Catch the Wave - Exhibition of Luis Lazaro Matos works in Municiapl Gallery of Porto

October 22, 2020 | Anna Zielazny

The Exhibition Waves and Whirpools was opened in the Municipal Gallery of Porto on the 12th of September and will last until the 15th of November. Curator Martha Kirszenbaum presents the works of Luís Lázaro Matos. The exposition includes seven diptych paintings and four tondos.

As visitors can learn from the exhibition description, all the pictures were inspired by seven songs released by the artist: The Waves of Lisbon, Sea Turtle, Laika Surfing Cosmic Waves, Red Sea, Whirlpools, Bermuda Triangle, and Tsunami. The paintings have the same names as the titles of the songs.

The aesthetic of all the exhibited pictures is similar. In all of them, the artist uses bright colours, big brush strokes, and black contour. All pictures refer to the sea and life in the ocean, and viewers can see in them elaborated references to ocean/sea mythology.

On each picture, the viewer can notice a persona that can be interpreted as the artist himself. All the creatures that appear in the paintings seem to create music: singing, playing keyboards, striking the guitar. On some of them, the musician is presented as a human, on the others as water animals, such as a turtle or a stingray.

The representation that ties the series together is a rope that passes through different elements of images, visually tangling them together. It's not a sailing rope as one could expect from the marine topic of the paintings, but rather an electric cable. The cord can be interpreted as an inseparable connection of these paintings with music, and a musician’s life. The audio jack not only connects all pictures (and instruments presented on them) but is also a visual reminder about the musical inspiration for this series.

On one of the diptychs, aliens appear. They sit on a palm tree singing or saying something into the microphone. That representation may not seem to suit the others. However, it's connected with the author's fascination with conspiracy theories. The artist doesn't hide his interest in the secrets of the Bermuda Triangle. The curator, in a very interesting way, composed the exhibition in the mezzanine of the gallery, which has a triangle shape, creating a space where visitors can be caught by the waves of the art.

The series can be interpreted as an allegorical self-portrait of the painter. However, the life dictated by the ocean, inseparable from the sea can be familiar to many Portuguese people. In this country, for ages life and culture were connected with life on the sea. For sailors, fishermen, and nowadays even surfers, the water can be a determinant of the rhythm of life.

Another important part of the exhibition are four tondos that are situated on the gallery walls. They are much smaller than the big paintings, so it's easy to miss them. All of them present the moon and at first sight they seem to be identical, but they have a few differences. The tondos represent the four different phases of the moon: first quarter, full moon, last quarter, and the new moon. When it comes to the ocean, moon phases are very important. They're responsible for creating tides. 

The pictures are hung in a way that they create a wave that passes through the gallery space. Visitors can go around the paintings. Notes on the back part of the pictures, such as "Fear eats the soul", encourage visitors to do this. Because of that, the viewer follows the wave but is also caught into a metaphorical whirlpool, where the image dictates the movement of the viewer.

"Never turn your back on the ocean" is one of the texts that appears on the reverse of the picture. It's a crucial rule for people who are connected with the ocean. It can help one avoid the physical danger that can appear in the water (or the water itself), and teach respect for this natural power.

According to the curator, Matos' music includes multiples layers of different instruments and the exhibited pictures are similar: they have numerous layers and undercoats of paint.

The exhibition engages visitors into its structures and allows to experience waves and whirlpools in a metaphorical and literal way. Participation in this exposition becomes not only a visit to the gallery, but also a wonderful adventure with storytelling that is clearly a strong point of Matos’ works and Kirszenbaum’s curatorial practice. As the connection with the music is highlighted in the curator's text, the only thing that is missing is access to Matos’ music, which could make the experience with the works even more spectacular.

Listen to Waves and Whirlpools here.

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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