The Shape of Things ◄ Back


One of the things we first learn to do is to name. Within the language game through which the world becomes organized, through gestures, feelings and concepts, there are words for all tastes and etymologies. But the word that has most captured my attention lately is the word “thing.” Since, according to some dictionaries, “thing” is any inanimate object, this meaning includes, according to others, all material and immaterial objects of any nature, type or species. Furthermore, “thing” is everything that exists or may exist, a kind of part and whole at the same time, of the power of everything. As time goes by, something curious sometimes happens. Whether due to an excess of information, to a lapse or a distraction, or to illness or lack of concentration, nouns turn their backs and we wrestle anew with the “thing”, as if we were returning to a primal, purified state, where only that which is essential manifests itself. For example, a woman I know, finding herself in one of those enlightened moments without an egg or a fork, asked for that white “thing” that is surrounded by a “thing” that can be cracked and that other “thing” that has four “little things” turned upward to eat... This came to my mind because of a conversation I had with Victor Almeida about his most recent works, in which he referred to the importance of Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel. The Renaissance image of that breath of life emanating from the pointed index finger of the Creator extended to Man in gestation, a suspended gesture which imparts to the human being the possibility of being “all things.” His exact words were, “Only when I saw a book about Michelangelo, did I discover what I was looking for. It was this…” he said, laying out the images. And this “this” proved to be the material density of the figures registered in a phase of complete self-affirmation, the exaltation of the Man made body, leaving the profile of an ethereal holiness on the side, the presence of the sculptural, classical drawing commanding the entire composition. Victor Almeida has always manifested his interest in this matter, from the paintings and drawings executed in the beginning of 2000, which even included “calligraphies,” traces and signs of a textured cartography about that which is visible. But the shape emerged, at most, and at first, as an inference within a plot dominated, above all, by the monochromatic nature of the works, as the result of the slow accumulation of the pigment and the gesture that conferred to the painting a rock-like solidity whose hardness was subverted only by the diaphanous transparency. Later, it became more pronounced through the suggestion of undulating or linear rhythms on the surface of the canvas, but always within an evident chromatic uniformity, always worked through with artificial light. That which ended up becoming systematic and belaboured experimentation with the shape within Victor Almeida’s artistic discourse stemmed from a request for a work which was perfectly situated within what had come to be his preoccupations about painting as technique and language. This resulted from the challenge presented to the artist by the Pastor of the Church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, in Fajã de Cima, on the island of São Miguel, in the Azores, in August of 2002, asking him to place in the Baptistery a contemporary work that, by alluding to the significance of the locale, would lead the community to understand this significance. Over an ample blue sky, there appears a figure: the cut-out of a dove in flight with open wings that are designed through successive layers. The paintings presented now in this exhibit are, as it were, the natural continuation of this investigation. But what they contain is not limited to an immediate identification. Upon a monochromatic background of white, a totally white background where many other macerated colours can be felt, a shape breaks through. In flight on the borders of the canvas, destabilizing settings, structuring symmetries, the shape emerges blue, an intense, cobalt, variegated blue, imparting depth to the base. Or just the opposite, it affirms itself as a shadow, as an absence emerging from a body at one with the contained surface. Pardon does exist for the human body, or a fragmented body seen askance to be the point of departure for another reading, an “allegory of the body.” “A body is what it is. It is what we’re seeing. But it’s also a shape. It even looks like other things,” affirms the artist. A body-thing that initially emerged from a selection of everyday photographs and that was subsequently rediscovered through Michael Angelo’s frescos. A body in parts – as if time and a new way of looking had dissected it – emptied of prospective density to turn into essential linearity. No longer the exaltation of the motive but the motive as the driving force behind a painting based on its own making.

Ana Ruivo,

October of 2004


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