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Pintura Notícias Textos de Teresa Magalhães Recortes de Imprensa Sobre a Pintura Contactos


Catalog from the Exhibition at S. N. de Belas Artes, Lisboa - Out/Nov 2005

MANUEL GRAÇA DIAS

THE COMPOSITION ALONE

“The artist can only act in a certain manner, can only act in a specific way, on that precise moment of his life. Not so with the architect. The architect is the one who can, wants and knows how to act in different ways, who will always need to adapt his response to the problem facing him.” These were, more or less (I am not sure how much, because, since then, I have been elaborating over this notion), the words I heard a few years ago in Lyon, at a conference by the architect Henri Ciriani.
Basically, Ciriani was repeating Louis Kahn’s time-honoured adage: “The sculptor can make cannons with square wheels to express the futility of war; the architect must use round wheels.” 

I prefer the first approach, though I admit that Kahn’s has a greater communicative quality (its warlike tone, and especially its probable functionalist ambiguity, have always kept me from adhering fully to this particular formulation of the concept; he could have picked other examples, for instance, “the painter can paint a sky green, the architect will have to paint it blue”, but the permanence of an operative idea, here, also acts as an inhibition for me, especially now, in a visual arts context, where it could lead to misinterpretation). 

But, let us proceed! These formulations can help us – within the limitations of each and every attempt at explaining life’s phenomena – to define two fields with relative clarity: there are no common materials, supports, objects or motivations between painting (the visual arts, broadly speaking) and architecture. 

We have placed them both within the category of Art, but that is almost all the common ground we can find. [Perhaps there is also the deep tradition (wrecked by the current technocracy) of Schools (ESBAL/ESBAP), perhaps the habit of occupying the same enormous buildings (S. Francisco, S. Lázaro), with enormous stairs, tiled rooms and patios, perhaps also common sensitivities between colleagues learning to respect each other.]  

Sensitivity, of course; and intuition, a more critical way of reading the world! And also drawing, another common pursuit; and the fact that both disciplines are determined to create added values of a less material nature. Then comes the practice, with all its demands; while always cultivating sensitivity and intuition, the architect learns to feel the obligation of never having a gratuitous gesture.  

The artist’s way is a more demanding one, though a superficial, hasty appreciation may tend to not understand that: (visual) artists are alone, with themselves, with their own exigency and vigilance. There is not a value of social production that may, near the end, “approach” the artist, demanding more, less, different, the same. [There is only the critical establishment; but it is equally struggling with “immaterial” arguments and is not, in itself, indispensable to the existence of the art work – it may be so in what concerns the acknowledgement of the work’s relevance, but it is not so as proof of the work’s existence (even though the proof of the existence of the work and its author surfaces more quickly once the relevance or irrelevance of the criticised object is established).] 

Let us recapitulate: the artist is, then, alone (the individualistic, late-Romantic culture of our time, so related to economic liberalism, would use the term “free”), and the architect is surrounded by restrictions and complex demands. I would dare to say that the architect is more goal-bound, informed, and secure; his approach to work is involved, informed, and targeted, trying to act in an accordant and consonant way, looking for opportunities of subversion in the loopholes of what is demanded of him, putting arbitrariness into question. 

The visual arts, in turn, though “free” from themes, programs or methods, confront the artist with himself, with his own truth, his own coherence: “can I, today, do this, which I “feel like” doing and want to do, but which I can also see as inconsequent, inconsistent, “useless” and irrelevant, when compared to all I know and see?”

The artist stands over the abyss, taking counsel with himself. He looks, in the signs of the work of others and in his own production, for reasons to go back to work or abandon it, reasons for the emergence of that particular action.

[Now that this distinction has finally been worked out, let us ask: why was an architect asked to write about the recent work of an artist? Why that need for proximity? Where is the resemblance, the intersection between them?]

It seems to me that the most salient feature in Teresa Magalhães’ most recent work is COMPOSITION.

[And composition (or display) is a defining moment in the work of any artist, of any architect, too.]

