press release

This exhibition focuses on the works that Julião Sarmento produced using photography, text, film, installation and sound during the 1970s. At a time when the notion of the art object was undergoing profound change in Europe and America, his work brought an innovative currency to the Portuguese art scene and simultaneously created a unique standing that enabled the establishment of a truly international dialogue. Through his work he would become Portugal’s most internationally recognised artist. In the first exhibition room, the visitor encounters the artist’s initial works produced on photograph. A declared proximity to a cinematographic universe is assumed in this investigation into the narrative meanings of the image. Perceptible in all of these is the notion of a course of events so that the exhibited photograph becomes a distinct example of the narrated situation. Other works explore the relationship between the image and the word as caption that determines our comprehension of the image. Eroticism as a dimension of human vitality is assumed against all the constraints of reason. The film Pernas, 1975, shows the image of a pubis slowly moving, the action undeveloped, outside a narrative dimension. It is only time and desire that are revealed in this image, as a declared permanency. The installations Jaula/Cage, 1975-1976, and D. Juan, 1976, seek to articulate different planes of meaning that oscillate between the imaginary and the socially defined. Thus in the former we find, in one room, photographs of a tiger cage in Lisbon Zoo, while in a second room the diapositives reveal the tiger’s perspective as imagined by the artist, who occupied the cage and, as if a tiger himself, took photographs of the animal’s field of vision, that is, from the inside looking out, in contrast to the images in the first room. The comments of those who watched the artist were recorded and can be heard. In 1976, he became totally focused on a preoccupation with the temporal dimension, traditionally excluded from the plastic arts. Works like Peça Variável – 5 Intervenientes, Memory Piece (Two Friends) and the film 1,2,3, the latter still from 1975, explore the flow and superimposition of time through the repetition of an image, which thus constantly becomes another during the course of the series of repetitions of which it is part. The proximity to cinema and the role that experimental film played in extending the traditional boundaries of art practice were of great importance for many artists in the 1970s. A new questioning of the image took place that showed that art practice was not immune to the technical developments that create other media. Sombra and Faces, both from 1976, comprise a practically fixed framing and show the circularity of desire, as a limitless process that transfigures the image itself. The installation Quatre Mouvements de la Peur, 1978, presents, in almost cinematographic form, a woman being pursued naked and her capitulation, to what and to whom we never discover. The sequence of the photographs is presented as a series exploring the relationship between image and movement, between desire and its capture and consummation. His work from the end of this decade focuses on the issue of how we question what we see. 1947 presents a series of photographs of a hotel room, where the artist was conceived, alongside monochromatic paintings that poignantly reinforce the search, on the observer’s part, for a meaning for the photographic images. The unrepresentable becomes a dimension of the visible. Rosebud, 1979, consists of a large installation. A series of arrangements presents us with something like a word or a name that only becomes perceptible through the insistence of the observer and above all through the meaning that the latter gives to that insistence. Gnait, 1979, explores the disarticulation of the voice and of its social dimension, taking it to states that approach aphasia and that reveal the presence of desire in its substance. Tribu, 1978, is a sound recording. Through the word, it becomes possible to visualise the occupation of space. The fact that in the description is given a repetition of the same space described, but configured differently, creates an interiorization that reveals the different conscious and subconscious planes that constitute the image itself, which is always more than something simply observed. The exhibition of this series is in itself indicative of the fundamental role that the artist’s work has played in conquering a greater contemporaneity for Portuguese art and positions it as a highly personal investigation into the role of desire in the construction of the image and its values. Pressetext

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Julião Sarmento - Works from the '70s
Kurator: Pedro Lapa