Desacervar o acervo II, Sem.fi.gu.ra.coes - Collective exhibition in the Arvore

July 29, 2020 | Anna Zielazny

"Desacervar o acervo II, Sem.fi.gu.ra.coes" was exhibited between 26th June and 20th July in one of the buildings of Cooperativa Árvore, situated near Virtudes in Porto. Cooperativa Árvore is an artist cooperative, which is connected to the Art School that holds the same name. It was founded by a group of Portuguese plastic artists in 1963. 

This exhibition was curated by Fátima Luz and Marta Ribeiro, and it focused on the art of 12 artists from the collective. In the white space of a small room, visitors could see works by António Quadros Ferreira, Carlos Barreira, Carlos Marques, Emerenciano, Gerardo Burmester, Joaquim Jorge Marques, José Rodrigues, Júlio Resende, Luís Coquenão, Manuel Dias, Bernardo Scoditti and Zulmiro de Carvalho. Most of the works presented at the exposition were created at the end of the '80s and beginning of the '90s. 

It is worth focusing on the name of the exhibition: "Desacervar o acervo II". While acervo in Portuguese simply means archive, the word desacervar is a bit complex and was created from a play on words. Acervar in Portuguese means to put something together: for example, to create an archive of artworks. Because of changing this word to des-acervar it means something opposite: to separate but also to share. Because of this, it can be interpreted not as dismantling a collection, but rather as sharing it with others. It is the second exhibition in Árvore with the same main title. The first one was focusing on figurative art. 

This time, as the other part of the title suggests, the exhibition mostly focuses on non-figurative art. Pictures do not attempt to represent reality, but rather interpret it. Non-figurative art not necessarily means abstract art. Artists that are creating non-figurative art are mostly focused on simplifying reality in their pictures. 

António Quadros Ferreira, Composition I and Composition IV, 1980


Artists, through their pieces, play with the viewer's perception of seeing and with the borders of the picture. António Quadros Ferreira, in his two images, Composition I and Composition IV, used rectangles and three colours: blue, red and yellow. The squares appear rhythmically in different sequences of colours. Ferreira created an image which is very dynamic, even though it is based on the primary colours and a simple geometrical form. Using yellow, blue and red, as well as squares, to create a vibrant piece of art recalls the pictures of Piet Mondrian, one of the precursors of abstract art. 

Carlos Marques plays with a frame in his picture. Even though the external frames of the picture are separated from the wall, inside the piece, they lose sharpness. In the work, Without Title, the viewer can see the centre of the picture, a square made with black and red pencil. However, its perfect structure was disrupted by a kind of passe-partout. The rip inserted into the square reveals that the passe-partout is part of the picture, and not yet a frame. Marques uses this bit of paper to cover the actual internal edges and, by doing so, questions the internal borders in the painting and includes the frame into the picture itself. 


Carlos Marques, Without Title, 1986

This conceptual approach to the frame can be also found in Carlos Cobra’s untitled work. The artist played with the frame by moving the parts of the picture within it. Colourful sketches and the impression that the pieces could be slid inside the frame to stand in the same line bring to mind kids’ puzzles. Cobra, as well as Marques, not only interferes with internal frames, but also creates an interpretation of the painting structure from a different perspective when the canvas stops being only a medium and a background for the painting. Its structure and materiality become art itself. 

The work of Manuel Dias is the one that approaches the materiality of canvas most uniquely in the whole exhibition. It rejects the flat and structured point of view. The canvas is stretched on a string, hanging from the wall, like a heavy curtain. Its shape, together with its colours (plain canvas, grey and black), can recall natural structures, dripping liquid or even a bird’s view on a peninsula surrounded by ocean. The canvas has a lot of folds that are visible and which become part of the art. Because of this, the materiality of the fabric is always visible, constantly reminding the viewers that the picture does not exist without the presence of canvas. 

The exhibition in Árvores, even though so small, was an interesting experience. It is not so common to have the opportunity to see art which was created in the '80s or '90s in Porto. Sharing a collection with others does not necessarily mean destroying the collection, but rather opening it for new experiences. Sem.fi.gu.ra.coes suggests the basic medium of art: canvas and its inseparable connection with the piece of art.

I'm a polish art historian, specialized in Eastern European art. Currently, I am living in Porto, Portugal. I am a creative writer and the author of SlowMotionTravels blog.

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