Gender Studies: Men, Their Fauna and Flora ◄ Back


“If men know about things that are present and the future remains in the domain of the gods, absolute lords of all the lights, the wise foresee that which is about to happen.(…)[1] Let us observe, with scientifically accurate attention, the images of these paintings. Whether we evoke the habitual stipulations – which configure the analysis of a sole painting – or the elements which specifically integrate it, a peculiar obsession with detail becomes evident. Through a precise and clear technical treatment, the figures represented are classified with particular fastidiousness, articulating a matrix of surrealistic value with the dimensions of proportions that are artificially realistic and hyperrealistic. That is, we witness a conciliation between the appropriation of the wrappings of the real (appearance) and the phantasmagoric figuration (the intangible substance) belonging to the domain of dreams. The predominant concept, which partakes of all the works, is that of man, the man who convulses in the masculine gender, safeguarding the ambiguous lateral mystification which contributes to a semantic denseness of the work as a whole. Beyond the primacy of the masculine gender, in its epistemological and psychoanalytical dimensions, and from among the remaining, adjacent figurative elements, what stands out is a fluent irony and a healthy subversion of a symbolism accepted by moral and social conditions and restraints. Paula Mota brings about such intentions, with ability and subtlety, without diverting the power and the consolidation of the critics. The velocity of our look upon the painted figures does not allow for the escape of the premises that augur their ideological substance. The route of the painting establishes its own priorities, permitting us, nevertheless, to reconstitute our desires and to tame obsessions – by chance somewhat Manichaeistic, in which the feminine and the masculine reciprocally desire good and evil upon one another, thereby taking on the great fall and the abandonment of the Arcadian fields. Traces of handsome and perfect gods cast shadows upon the intense remains of a society that sees itself void of wise decisions or voluntarily singular attitudes. Upon a first iconographic treatment (of intention), man is established as an object for pictorial analysis, confronted in his specific anatomy and physiology, celebrated in his tactile delineation of chosen colours and forms. In a second phase, and almost resulting moment, what stands out is the fact that man, thus constituted (proximate to the most convincing “I-skin”), subsumes manifest anthropological and sociological contents, which are almost proclaimed, it seems to me. The emphasis and recurrence attributed to the masculine figure converge upon the presentation of faces (of anonymous register) and, only in two cases, of half-bodies, even if they are incomplete bodies – similar to the faces which never appear as complete representations of their respective physiognomic elements. For us to detain ourselves upon the desired meanings of an incomplete representation of the body would become secondary. Nor is the mere approximation of an anthropology of the body as painted, without the evocation of the ideas that justify it as such, satisfactory. The intention of the painter is a figurative solution, of an anthropological-sociological nature, contributing to the consciousness of that which is ridiculous. This is what happens with bug man, flower man and sound man. Intentionally, to the recurring figure of the masculine gender, were added compulsive icons (of masculine/feminine synthesis) which illustrate the movement toward an axiologically and ideologically conditioning world, in which the presence of the feminine is poly-semantically dense. This idea is, undoubtedly, made concrete within the almost iconological explicitness of some of the common, present stereotypes, as happens in the case of the painted presence of the sound equipment in sound man. On the canvas which is immediately associated to her, entitled in TV space, the meandering within the reign of the physical is unequivocally feminine. This affirmative presence of that which is flesh coloured, concentrated in the lanky arms which flow from the television screen to the reality of masculinity (in its assumed story-telling condition) leads, in terms of perception, to the voluptuous fingernails painted in intense red – a point which nearly attains orgasmic value. Interestingly enough, it is the feminine figure which appears most desiccated (isolated, exalted, therefore) into almost exclusively representational units which, due to nature and symbolism, stand out from the anatomical totality: the hands, eye, lips… What is demonstrated is that, despite this disintegration that substantiates the composition, the condition of the woman does not dissolve her existential or social totality, but concentrates itself in each of the parts that are made evident, culminating in an imposing and authoritative will to power… Feminine allusion overlaps with the transversal image of the series that, as was affirmed, is centred – in terms of the purely pictorial aspect – upon a reconceived masculine gender. Paradoxically, the primordial assumption of the masculine absorbs the symbolic power of the specific views of the feminine, as it is simultaneously dominated by them. The dichotomised multi-meaning of the binomial: dominated/dominator is resolved in the – apparently pacific, intensely ironic – affirmation of the dominator/dominated, within a consciously tamed condition. “The artist has revealed to us Profound lilac swoon, And sonorous steps of paints In scabs arranged on the canvas.(…)[2] The constructed chromatic selection bases itself upon the strong density and high degree of saturation; it makes visible a conception originating in pop, which is re-invigorated by a new critical assertion, whose nucleus consists of reflections upon differentiated/undifferentiated roles, stereotypes and convictions about gender. The opacity of the colour petrifies the forms, occasionally allowing for fluxes and refluxes of dynamic tension and sculptural stasis. The chromatic crown is applied in order to intensify the ideas of the painting, and to give them more volume, despite their plane and synthetic appearance. Contributing to the development of existential reflections and respective pictorial, essentially multiple, argumentations, the iconography made popular by the media is susceptible to almost immediate reception by spectators, uncovering the objectives pretended by the painter. “I felt myself petrified. In fact, everything was petrified: my will, my desire. The exterior world had rent its contact with my interior universe and had begun to exist around me with its absolute existence.”[3] Following the work hydronaut and the diptych in Cuba (feminine version and masculine version), direct focus is given to the environment that surrounds the masculinity represented. In these three paintings, the direct presence (of the masculine) is not established – as painted, as visible – but its reminiscence subsists. In the right hand side painting, with the absence of the principal masculine figure – substituted by the feminine role – the subsistence of the male is not annulled; it is evident that the feminine prototypes represented spring from the secondary masculine figure, for what is painted are the idealized appropriations of the woman, corresponding to established canons. These assume the cult of a popularised figure, leading to the struggle for one’s own jubilation (first?) and then to the practice of seduction (second or first?), to conclusive possession. In the left painting, in a much more succinct and pure manner, the masculine body, dressed in convention attire, is treated again. Discrete elegance and explicit charm are combined in both – masculine and feminine – figures, although they are separated upon static canvases. These are two episodes, properly sequential in a cinematographic manner, which remit us to film clichés from the 1950’s, narrative re-visitations filled with density and mystery, mixed with erotic fetishism. The masculine protagonist is a genuine Hollywood leading man, a first cousin to Cary Grant or Gregory Peck, while the feminine character leads us to a more perverse imaginary figure, presumably a descendent of Paula Rego’s phantasmagoric heritage, along with belonging to the lineage of Grace Kelly (brunette) or even of Audrey Hepburn, that Sabrina who was deviated to painting after having dominated Humphrey Bogart!!! Commenting upon the issue of the value, nature or intention of the images of the painting, we can say that, in the 9 works by Paula Mota, we re-live loose stories and episodes of a cinematographic production that each one of us wants to reconstruct. Her images impart potential to our recognition of the elements of reality, adulterating them, manipulating them, directing them jovially to flâneries experienced according to our every whim. In the observation, in the domain of her fauna and flora, the painted masculine gender is a phenomenon!

Maria de Fátima Lambert
Porto, July 2003

1.Kavakis, The Wise Discern That Wich Is About to Happen, Intimate Pages, Lisbon, Hiena, 1994, p. 36

2. Ossip Mandelstam, Save My Voice for Always, Lisboa, Assírio & Alvim, 1996, p. 185

3. Yukio Mishima, The Golden Temple, Lisboa, Assírio & Alvim, 1985, p. 13


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