It is at this point, at the moment of composing, of working with pre-existent materials (which, in this case, Teresa Magalhães “manufactures” herself, at a first stage), of establishing relationships, weavings, contrasts, leanings, of displaying the pieces – once autonomous and close to telling us autonomous “things” –, putting them together so that they vibrate or tremble in different ways, it is at this point that the pieces become “different”, new, exciting.   

They no longer are what they were, because they contaminate each other; but that contamination is determined by the feverishness of the display, of composition.
Nothing is written (or if it is, it only goes to prove that, in hands that lack understanding, a simple adage becomes a mediocre rule), everything is hazy. All relationships here are strongly poetic, being the only ones of worth.

They take advantage of our habits to establish the necessary interval between one thing and the other; between the other and the lower part, and the upper part of what was left behind below; to dazzle us as they either refute them or bring them together, as they simulate something we almost know (and then it could be simply a “comfortable” world) or, suddenly – glimpsing in interruption an hypothesis of rupture – a mismatch leads the already simply solid rule to explain or wait.  
With an opposite balance, I see our eyes as they read what goes on in this painting – and in the dialogues of this painting –, facing the improbability of the polyptychs. There is a risky refusal of commercial facility, and also a stubborn obstinacy. A beauty that comes out by itself and floods the space outside the frames; there is an air of painting; there are signs of character. 

January 2005


 

EDUARDO SERRA

TERESA MAGALHÃES

Colour. Light. Light composed of colours, the rainbow, the solar spectrum.

Diffraction. Light decomposed, fragmented into colours. Vibration.

Now inflected into disordered, reorganised spectra, ever recomposed into imaginary colours.

Improbable spectra, facing the white, the voids of the canvas, the disorder of the curve.

The curved line, whirling into the spectra’s ordered space.
Solar storm.

Masses of colour, existing through the sharp presence of their contraries.
Warring harmony.

Scratched, grazed colour, wounded matter that clings to the canvas.

Colour that conquers the canvas’ space without occupying it.

Colour that leaves no room for black, for night.

Exaltation of colour.


EMÍLIA NADAL                                                                           

Teresa Magalhães
An itinerary at the SNBA

By presenting Teresa Magalhães’ latest project, the Sociedade Nacional de Belas Artes [National Society of Fine Arts] opens its premises to the intervention of an artist with a celebrated, consistent oeuvre and an expressive involvement with this very Institution.

Indeed, her vast history of participation in solo and group shows, organised or promoted by highly respected Portuguese and foreign institutions and galleries, includes many apparitions in the most important exhibitions that took place at the SNBA’s premises over the last three decades. This continuity has greatly contributed to the visibility of her career, making it easier to follow the evolution of her work, and also to appreciate this Artist’s civic and cultural involvement in the life of an Association founded by artists, for artists.   

Within this context, the uniqueness of Teresa Magalhães’ work has become apparent ever since her first exhibitions, namely the solo shows at our Modern Art Gallery, in 1977 and 1979. The coherence of her work was recognised during a 1977 group show at the SNBA Hall, when she was awarded the Malhoa Painting Prize.

Teresa Magalhães’ work as part of the 5+1 group, with João Hogan, Júlio Pereira, Guilherme Parente, Sérgio Pombo and Virgílio Domingues, stood out as a quite individual expression within the context of aesthetic intervention of the other artists in the group. The 5+1’s interventions in Lisbon were shown at the SNBA Hall, first in 1976 and then in 1978, under the title “Estendal 5+1 – 6 Artistas Naturais de Lisboa”; they were important events in the artistic scene of the time, given their eclecticism in a post-dictatorship social context. 

Just as vital was her participation in the many collective and thematic exhibitions that have taken place at the SNBA from the 1970s until the present day. Some of the most important among them were: “Exposição Mobil” (1970), “Abstracção Hoje” and “Colagem e Montagem” (1975), “Exposição de Arte Moderna Portuguesa – Salão de Verão/76” (1976), “O Papel como Suporte” and “Artistas Portuguesas” (1977), “Aspectos da Arte Abstracta 1970-80” (1982), “Perspectivas Actuais da Arte Portuguesa” (1983), “Féminie Dialogue” (1985), “AICA-PHILAE-SNBA” (1986), “Mote e Transfigurações” (2001) and “Cem Anos, Cem Artistas” (2002).

