September 10, 2012 Gil Heitor Cortesao – “Coming Home”
10th of September – 01st of November 2012
Carbon 12 is delighted to announce Gil Heitor Cortesão‘s solo exhibition “Coming Home”, opening on the 10th of September in Dubai. The exhibition’s title also refers to the long awaited second solo show of the Portuguese artist, probably one of the most successful non-regional artists represented by a Dubai gallery since 2009.
Cortesão’s paintings are an exercise in deconstruction; both in medium and content. A dedication towards subject and matter, artistically and ideologically. The artist takes apart the modernist utopia of the last century layer after layer: a discursive framework that breaks genres and transcends continents is excavated: culture versus nature, form following function, the absolute embracing the particular.
“Coming Home” marks an important point in the artist’s oeuvre, a culmination of experiences collected in the course of his artistic endeavors. When Cortesão was born in 1967, the architectural experiments regarding the utopian ideals of an alternative city were already in process. Shortly thereafter, these dreams vanished. They left behind only traces, covered in dust and abandoned, requiring the tools and patience of an archaeologist to rediscover and reconstruct. Cortesão has taken up this task with dexterity, brush in hand and chisel in mind.
“I am fascinated by those spaces because they are familiar to me in the sense that they still existed when I was a child, and yet I feel like they belong to the past”, Cortesão stated in an interview in 2009. “That which was probably futurist at that time, now seems retro-futurist or even just obsolete”.
The process of excavation is transferred into Cortesão’s work with all its consequences. By using the technique of “reverse glass painting”, the paradigms of painting need to be reconsidered. What is usually applied last, has to be done first when painting on glass, thus altering the whole process irreversibly. Opposing the softness of a regular canvas, neglecting the texture and olfactory qualities of the medium, Cortesão’s Plexiglas technique encourages a distance, and focuses on atmospheres instead of narratives. This “structural denial” of painting turns into one of its strongest advocates. His choice of subjects work along these lines naturally. By choosing “found footage” from magazines and books from the 60’s and 70’s, the concept of a “mediated reality” is empathized. A sort of very elastic, yet neutral structure, constantly oscillating between desire and destruction.
“A ‘hygienic’ appearance, the occultation of the texture of the work and of the manual work through a transparent surface, a kind of translucent skin which also acts as a distancing element.” These are the pragmatic qualities of Plexiglas that fascinate Cortesão, and that also explain his choice in a more metaphorical sense: “Like the mirror of an automobile, it establishes an almost invisible limit, an illusory effect of tranquility, between the interior and the exterior.”
“Coming Home” is per definition a very intimate affair, and like every end, the start of a beginning. Cortesão’s hermeneutic approach allows us merely to catch a glimpse of a body of work in progress, like a freeze frame of a movement in flux. With one of the last great narratives as a subject and an absolutely unique technical approach that totally neglects the foundations of traditional painting, the viewer is becoming part of the plan naturally. Visual footnotes and hints scattered all over, little swirls and dots of paint as entry points, the view within that view that emerges, this distinctive atmosphere: “Coming Home” is going beyond.
Cortesão’s works are in various prestigious public and private collections worldwide: MUDAM- Musée d’art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg MACE – Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Elvas, Portugal Foundation Calouste Gulbekian, Lisbon Museu da Cidade, Lisbon
Carbon 12 will publish an exhibition catalogue on occasion of the exhibition. Gil Heitor Cortesão will be personally present at the opening.
Gil Heitor Cortesão’s paintings are an exercise in deconstruction, both in medium and content. Pure dedication towards subject and matter. By dissecting the modernist utopia of the last century, layer after layer, a discursive framework that breaks genres and transcends continents becomes excavated: culture versus nature, form following function, the absolute embracing the particular. In Cortesão’s case, the narrative aspects of painting turns into pure poetry. Every angle is a new chapter and the ways the viewer can enter his paintings are countless. A path overgrown with weeds, leading towards an abandoned house that was designed as a symbol of immortality, the end of history, and the journey comes to an end, because this is “Coming Home”.
When Cortesão was born in 1967 the architectural experiments regarding the utopian ideals of an alternative city were already in process but shortly after, these dreams vanished. They left behind only traces; covered in dust, collapsed, and abandoned. Requiring the tools and patience of an archaeologist, in Cortesão’s case the brush in hand and the chisel in mind. Hints of a past life scattered all over, but the dust forms a completely new layer, a barely visible avalanche, but powerful nonetheless: a landscape on its own. Shadows are to be seen through the windows, gently weeping in the wind like the trees that have long been left to their own fate.
Cortesão was always fascinated by those spaces because they were familiar to him in a sense that they were part of his childhood, yet always belonged to the past. What was probably futurist at that time, now seems retro-futurist or even obsolete. Time was never an absolute term and the myth of linear progress became a mere footnote. This very personal approach seems to be contradictory to the sujets which are cooled down to a freezing point, an icebox of ideologies, a memorial to modernity, a hazy sunset that went by in the blink of an eye. Upon closer examination, the light becomes the mediator between the in and the outside. A certain warmth is present, sunbeams almost too weak to be noticed still make their way through cracks, letting the room stay cool but not cold. The landlord is long gone, but the keys are where they should be. The lock is rusted and squeaks, but not in an unfamiliar manner as the knob slowly turns. The smell is the first thing that tingles the senses. It resembles an organism at work, one that created its own way of breathing, slowly, but steadily: almost invisible movements, fragile and subtle, synchronized to the echo of conversations long passed.
Cortesão’s organic approach is more than literal. By using the technique of “reverse glass painting” the paradigms of painting need to be reconsidered. What is usually applied last has to be the first when painting on glass, thus altering the whole process irreversibly. Opposing the softness of a regular canvas, neglecting the texture and olfactory qualities of the medium, Cortesão’s Plexiglas techniques encourage a distance. This “structural denial” of painting turns into one of its strongest advocates. His choice of subjects work along these lines naturally. Also the symbol of the chisel can be read the same way, transferring the process of excavation into Cortesão’s work with all consequences. To fully appreciate the result of this meticulous method is to imagine walking through one of the rooms: the softness of the carpet that works like a slow motion dolly shot, the scent of a certain piece of furniture that is long gone. The traces of its inhabitants disappeared completely, you can only imagine the noises their lives made, but these echoes are vibrant and clear if one only knows where to listen…maybe the sound is coming from the door that was left open.
There are many entry points regarding the work of Cortesão, one of the most important ones being his choice of material. By choosing “found footage” from magazines and books, the concept of a “mediated reality” is emphasized. A sort of very elastic but also neutral structure, constantly oscillating between desire and destruction. It’s almost like the setting is favored over the subject, the interplay of all the details combined resulting in the distinct atmosphere that is so unique to Cortesão’s work. Combined with the “hygienic” appearance, the occultation of the texture of the work, and of the manual work through a transparent surface. The pragmatic qualities of Plexiglas that made it the material of choice for the artist, works like a kind of translucent skin which acts as a distancing element at the same time.
The doors might be open, but it becomes clear that the noise comes from within. The only other source of sound are the pebbles under the wheels of an automobile. The reflection on its windshield establishes an almost invisible limit, an illusory effect of tranquillity, between the interior and the exterior, completing the metaphor itself. Coming Home is the beginning of the end of the beginning. The future is what is to be seen in the rear mirror.
Text by Albert Allgaier