Gabinete: new acquisitions in the EDP Foundation Art Collection


The garden of forked paths…

In the 2021–2022 season, the EDP Foundation Art Collection was enriched by a collection of artworks from different periods and of different origins and senses: Fernando Calhau (Água-mar-tempo, 1975), João Vieira (Viúva Negra, 1981), Miguel Branco (Untitled, 2021), Ana Jotta (Ricochete #2 and #6, both from 2017), Luisa Cunha (Body Corner, 2016; Turn around, 2017; Não, 2018; Gone With The Sea #1 and Gone With The Sea #4, both from 2019; and Pas de deux, 2019), Jorge Nesbitt (Le serpentin vert, 2021), Tiago Baptista (two paintings, Drip Drop and Untitled, both from 2021), and João Gabriel (two untitled paintings, both from 2022).

The exhibition arranges several of these works in a way which seeks to invent dialogues by keeping open every line of questioning that an artwork allows. Each of these pieces helps us to draw maps which take us down new paths – ones that fork and separate but which, when travelled in every sense, can be made to converge.

From a technical point of view, João Vieira’s (Vidago, 1934 – Lisbon, 2009) work attests to the routine use of artificial materials (expanded polyurethane); reveals the assumption of serial repetition in terms of language and the multiplying of the same form; and, lastly, shows the liberating eroticism of the period that followed Portugal’s dictatorship. This period, exalted in the image of the woman-muse (in the process of freeing herself), is underpinned by traditional male voyeurism (revealed in the multiplication of breasts) indicates, in the choice of the title, a dimension of a bitter irony, placing the multiplying burden of guilt on the woman’s beauty.

The multiplication of images in Ana Jotta’s (Lisbon, 1946) work (a series of nine variations of the same basic motif) functions in a very different way. The two engravings acquired from this series were part of Bónus (Lisbon, 2017), the exhibition intended to celebrate the artist winning the 2013 EDP Foundation Art Grand Prize. Jotta boycotts the idea of centrality, immediately suggested by the visual theme of the shooting “target”, by de-multiplying these targets and overlapping planes that hide the scoring rings, thus transforming the dryness of the original image into an intense visual experience that denies any possibility of stability in the act of seeing.

Luisa Cunha’s (Lisbon, 1949) Body Corner is as much the opposite of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man as the opposite of Le Corbusier’s Modulor: a woman who, standing with her back to us in the corner of a room whose only features are the floor, two walls and the point where they meet, outstretches her arms parallel to the ground seeming to measure the space. This woman (the artist herself) is not delimited by Apollonian geometry, neither does she delimit any functional space; with her back to us, she refuses to be the object of contemplation and measures a space which has no way out. Her other two photos appear to be (and are) just colour-form exercises; but they also constitute a new attempt by the artist to confront real and subjective global issues: fragments of coloured plastic, washed up by the sea, are enlarged as part of a game between micro and macro realities. The ecological perils of the process are masked by the joyful alacrity of the colours, and the clear but random cutting of the forms suits the artist as an ironic replication of the aesthetic and ideologically aware processes of the hard-edge currents of the 1970s.

João Gabriel (Leiria, 1992) and Tiago Baptista’s (Leiria, 1986) paintings, compared to the historical impact of Vieira’s piece and the speculative impact of Jotta and Cunha’s work, appear strange, the products of another universe, where the mastery of the conceptualisation of the works seems to have been replaced by free strategies – narrative or descriptive (Gabriel) and intensely poetic (Baptista). The former enacts concrete situations (scenes from a shared life or portraits) whose eroticism is evident or sensed (a bare-chested teenage boy, sleeping bags in a clearing in the moonlight that reveal an affair); the latter plays games with faces which are masks, isolated in colour fields that act as elements which conceal or highlight, and elects decorative objects and patterns that he interweaves and inter-associates (exploring their contrasts and formal and semantic surprises) or which he presents as unique motifs, reinforcing their symbolism. A case in point is the candle, in a small painting, burning in the darkness that reveals nothing – which is perhaps the fate destined for all artworks, and the explanation for what it is that fascinates us so much about them.

João Pinharanda