In 1932, Portuguese president António Salazar claimed, “we should allow man to struggle with external life, on the street... and allow the woman to defend life, bringing it in her arms, bringing it inside the home.” What have women done to this life they fester? Running from the 6th of June to the 20th of July at Mirat Gallery (Calle Blanca de Navarra 8, Madrid), this exhibition explores how celebrated and emerging women artists in Portugal have experimented with new modes of resistance.
Helena Almeida, Maria Helena Vieira Da Silva, Paula Rego are such women; women who make a fuss. Their works avoid inescapable dichotomies, true or false; either-or; letting one explode with rage or burst into laughs. Within the too close, tactile sphere of self-reflection, active fabulations erupt, storming our centres of perception. Paula Rego’s beautiful grotesque shifts the hierarchies of power; Almeida blurs the frontier between work and body, outward and inward; Vieira da Silva make the anecdotal matter, adding infinite dimensions, multiplying alternate versions of a reality. Beyond domesticated sensitivity, the body becomes an experimentation ground, as Almeida stated, “like the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea.” Their inner world is labyrinthine, diffracted, cracking the frame open in a windstorm. Vieira Da Silva, Rego and Almeida have shown how to convert the feminine grievance into a particular kind of strength.
Following their lead, younger artists such as Maria Trabulo, Mafalda Mendoça and Manuela Pimentel turn their gazes outward. French writer Stendhal wrote: “a novel is a mirror carried along a high road. At one moment it reflects to your vision the azure skies, at another the mire of the puddles at your feet.” For Pimentel, the mirror is prismatic, ceaselessly dividing and recomposing the mundane stories of the city she inhabits - its deserted dreams and incurable utopias. A kaleidoscopic reflection of Portugal’s many layers of memory, before and after the crisis, is projected on the varnished surface of street posters. Trabulo dramatises the importance of a simple question: what is actually the color of the sea? Questioning its blueness from the perspective of refugees’ crossing she further perplexes our perception of what has become a lieu commun in the media. Both artists refuse to get rid of the debris of Portugal’s future and past crisis. Rather, they experiment with its blending, preparing highly unstable mixtures, always on the brink of explosion, while clouds of dust quietly fill the image.
Making a mess of the confined space of their own intimacy or of what is most mundane, Almeida, Vieira da Silva, Rego, Pimentel & Trabulo bring about revolutions for the time of a single hesitation. From morning to night, from hand to mouth, let us never cease from fabulating storms within a teacup!
Tempestade em copo d’agua. Portuguese women artists.
Screening by Filipa César.
Curators Jade de Cock and Tiago Feijóo.