press release

The first solo exhibition in Ireland by the Portuguese artist João Penalva opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Friday 9 June 2006. João Penalva presents a selection of installations, video and wall works created over the past decade. Many of the works involve superimposing objects with fragmentary narratives, reflecting the supreme importance of language as a medium in Penalva’s varied and meticulously-crafted body of work. The complex webs of meanings which he creates are used to explore the way in which culture is categorised and presented, largely through a process-based approach employing collection, detection, translation and documentation.

Comprising some 30 works, the exhibition ranges from Wallenda, 1997-98, depicting the artist’s heroic feat of whistling the complete score for Stravinsky’s monumental Rite of Spring, to the much gentler video piece Kitsune, 2001, with its delicate imagery of pine trees in a foggy landscape accompanied by a reflective, hypnotic narrative. Penalva started his career as a dancer, and the gestures associated with performance retain their importance in his work. In his 1999 film Mister, a shoe takes to the stage to discourse – in declamatory tones and with Beckett-like absurdity – on illness, faith, medicine and death, including quotations from that last refuge of the afflicted, The Book of Job.

Well known for his hour-long films spoken in less-frequently-heard languages, such as Japanese, Hungarian and Esperanto, Penalva revels in the twists and turns of writing in English, having the text spoken in another language, and then reintroducing the original English version as subtitles, all part of his constant “fictionalisation of reality”.

João Penalva was born in Lisbon in 1949 and has lived and worked in London from 1976. In 2003-04 he was awarded the DAAD Berlin Artists Residency. He represented Portugal in the XXIII Bienal Internacional de S. Paulo, 1997, and the XLIX Biennale di Venezia, 2001. He exhibited in the Berlin Biennale 2, in 2001, and Biennale of Sydney, 2002. Recent solo exhibitions include Camden Arts Centre, London; Contemporary Art Center, Vilnius; and Tramway, Glasgow, in 2000; Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art, Malmö, 2002; The Power Plant, Toronto, 2003; Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Oporto, and Ludwig Museum—Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest, in 2005.

The exhibition Joao Penalva is a collaboration between Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Oporto, Ludwig Museum, Budapest, and Irish Museum of Modern Art.

A 264 pp., full colour book, designed by the artist with Ines Sena is available, distributed internationally by Idea Books. ISBN 972-739-154-0.


only in german

Joao Penalva
Kurator: Rachael Thomas