Off Limits – espacio sin retorno
Galeria Luis Adelantado
September 17th // November 19th 2015
The ubiquitous limit
In the work of Pedro Calapez, the limit – as a figure, proposition, form and discourse – plays a key role in the visual look invented anew by the artist with every addition, piece of work or exhibition. This results in the ongoing discovery of new points of focus that reveal chromatic, material, spatial, temporal, territorial and cultural limits. The artist gives each image a pictorial dimension, while nevertheless maintaining its imagetic quality. To put it another way, every piece by the artist is endowed with a parallel existence in contiguous worlds, where images and reality come up against one another in a mutually constitutive interaction. While there seems to be an abstract rigour to his art, there is also a predisposition towards establishing a concrete visuality that is limitless but evokes boundaries, only to overcome them – the frontier between the abstract and the concrete/figurative is a constant feature of his work.
The exhibition of the artist’s work at the Luis Adelantado Gallery – “Off limits – espacio sin retorno” – explores the discourse (and elasticity) of the limit, as hinted at from the very outset (not only by the title of the exhibition, but also those of the pieces and series of work on display). The multiple meanings suggested by the expression “off limits” hint at the previously restricted nature of the external space, and also at a forbidden zone – unreachable, inaccessible – that comprises a semantic, almost archetypal map, as though the artist’s gaze has set out a cartography of limits, consisting of (all of) the borders in the world, all of them transient incisions.
The pieces featured in the exhibition are arranged in two main sections: objectual paintings and paintings of fragments. These attest to a natural (but not naturalised) affinity between isolated pieces and works that form part of a series. The whole apparatus behind the display reveals a penchant for installation that can often be seen in the artist’s exhibitions, raising questions about the status of each work. While coloured surfaces, the use of oils and acrylics, and a sense of stability, albeit fragmented, in works such as Empena #01 suggest that we are looking at paintings, all of the other elements also proclaim a sculptural sensibility – the marked three-dimensionality of Meadow 01, On Target 01 and 02, for example – and the omnipresence of drawing, which is evident in the contours of Reflexo #03 and #04. As such, it might be said that the work of Pedro Calapez dwells in the borderlands between supports, thus resulting in an unstable status, arising from meticulous visual processes.
The similarities and differences between forms, which are acutely manifest in Compósito 01, strive for a formal freedom that does not, however, lack structure, instead evincing a certain empathy with a sensitive approach that encourages the gaze to discern the diversity within the image. Indeed, the work of Pedro Calapez features a striking structural proficiency that revives and reinvents spatial, architectural and even cultural categories – all systems of limitation. The three pieces in the Overseas series have a prominent place in an exhibition held in Mexico, a country separated from Portugal by the waters of the Atlantic. Lands separated by the sea are usually distant from one another, and remote in natural, political and cultural terms, yet the work of Calapez shows an overseas that, for all its distance, is imprinted on the field of vision, which here resists the imposition of limits, borders or endings.
The various works in the Off limits series, with their quadrangular and circular shapes, themselves seem to rise up against the limit in an heuristic approach to composition, rebelling against the edge as an institution and revealing unfilled spaces – no man’s lands – between the application of colour and the aluminium surfaces cut by the artist. The limits pile up, cancelling themselves out. A similar logic is at work in the pieces that make up the Round series, which are defined by an almost tautological self-referentiality and completely devoid of the weight of horizontal or vertical expanses of colour.
The limit is a ubiquitous concern within the artist’s work, a common denominator expanded upon in different combinations, forming an intricate labyrinth that extends outwards of its own accord, without obscuring its potential destination, and offering points of exit (and surely points of entry) to a land where the image is a rich seam of critical reflection and analytical contemplation. The limit emerges as an epistemic imperative – that is, as a guide that helps the viewer to traverse – and thus to know – certain paths that at once show the “within” and the “without”. As such, the limit appears to introduce the possibility of transgression. It is this awareness of the limit that defines landscapes – not necessarily natural – that are always imagined. These extend past the painted surface of the piece in question and represent a space beyond the point of no return, as suggested by the subtitle of the exhibition, which alludes to the aesthetic and ethical dimension to the subjective gaze.
Ana Cristina Cachola