The general tone of her painting has always been lyrical, abstract and predominantly gestural. Inside that expressive sphere, several techniques and  courses of action have been developed, namely cut-outs and collages of pictorial elements or diverse materials, frequently associated with the subjects of the paintings or of the series of which they are part. Teresa Magalhães uses these or other graphic and chromatic elements to evoke voyages and events, landscapes and territories, or simply poems. 

After the initial conquest of the support, as both an ad libitum space and  physical setting for the unfolding of sensory reminiscences transmuted into colour gestures and graphic elements, the painter has found new means of expression by combining paintings on different-sized canvases, and constructing panels that both cut up and expand the field of her language. From appropriating canvases, Teresa Magalhães has turned to conquering other spaces, more favourable to the expansion of gestures and painting, to painting as an event. In accordance with this logic, the artist has opted for the painting-installation form, in search of an increasingly wider space to work in.    

The dynamics of movement and chromatic vibrations that characterise Teresa Magalhães’ language and vocabulary are now projected against new spatial combinations. Her writing has always been nervously applied on the whiteness of the canvas or on previously defined colour areas, according to sign languages that seem closer to the poetic expression of sensations than to symbolic suggestions and references to the events that made them come to be. These sign languages are colourful memories and recordings of realities, lived in sudden, vibrant flashes that become materialised in painting.

Into her autobiographic urge to paint, Teresa Magalhães projects the vital energy that drives her to creativity and pictorial expression with the same inner strength that allows her to enjoy life with intensity and joy. With the same determination, the artist totally appropriates a physical and symbolic space of the SNBA and of Lisbon itself, a place she has often explored in many ways.   

March 2005


RUI VIEIRA NERY


 Attempting to transpose the language of a specific Art into another is always a risk, and, moreover, a risk that, even if the operation is quite successful, does not prove particularly rewarding, either for its performer or for the object in question. There is, indeed, an unavoidable specificity to every basic raw material, a logic that is particular to each creative realm, a communication strategy aimed at this particular sense and not to the other. It is true that Opera, for instance, has always intended, ever since its earliest times, to become a “total work of Art”, combining in the same magic moment poetry and sound, forms and movement. But, even in Wagner, the most fundamentalist of defenders of that utopia of radical interdisciplinarity, can be clearly observed, one and a half century later, the essential predominance of musical thought over a poetical expression and a stage presentation that were surely instrumental to the full concept of Wagnerian musical drama, but which have become irredeemably dated when compared to the sovereign timelessness of the soundscapes they accompanied.      

And yet it is obvious there are – and always have been – many common threads between the different artistic expressions which cannot be ignored, regardless of their more or less aware and articulate presence in the author’s thought, or of their degree of centrality in the work itself, as it appears now to us. In some cases, it is a matter of “extra-artistic” assumptions, that is to say, that multifaceted body of principles, values and references of an aesthetic, ideological, moral, political or religious nature from which artists take the founding principles of their view of the world and themselves. Otherwise, it may be a question of parallelisms that are implicit in the primordial creative action of the work, of unequivocally shared formal archetypes, of ways of managing the constitutive elements that either come from abstract paradigms, from a kind of “pure” thought pre-dating the materiality of the chosen artistic expression, or openly express the “contamination” of one Art by another, crossed viewpoints, transference of knowledge.   

I am not sure if there is an intrinsic presence of the musical paradigm in Teresa Magalhães’ painting, be it direct or indirect. I ignore, for instance, if she listens to Music while she works, like so many other visual artists, or if listening to a musical piece ever gave her creative clues for her work. I remember, of course, the very beautiful picture she created in 1988 for the catalogue and poster of the 12th Gulbenkian Meetings of Contemporary Music, which the artist herself says was inspired by one of Oliver Messiaen’s most important symphonic works, Des Canyons aux Étoiles, which was performed at that festival. But was that a merely sporadic musical inspiration, related to the contextual circumstance of the request, or does it express a more systematic connection to a creative stimulus that is marked – or even qualified – by Music?  

