"I. Houses in Flight: a Prologue
It must have been in 1291: according to the legend, the humble house of the Virgin, located in the city of Nazareth, was, in that year, elevated into the sky and transported in the air to a place far from Palestine. The extraordinary event, which was executed by angels, translated a miraculous plan to save the Blessed House from the approach of the Muslim armies. Still in keeping with the same accounts, the house is said to have landed in Tersatz, on the Adriatic Coast, being then newly elevated and transported to the Italian city of Loreto, where it arrived in 1294, three years after it had left the Middle East.
The Carmelite Order, whose origins go back to Palestine, where the order had been guardian to the house of the Virgin when it was still located in the city of Nazareth, acquired, in 1489, the highly vindicated status of guardian of the same house, now in Loreto. It was the Barefoot Carmelites, of the Holy Mary of Nazareth Church in Venice, who, on September 13 of 1743, contracted Giambattista Tiepolo to paint this founding miracle on the ceiling of the nave. There, Tiepolo executed one of his most monumental frescos: through an opening along the entire length of the ceiling, surrounded by a banister, the church opens itself to the sky. We, on the bottom, and the astonished spectators who, on the top, populate this sort of veranda, are witness to the house of the Virgin being transported, with enormous aerial agitation, by angels on a cloud. From this dal sotto in sù perspective, we see the house with the Virgin standing on the tile roof, and understand that we are watching the initial stages of the landing. In this manner, Tiepolo steals us away from reality and transports us to a time and place we do not inhabit: Loreto in the year 1291. We become spectators of the event, part of the grand aeronautical miracle. Or rather, such would be the case, had the roof and fresco not been destroyed by an Austrian bomb that, like a flying house, fell upon the Venetian church in 1915. We are left but with studies, photographs and the remaining ceilings painted by Tiepolo.
II. Maria José Cavaco's Houses in Flight: Seven Visual Challenges
My Houses in Flight is the title of Maria José Cavaco's current exhibit. It contains and translates the controlling idea behind the entire project: that whatever we see or will see are houses in flight. Such an idea expresses a challenge which is both physical and conceptual, as well as a possibility which is eminently visual. This combination of challenge and possibility structures the entire project, while its realization results from the work of the author within the bosom of a space where fundamental ideas abide. Of these, I choose to select seven: the idea of project, the idea of series, the idea of transformation, the idea of distortion, the idea of exactitude, the idea of illusion and the idea of reflection. Upon these rests the complex interaction that this exhibit/project creates with its time, with its culture and, in particular, with the images and visual objects which give it form. But, more importantly, these seven ideas or domains for action are defined, in operative terms, as seven challenges to the process which entails the construction of meaning on the part of the spectator. This is the event which is central to My Houses in Flight.
1. The Idea of Project
The idea of project means that what we are given to see is not all there is to see; moreover, it means that the results - the objects - are generated by the process, which manifests itself in a given number of studies, unfolding along a given time. The idea of project presupposes, therefore, not only the idea of process but also the idea of research. Its sphere comprises the production of meaning via an artistic methodology. The project of My Houses in Flight unfolds within three domains and three periods: that of the studies (1997-2000), that of the painted objects (2001-2002) and that of the exhibit (2002) - comprised of the paintings themselves and the catalogue, which is of no less importance, as it not only reveals and exposes all of the components of the project, but also bestows upon the observer the role of spectator witnessing the creative process unfolding throughout time.
2. The Idea of Series
Fifteen paintings: twelve with black background and three with red background. They form three series: each one consists of four paintings in black and one in red. Underlying these series, however, are others: the two series of studies of proportions, the two series of three-dimensional models, the series of light and shade studies, and the series of colour and movement studies. The idea of series presupposes a double passage: from the work to the object, as well as from the unique to the multiple. Above all, it brings about a transformation of vision: the instantaneous gives way to the continuous. In other words, it demands a temporal and perceptual broadening.
3. The Idea of Transformation
Transformation is the consequence, in material and perceptive terms, brought upon a form subjected to movement - which is what happens to all forms in flight. Maria José Cavaco's houses in flight constitute but one house - an essential house, the structural idea of house, a house that, along each series painted, is transformed both chromatically as well as luminously. This idea of transformation, therefore, presupposes, another: the idea of movement, the dynamic transformation of a house, in space and in time. There you have its flight. At the same time, however, the idea of transformation acquires yet another dimension: the formal and conceptual transformation which, with the unfolding of the project, is brought upon two paradigmatic referents: the drawing from 1977 and the model of the wooden house from 2000.
4. The Idea of Distortion
A house in flight is always, nonetheless, a house that takes flight from the point of view of a given subject. As the title says, these are Maria José Cavaco's Houses in Flight, and they are also our houses, because our point of view is, after all, hers. It is here that the principal operation resides: forcing us to occupy a given place, to see the world from a point of view she has chosen. This view, created from a certain place, is always a distorted view, a view before which the world - and its forms - become irretrievably deformed. Point of view and its distortions are a sign and symptom of this.
5. The Idea of Exactitude
Multiple two-dimensional studies. Different three-dimensional models. Paintings made from industrial paints - watered and synthetic enamels - used rigorously. The application of masks. And also the rigorous definition of each painting as painted artefact: announcing its colour, the composition of its paint, or the areas occupied. The search for exactitude is revealed through the means and processes that encompass the entire project, as well as through the need to elude happenstance and annul the arbitrary. The conflict with the dynamic and distorted form, as well as with the idea of transformation, is purely apparent.
6. The Idea of Illusion
Illusion in painting abides within the strange discrepancy between what we see and what is really before us, within its ability to make us believe that it is more than painting, even when we continue to see painting. Those houses in flight, similar to Tiepolo's house in flight, contain a double thickness: the fine film of the paint applied to the surface - explicitly accentuated within the lateral borders of the canvases - and the three-dimensional thickness that the colour and the perspective construct within our mind. However, given their pictorial audacity and their accentuated geometry, these houses in flight participate in yet another form of illusion: that which occurs every time that the stimulus before us leads to different perceptions at different moments. Their three-dimensional status is, in this way, changeable, dynamic and, consequently, another symptom of the idea of transformation, at the same time that it is also a reflection within the bosom of the vast culture of illusion which is ours.
7. The Idea of Reflection
Upon seeing the paintings, the observer is also observed in them. This possibility of projection is central to the idea of illusion and, of no less importance, is also central to the participation and integration of the observer in the pictorial object. Via the visual reflection, the observer is transformed into spectator, someone who not only observes the work, but also participates in it and is reflected within it. Through this reflection, the entire project of My Houses in Flight attains its ultimate consummation.
III. Houses in Flight: an Epilogue
Between the aeronautical miracle of 1291, the painting executed by Tiepolo from 1743 to 1745 and the houses in flight created, two-hundred and fifty-seven years later, by Maria José Cavaco, what exists is a coincidence: an admirable and involuntary coincidence. However, a coincidence translates a range of possibilities, establishes a possible thread of meaning, a mode of interlacing time. It is that fine thread that we, as spectators, watch, running along time and, more importantly, flying toward us.
Victor dos Reis"