Vaivém by Francisca Pinto at OSTRA

In his musings on painting, Daniel Arasse appealed[1] to us to direct our attention to the specific elements that make up a work of art, without over-interpreting it. His approach encouraged art lovers and historians to revise[2] the way they saw a work of art, or the way they understood the reception of art[3].

But Arasse was not implying that artworks when studied should not be equipped with all the scientific tools usually used by historians[4]. Quite the opposite. Arasse’s point was to draw attention to what the work actually offered, right at the moment of appreciating it, in the sensory realm[5]. In other words, to find a point of “balance between vision and reflection”[6].

Arasse felt it was important to focus on previous “sensual impressions”[7] when first coming into contact with the work, but without ignoring “the cultural, historical and ideological contexts in which the works were produced”[8].

In Daniel Arasse’s Histoires de peintures: Le rien est l’objet du désir, consisting of audio recordings of his extensive thoughts on painting, he often mentioned how a work touched him, intrigued him, with its unusual details or unexpected colours. He referred to Matisse, especially his drawings in blue tones, for having the gift, in his opinion, of causing wonder. In short, he could not exclude the work’s ability to elicit and awaken sensory stimuli, and the extent to which these helped to bring new knowledge and understanding of the work, as well as an approach to solving its enigmas. To be aware of its details and subtle changes. The ability to stop being struck by surprise, deviation and oddity.

Francisca Pinto’s polysemic works, featured in the Vaivém exhibition at OSTRA, seem to subject us to this opportunity. It provides us with a unique chance to establish dialogues with the work, to ask ourselves questions and, simultaneously, to guiltlessly pour out our astonishment, our inability to immediately frame the work, to label it. Francisca Pinto’s drawings/paintings force us to see, once again in Arasse’s definition. We are not to immediately hurl a barrage of categorisations and categorical statements at the artist’s work.

This preconceived idea that any work is familiar to us from the outset, or that we can already classify it, may distract us, and it can also let us miss important details[9].

We need to stop and slow down at Francisca Pinto’s works. We must halt to see, to observe as we should, to scrutinise every element, every detail. In her work we find plenty of details that need to be carefully considered. We obtain diluted faces, human profiles looking at each other. Many of them are achieved through watery gestures, a diaphanous and constant flow, unleashed by the artist. Do we see love triangles? Do we hear conversations, crowds? We find sunny, seemingly paradisiacal places that, at any moment, seem to fall apart and give way to intricate, dark plots.

The artist leaves loose ends. She slightly lifts the veil on her stories, but never tells us the whole story. She glosses over some parts. Leaving us at the mercy of a slight semantic ambiguity, helped by a sharp wandering between the figurative and the abstract.

Francisca Pinto stirs the appetite. She adds features to the work, such as the enigma, the fictional, which ultimately makes itself available, as opera aperta, to the viewer for interpretation.

She also distracts the viewer with colourful flamboyance and forbidden eroticism, pushing them further and further away from their rational, classifying interpretation.

Faces and ceramic fragments are arranged on boxes positioned on the ground. These reveal other interactions. Whispered conversations, secrets yet to be disclosed. The artist’s simple, gentle gesture is kept on the material’s white surface, with soft, sinuous blue stains. Large and small faces appear. Deep-set eyes, hidden behind whispers in the ear. There are intimate faces, while others are watching them, perhaps without consent. Between these glances, there are also hands, an intense blue reminiscent of Portuguese baroque tiles, and the solemn gestures of noblemen and noblewomen.

Francisca Pinto’s Vaivém, curated by Mariana Lemos, is supported by FLAD as part of the Flechada programme and is at OSTRA until June 16.


[1] Crespo, N. (2015). Daniel Arasse, não se vê nada. Descrições. Revista de História da Arte, n.º 12, pp. 290-293. Available at <>
[2] Ibidem.
[3] Ibidem.
[4] “The heterodox and canonical analysis and observation protocols,” mentioned by Nuno Crespo, particularly those that art history scientifically resorts to when analysing a work of art.
[5] Ibidem.
[6] Ibidem.
[7] As Nuno Crespo explains in his article.
[8] Ibidem.
[9] Lambert, M. F. (2022). Compreender A Investigação em Artes (Pintura): Conversation Pieces – Variantes de Breve (In) Visibilidade – Parte II, A Pintura é Uma Lição, sciencia potentia est. António Quadros Ferreira (Coord.). Edição i2ADS. Edições Afrontamento, p. 372.

Carla Carbone was born in Lisbon, 1971. She studied Drawing in and Design of Equipment at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Lisbon. Completed his Masters in Visual Arts Teaching. She writes about Design since 1999, first in the newspaper O Independente, then in editions like Anuário de Design, arq.a magazine, DIF, Parq. She also participates in editions such as FRAME, Diário Digital, Wrongwrong, and in the collection of Portuguese designers, edited by the newspaper Público. She collaborated with illustrations for Fanzine Flanzine and Gerador magazine. (photo: Eurico Lino Vale)

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