As I pondered on which approach I should adopt while writing the present text, I quickly concluded this was a false issue. More than trying to find in Teresa Magalhães’ work the concrete – perhaps even identifiable – traces of her personal musical experiences, my professional vices as a cultural historian, accustomed to try and reconstruct individual or collective processes from their material outcome, have led me to assume here instead the personal and idiosyncratic contingence of my own view of that work. Up to what point can a musicologist, used to the work of identifying and translating the structural paradigms of a musical score, focus the same analytical instruments on another artistic object and get them to find in that quite different object an implicit logic that – according to all probability – is probably not the one that “historically” ruled over its conception?

On that level, the first obvious parallelism this musicological perspective may offer is that Teresa Magalhães’ painting is clearly symphonic in nature. First of all there is the sheer size of each individual painting and of the series they make up, a size that, without exactly crushing us, imposes on us a scale of enveloping greatness, as if we were facing a huge orchestra. When facing a small painting, or some musical microform for a solo instrument – a short Baroque dance for harpsichord, taken from a suite by Couperin, for instance – we have the feeling of dominating the object, for we can encompass it at once with our eyes, grasping it as a whole we may later decompose into its different parts and lines of internal coherence, with a kind of analytic zoom lens, that now allows us to plunge into details, now brings us back to the perspective of the whole. Teresa Magalhães’ panels, on the contrary, cannot be grasped by that encompassing, self-confident, almost imperial gaze. If we draw back enough to get a view of the whole, we lose much of the essential perception of each component; if we come close enough to regain that more immediate connection, we lose the effective understanding of the whole. Our relationship with the work lies thus in an endless back-and-forth of the eye, in which we either let ourselves sink into a whole we cannot bring ourselves to break into its parts, or simply gaze at isolated elements, though aware that they only make true sense through the ties of coherence that unite them to the others. This final – and coherent – notion of a whole that emerges from the sometimes whimsical succession of its parts applies, in the end, to each individual set of pictures and to the global display of the exhibition, with its several identifiable groupings. 

It is, all things considered, the perception mechanism we use to relate to a late Romantic symphony. I use this term, not because of some aesthetic feature specific to Romanticism itself (of which, indeed, I find no particular trace in Teresa Magalhães’ work), but rather because of the sheer macro-instrumental dimension that characterises the European symphonic repertoire at the late 1800s – early 1900s, as typified, for instance, by Gustav Mahler’s work. In a Mahlerian orchestra, our attention may be drawn, at every moment, by this or that specific instrumental line; we pay particular attention now to a particular clarinet phrase, then to a succession of profound bass notes from the deepest-sounding wind instruments, now an enveloping section by the strings, now a brass fanfare. Yet at the same time we have a feeling of the presence of a mass of sound, that comes from the overlapping of all these components, now thicker, now more transparent, too large for us to able to encompass it as a whole, as a finite, self-contained reality, but which is also something that cannot be separated from the autonomous perception of each of the elements that make it up. Here, too, we find the back-and-forth that characterises the grasping of the macroform I mentioned earlier, while discussing the retable in this installation by Teresa Magalhães. 

