Casa das histórias paula rego
July 7th // January 3rd, 2012-2013
Dark Skies and Behind the Angel, the series of 16 paintings conceived by pedro Calapez to enter into direct dialogue with paula rego’s Angel (1998), is based on a new programming model which summons the intervention of contemporary artistic production at Museu Casa das Histórias Paula Rego.
Choosing pedro Calapez to materialize this project is as probable as it is surprising. In fact, pedro Calapez has been a relevant presence in the art scene in portugal since the 80’s and, like paula rego, his approach to painting in terms of methodology passes through the development of the practice of drawing. on the other hand, the making of the main doors and side panels in bronze for the santíssima Trindade Church, at the Fátima sanctuary, in 2007, bring him closer to a road less travelled between contemporary art and religion/ religious art, not only in its spiritual sense but also on a public and social level.
The painting work of the artist has a very distinctive mark, indelibly connected to the construction of a space of origin through the structuring of surfaces detached from the human presence, with a scenographic component that stems from his approach to “the values of metaphysical angst”1. They are images of an apparent dematerialization, still held captive by an earthly construction of the possibility of heaven. There is no narrativity, no figuration of the sky. There is the endless search for the creation of the sky and, as noted by alexandre Melo e joão pinharanda, “the richness in the creation of the sky is inversely proportional to the evidence of its representation”2.
“I have an Angel for your skies”, said helena de Freitas, director of the Casa das histórias paula rego. The starting point for the construction of these skies is therefore defined: the iconic 1998 work by paula rego, Angel. an earthly angel,
64 without wings to give it an upward momentum, stuck to the ground and to its 65 projection, its shadow. This, as well as the material treatment of the clothes,
reinforces the weight of this angel’s humanized materiality. These skies are created by pedro Calapez in an exercise of depletion of any
implicit or explicit figuration. But the materiality present in the Angel is also ingrained in them because they are the result of a physical and gestural process, of colour agglutination, of superimposing layers.
The spatial occupation of these skies is based on the symmetry of the room, creating a continuous blot of sky on the wall that flanks the Angel. This associative matrix of the works in a group is, after all, constant in his work since the end of the eighties, and results from his own working methodology. The themes and the plastic ideas that will later be organized in space through a square grid, are developed in series composed of various panels. The panels are placed side by side, originating conflicting situations that are organized, from then on, in an equilibrium of unbalances. a look at the whole will inevitably try to establish relationships between the works that are side by side but, on the other hand, it will grant autonomy and reveal the pictorial singularities of each work. some are more material, and can almost be read in strata, others reveal a degree of immateriality typical of glazing, to such an extent that the paper can sometimes be seen. other panels assume their monochrome values. This balance between thin veils and material density creates an ambiguity that is characteristic of mannerist painting.
Each of the fifteen panels have two paint blots that spread horizontally, separated by the small margin of paper left free of any colour residue, so perfectly differentiated that something close to printmaking comes to mind, for the mechanical and serial aspect of passing the spatula over the ink. These two blots that immediately denounce a strategy of composition through duplicity, are nearly always aligned and have the same size. But there are larger and smaller blots, aligned to the left and to the right, a variability that creates in these skies an instability or rhythmic principle.
If the Dark Skies are built in complete tonal freedom, the same is not true for the work that has been conceived to face the Angel, unexpectedly titled Behind the Angel. This lead grey monochrome work was the only one conceived in a relationship of relative obedience to the tonal values of the Angel’s indeterminate background, even if they reveal other colour mixtures. In Behind the Angel there is an abandoned space: the space left uninhabited by that Angel. This has to do with its absence, although the representation of its shadow suggests that it has suspended itself from the more earthly plane just for a few seconds.
Catarina Alfaro, July 2012
1 Pinharanda, João. O Lugar da Pintura, 1987.
2 Alexandre Melo e João Pinharanda, Como trabalha o pintor. In catálogo Desenhos sobre madeira, Lisboa, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 1989.