an apparent energy flow is what makes these works organic. It perpetuates the impression of the fluid gestures repeated by the artist, lending them a spiritual, enigmatic character in which her feminine sensibility is embodied. This aura is felt through complex but soft flickering compositions, through veils moving back and forth. Manso designs living works, bursting with movements that circulate endlessly, regardless of who is looking. These are works that are not confined, they are intangible.

Whilst sometimes it seems pointless to dwell on the exhibition’s title, it seems to me that Menstruum, due to its ambiguity, is significant in this case. This is a term uncommonly used in day-to-day language, applied mainly in specific contexts, such as alchemy and chemistry, and can refer to a solvent or liquid medium used to extract compounds from a substance, or to “month”, historically associated with cyclical processes, with what occurs monthly, such as women’s menstrual cycle.

I have already mentioned that something resonates with feminine sensibility, but now let’s consider the cyclical. If we assume that something occurs in repetitive or periodic cycles, following a regular pattern of repetition, we cannot help but think of Ana Manso in her studio, repeating gestures, opening rituals. Out of her need to constantly explore the surface, as the artist herself says[3], paintings are born that, ultimately, are not what they started out to be. Addition and subtraction cycles culminate in camouflaged planes, allowing us only to guess the moment Ana Manso was in each moment, in each stage, giving way to one and then another, until an external force tells to stop.

The exhibition is the outcome of Ana Manso’s willingness to explore the body of the painting, to push through the surface and delve deeper, to suggest subsequent textures and densities through her de-serialised relationship with pigments, brushes, the will and the wind.

Menstruum by Ana Manso can be seen at Pedro Cera Gallery until April 27, 2024.

 

[1] Quote from the exhibition’s room text, written by J.M.
[2] Kandisky, Wassily. (2019). Ponto, Linha, Plano. Arte & Comunicação, Edições 70, p. 61.
[3] Artist’s video about the exhibition on the website https://pedrocera.com/exhibitions/menstruum.

Maria Inês Augusto, 33, has a degree in Art History. She worked at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MNAC) as a trainee in the Educational Services department and for 9 years at the Palácio do Correio Velho as an appraiser and cataloguer of works of art and collecting. She took part in the Postgraduate Programme in Art Markets at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities of Universidade Nova de Lisboa as a guest lecturer and is currently working on a project to curate exhibitions of emerging artists. She has been producing different types of texts, from catalogues and exhibition texts to room sheets. She also collaborated with BoCA - Biennial of Contemporary Arts 2023.

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