It is nonetheless interesting to note that the Mahlerian metaphor goes quite beyond the mere size of the object in question, taking in the very structural concept of that macroform. In these panels, we are not confronting a strongly rationalised structure, with threads of absolute formal consistence bringing together every tiny contextual detail. On the contrary: the notion of structure acts not unlike an overarching formal concept, ensuring both the work’s inner unity and the continuity of the great creative drive that underlies it, while at the same time giving important space to the unexpected, the episodic, the anecdotal, the cultivated irrationality of a free association of colours and microforms that, while seeming to burst out and combine through spontaneous generation, never disturb the final coherence of the macroformal dimension. Any possible reading of this work will always bring about a convoluted narrative, full of contrasting environments, which often appear in quite different scales, now focussing our attention in a tiny space, now forcing us to step back to take a broader, though still partial, view. Yet, as I was saying before, we eventually acknowledge the existence of an almost classical organising logic in its macro-structural dimension: the initial presentation of the basic forms used here – nine 190 x 50 cm oblong panels, five 50 x 50 cm squares and four 160 x 130 cm puzzle-like pieces – as if they were three successive, contrasting movements and a kind of large final movement, both a recapitulation and an explosive climax. The same previous formal elements, though on a new pictorial surface, its unity redoubled here by the internal rhythms that stretch themselves from panel to panel, reappear now to form an overwhelming ensemble – not so much a rational dénouement, as in the classic operas by Mozart and Da Ponte, as a kind of Wagnerian Abgesang, an explosion of concentrated energy whose preparation we have witnessed during the whole convoluted process that led to it, but which now has transubstantiated itself into an epic conclusion.      

To move like that from Mahler to Wagner, following the tempting parallelism of the installation’s very structure, shaped, one might say, as a “tetralogy”, could equally bring to mind some twilight atmosphere, or some misty Germanic mysticism; but such elements are clearly absent from Teresa Magalhães’ universe. Her painting is absolutely solar in nature, revealing to us a passion for colour that sometimes seems blinding in its exuberant Mediterranean luminosity, quite unusual in the sphere of the more or less depressive wistfulness, imported from Northern Europe, that tends to characterise most of erudite Portuguese imagination since Romanticism. If we wanted to keep the Mahlerian analogy, this would then be the sunny Mahler of the Fourth Symphony or of the most jovial songs in Des Knaben Wunderhorn, not the dark, dolorous one of the Kindertotenlieder or the Ninth. And to find a more immediate musical analogy for this chromatic passion, we would have to abandon the German symphonic sphere and take refuge in Ravel’s glittering mosaic of luminous variations of timbre and shade – Ravel at his most impressionistic, as in Daphnis et Chloé, with its flecks of colourful sound in endless kaleidoscope, but also the Ravel who can illuminate, through ever-new shades of timbre, the successive panels of a form as obsessively regular as the one of the Bolero

I will not pursue the musical metaphor any further, even because, as I entered the subject of the luminosity of Teresa Magalhães’ painting, I felt like addressing another parallelism, now with the poetry of Eugénio de Andrade, also filled with that same plenitude of light, colour and ecstasy. But that would deviate me from my premise of a “musicological” perspective on the work of this artist, and make me run the risk of entering in a wild epistemological chain of interdisciplinary dilettantism, for which I would no longer even have the justification (or mitigating circumstance) of my own training. All things considered, what seems most important to me is drawing attention to how Teresa Magalhães’ work can stimulate and sustain this and many other approaches, from a multiplicity of experiences, reflections and starting points, thanks to a potential “universality” that comes from its enormous communicative power, which in turn gives free rein to all kinds of additional approaches and readings. Umberto Eco was certainly right when he pointed out the open character that by definition belongs to the work of art, but there is a real “opening” that cannot be confused with mere abstract receptivity to every interpretation, and which is, on the contrary, an added value of certain works of art and certain artists. I am fully convinced that this is one of the most stimulating qualities of Teresa Magalhães and her painting. 

 



JOSÉ SARAMAGO

When Rimbaud, in his famous sonnet Voyelles, said that “A” was noir, he did not say it was negro, when he said that “E” was blanc, he did not say it was branco, when he said that “I” was rouge, he did not say it was vermelho, when he said that “U” was vert, he did not say it was verde, and finally, when he said that “O” was bleu, he did not say it was azul . If the sound of each vowel, pronounced in his native French, evoked in his mind the correspondence of a different colour, and supposing this was more than a gratuitous exercise or the mere result of metrical necessity, then we will have to conclude that “A” in Portuguese would never be negro, or “E” branco, or “I” vermelho, or “O” azul, or “U” verde.  

This means that neither the vowels present to everybody the colours supposedly suggested by the sound they produce, nor the words themselves are the colours they conventionally express. Rouge is vermelho only in the dictionary; those two syllables do not mean the same as these three. Probably most painters will not waste time with such explanations, which will seem to them puerile rhetorical exercises, but I believe I will not be much mistaken if I say that, for them, the names of colours are useful only at the moment of buying paints… What comes to pass afterwards is something else.    

