The exhibition '3 Máquinas' (3 Machines) presents a group of works created in Germany and Portugal between 2019 and 2021. Based on a notion of the ‘Machine’, in both its literal and symbolic meanings, it shows a body of work that includes drawing, painting and sculpture. It simultaneously proposes the reconstruction of a mechanism designed in the 14th century, the interpretation of a series of renaissance icons and the condition of the ‘painting’ as a system and device.

These drawings and sculptures portray machines, grouped together under the name ‘Nuvola’, invented in the 14th century, for which graphic documentation, representative of their existence and specificity, is proven to be scarce today.1This mechanical portable platform, used in religious ceremonies and processions, aimed to suggest ascension to the heavens, when used in processions, or to portray a Deus Ex-Machina-style performative resolution, in the case of the model used in theatre. These devices are also of interest for their hypothetical nature, for their ‘cloud-like’ morphology and their semiotic impact.

The suggested interpretations of renaissance works, Pinturas Más(Bad Paintings) 79, 82, 83, 84, 86 and 87, which also represent ascetic scenes or situations, are intended as a kind of stocktaking. These icons, then, do not just serve their aesthetic function, but also represent the documentation itself. Consideration of the references used – works by Andrea Mantegna and Lucas Cranach – is linked to their sculptural and scenographic nature, which indicates and assumes an exchange of the signifier for the signified – the representation of an object that would function in a certain way comes to symbolically display a specific situation.

Finally, the remaining canvases, Pinturas Más75, 76, 80, 81 and 85, notable for their larger size and place of creation, determine a context. The series of paintings created in Leipzig and Berlin emerge from the requirement to think about questions of space, context and form. The selection and transfer, later erased, of a photograph taken with a mobile phone of the Berliner Fernsehturm (or Alex Tower), in Berlin, counters the mystical position taken in the drawings, sculptures and interpretations of renaissance works, as well as suggesting a virtual relationship between the place of exhibition and place of origin. The visible, reddish imprimatura2– traditionally used in figuration – as well as the systematic composition, which gives a sense of repetition, emphasise the diagrammatic rhetoric of its construction – where decisions are scrutinised and eventualities defined.

1 The mechanism is first mentioned in a text by Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574), its invention being credited to Il Cecca (1446-1488), in ‘Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architettori’. A small drawing showing details of the workings of the device is shown in the graphic diary of Buonaccorso Ghiberti (1451-1516), ‘Zibaldone’, held by the Bibilioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze. The mechanism was later developed in the work of Pierre Francastel (1900-1970), ‘La réalité figurative: éléments structurels de sociologie de l'art’, and Hubert Damisch (1918), ‘Theory of Cloud’.

2 In the context of painting, imprimatura generally refers to an initial layer of colour, usually applied in a very liquid consistency, with the intention of aiding the construction of the image.

João Miguel Ramos

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