I am thinking of all this as I look at Teresa de Magalhães’ paintings, but I do not question them about whether they have any relation, be it direct or indirect, immediate or evocative, with the chromatic suggestions that come from pronouncing the five vowels in Portuguese or in French. And this is simply because Teresa de Magalhães’ colours, as I can see them, or according to what I think I can perceive in them, have no name. And even if they did, I would not care for it. What interests me is to feel in them what, probably without a shred of originality, I will call a continuous instability of meaning. Going against the material and visual evidence that they are what I see and are where I see them (Rimbaud’s French could do nothing more than say elles sont and elles sont… ), it seems to me that each of these paintings has been suddenly immobilised, stopped in a precise moment of a process of successive and multiform transformation, like the kaleidoscope we twist in our hands and abandoned, with or without motive, in a certain arrangement of forms and colours, until a new rotation movement will disorder and reorder the picture once more, unmaking again what will always potentially be an order threatened by instability. I am sure that, if I could take one of these boards in my hands and rotate it to one side or the other, a new picture would appear at once: the same colours, the same forms, but a new painting. The world as kaleidoscope, meaning as movement, here is what I think I can see in Teresa de Magalhães’ painting. It is certain that writers, as a rule, know little about these matters. I hope the present one will be forgiven for his abusive intrusion. Anyway, and probably much to Rimbaud’s chagrin, “O” has never been azul…                                                     


Negro is Portuguese for black (noir in French), branco for white (blanc in French), vermelho for red (rouge in French), verde for green (vert in French), and azul for blue (bleu in French). As the difference between the French and Portuguese languages is so important to this text, it was decided to leave all relevant words (the names of colours) in their original forms throughout the above English translation. (Translator’s note)

Unfortunately, both the French and the English languages use one single verb (être, in French and to be, in English) to convey both the notion of existence and of place, while the Portuguese language uses two distinctive verbs for each notion (ser and estar, respectively), so the only way of communicating in some way to English readers this point in Saramago’s text was through the present explanation. (Translator’s note)

 


 

JOÃO LIMA PINHARANDA

Panels for the Third Millennium

The large set of paintings that makes up this double series of works generates a continuous and comprehensive pictorial discourse, displaying a depth and visual/semantic power that is almost unprecedented within the context of past or present Portuguese painting. These paintings fit seamlessly into the oeuvre of Teresa Magalhães, whose working logic has always favoured long, extensive series, brought about by a literary theme, the seduction of an exotic civilisation, the need to adapt to an exhibition space… But they go much beyond that, rising to the ambitious rank of a true, complex pictorial sequence. 

These works are, first and foremost, the manifestations of an inner energy. This energy takes the form of a creative activity that is compulsive and intense, but also obsessively elaborate and meticulous. The artist has opted to give her new series an inclusive feel, creating an atmosphere (through textured, chromatic brushwork) that surrounds viewers and tries to overwhelm them. Yet, the technical and aesthetic choices behind each particular painting, together with the series’ global outlook, as in the way the brushwork imposes itself on colour or colour becomes independent from gesture or coincides with it or also in the role played by texture in this process, systematically threaten with fragmentation and disintegration any globalising intentions.       
The next point of specific interest in this double series is the way the paintings that make it up can come to relate (though not in an explicit, or illustrative way) with two languages that seem absolutely foreign to Teresa Magalhães’ itinerary as an author, or to her discursive interests: narrative and/or religious painting. It is the previously mentioned unbalancing circumstances that establish the limits of tension and distension, confrontation and fusion, between the various boundaries established here: modernity and historicism, abstraction and narration.       

As we look at the exhibition display, we are confronted with a succession (in terms of multiplicity and formal unity) of paintings that constitute two groups of works. We may understand one of them by looking at the other or perceive one as the reverse of the other, not as its reflection; as an underlying or residual image, never as an alternative one. However, as it stretches into space, in a successive unfolding of panels, thus ensuring the development across time of a theme (though an abstract one, based only on colour, line, texture…), the work Teresa Magalhães presents here inevitably recreates the fascination narrative and religious paintings, in the form of large devotional or celebratory panels, have exerted in the history of western art, while also alluding at their museological fate.

The large quantity of “boards” in this work by Teresa Magalhães thus predisposes us to an interpretation that seems to place us in front of a set of retables, recovered from an uncertain fate, complete with their smaller panels and predellas, and displayed in accordance with an inner order that can become the subject of public discussion – just as Almada Negreiros imagined a mythical ordering for the famous panels attributed to Nuno Gonçalves, which has been contested by others, who brought forward their own hypotheses.    
But, in spite of its formal recovering of every canon for the presentation, development and finishing of a retable, Teresa Magalhães’ work is aimed at creating its own architecture, rather than inscribing itself in an architectural frame; it is visually non-referential, refusing literary narration and illustrative explanation.

We can see how this series, or the idea of/behind it, establishes itself as a global blueprint for painting, determined by a logic of continuity and spatial articulation, formal and chromatic unity; in other words, an autonomous visual blueprint that creates and demands its own space. In this sense, painting appears here as an autonomous area. We, in Portugal, are aware of our historical precocity in bringing into coexistence the religious and lay (political) spheres, or in defining the religious in political terms. Such is the lesson behind the so-called “Panels of Nuno Gonçalves”. Teresa Magalhães’ series of retables goes further than that, doing away with any reference that is exterior to the acts of painting and seeing.
The painter breaks away from the tradition in which she apparently inscribes her present work. It, indeed, takes the form of a modern stance against the pre-modern restrictions laid on painting by architecture, against painting as decoration, against the narrative predetermination of both religious and lay painting.  

Within the Portuguese art context, Teresa Magalhães’ oeuvre represents the persistent originality of a chromatic gesturalism that denies the figure, just as it denies compositional linearity and formal simplification. Nonetheless, it allows for the establishment of an intuitive grid of visual organisation – as if leading us into suspecting we may have found the order underlying the disposition of elements in chaos.  
This is neither a primordial nor a terminal chaos. Each work presented to us by the artist shows the signs of intense intellectual, sensitive and physical activity, putting into question everything that previously seemed organised, leaving everything as if in that suspended moment that seems to precede the reorganisation of the world.    
If there is something to which we can associate this artist’s work, it is to expressiveness and baroque exuberance. In this sense, she is part of a traditional lineage that comes from the intense popular expression of colour and form in ceramics and weaving, and also from the luxurious life of late medieval, Renaissance and 1700s decorative fine arts: she incorporates Oriental colour and texture, suggestions of sensuous fabrics and glittering jewels, of stirring landscapes and strong smells, of popular clamour and fine porcelains, sophisticated tunes and simple pleasures of the table. Neither does she deny an almost choreographic relationship with a writing guided by the hand and understood by the eye, both in a clearly  performative way.

One of the originalities of this series of paintings is precisely the fact it is able to combine the modern result of the artist’s personal poetic values with modalities that were historically and formally established in periods that quite precede modernity: a transhistorical drift that resorts to the form of retables, operates with narrative-based systems and evokes architecture as its primordial setting.
What maintains in the present pieces that coherence that belongs to the work of an artist whose work has always been abstract, gestural, non-narrative and non-literary is precisely the way they were made and the way they are presented to the eye. They exist in absolute time and space, and thus develop freely and globally across time and space. It was the need to bring them into a reasonable time and space, to give them a critical, public, museographic and, of course, artistic reality, that placed them within the present compositional system of retables. 
The set of pieces commented here can display its theatrical presence in the neutral space of any modern-day exhibition room, because it needs not resort to any mere quoting of form or contents to move all over modernity, and even beyond it. To those looking at/moving through her paintings, Teresa Magalhães offers an unexpected, complex and mirrored (multiplied/unfolding) series of panels for the third millennium.

Lisbon, 8 March 2003 - 31 December 2004

 

 


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