Interview by Mafalda Ruão for Umbigo Magazine
Mafalda Ruão interviews, the author of the June cover of Umbigo’s online edition, who has an endless dialogue with painting; after all, this has within itself the relentless hermeneutic, the quest for the reason for being. At first, a gesture that rips the boundary between the intangible and figuration. Then, an intense formal chromaticism, material and imperfect, towards the immersive intangibility of perception, which is not lateral or predictable; but fluid, wandering, transversal.
MR – When you were once asked about what you saw when looking at your work, you stated “If it is finished, I look at the clock or the window”. What marks that difference?
LJ – When a work is finished, for me it’s over. My attention is given to the path until it is finished. Then the work becomes inaccessible to me. It no longer speaks to me, it only partially belongs to me. And even that part no longer wants to talk to me. It takes me a long time to be able to see what I have done. I look at the window if I have more time, at the clock if I have less.
MR – You have used many media in your art, but the one that stands out is painting. Why is that?
LJ – The feeling of traversing the world as if it were a huge painting is not foreign to me. Although I work with different media – collage, video, drawing, installation, among others, it is always a pictorial logic, associated with a filmic logic. I think that time and the tardiness of such crossing influences all my work. I was given a box of oil paints when I was 9 and I don’t think I have ever felt so much authority! I don’t know if being short-sighted, being very comfortable with colour, and having an enormous pleasure in seeing, in doing within painting explains something. But I don’t need a justification either.
MR – Intention or intuition? How do intuition and intention play a decisive role in creation?
LJ – Both. The intention to go all the way. It can be useful to have a more or less clear intention in doing a piece in a certain way. But it is important to be open to surprises, contradictions. Intuition is essential. What you don’t know, what you don’t expect, what you don’t quite understand – all this has to make its way into the creative process. Or else things don’t happen.
MR – Message or aesthetics? To quote Marta Mestre, your work is “always in a space between ambivalence, concealment and poetry”, oneiric, ethereal, with expanded meaning, like a transitory point; how strong is painting as a translator of the message you want to convey?
LJ – If I knew what message I wanted to send I wouldn’t make art. Nor if there was only the form. I remembered the title of a novel by Carmen Martin Gaite, Lo raro es vivir. Aesthetics also contains the possibility of hermeneutics, of interpretation, of a quest for the reason for being. I lean much more towards that open field than to a communicative role.
MR – About the work Casa (2016) and its metaphorical simplicity, which confronts the stability and familiarity of home, protective and restrictive, to the unpredictability of opposing and radical weather conditions. Was/is the site-specific work or, as you say, work in space, a challenge, an added meaning to the works? Or a creative limitation?
LJ – Addressing a specific circumstance (a broadly understood context and its spatial characteristics) can be a stimulating challenge. The installation Casa, 2016, was conceived for two areas of Casa-Museu Medeiros e Almeida, a palatial bourgeois house, which has plenty of furniture, decorative arts objects (amazing clocks!) and European landscape paintings. I chose to intervene in a room with wooden panels and country paintings on the walls, Human Made, 2016, where I turned off the lights, put the furniture in the corners, covered them with sheets (as if the house had been closed) and simulated a storm. A sound installation of rain and thunder, a strob responding to the sound with lightning. This installation doesn’t make sense in every place. In the office/library, I installed the work And shining this our now must come to then, a projection of a slide with a baby’s hand, and the projection of a rainbow produced through a glass prism in situ. These are two projections. In one of the rooms, I recaptured the memory of an untamed, threatening, voracious nature (which drives humans to build houses). In the other, there was the disarming beauty, the wonder before everything, the purest ability to be amazed, in a room dedicated to study and knowledge. This exhibition was the first of the Estufa cycle, with interventions by other artists (Diogo Bolota, Isabel Simões, Vítor Reis and Paulo Lisboa). All the exhibitions were accompanied by a small publication, designed by Joana Tavares, in an edition of 50 copies. The Casa publication contained reproductions of all the skies painted in the landscape paintings of the Casa-Museu collection. And also, a poem by Eugénio de Andrade:
The place of the house
A house that was not even a deserted
sandy beach; not even a house;
only a place
where the fire was lit, and joy
sat around it; and warmed
its hands; and it left because it
had a fate; a simple and
mundane thing, but a fate:
to grow like a tree, to withstand
the wind, the harshness of winter,
and one morning feel the footsteps
or, who knows?, the blossoming
of the branches, which appeared
dry, and again shook
with the sudden song of the lark.
MR – The exhibitions We had the experience but missed the meaning (2018) and We can always escape in the car (2017) share a dialogue between the heterogeneity of extreme scales and a logic between figuration and abstraction. When the clash between the layout’s formality and the confrontation of the works is so strong in an exhibition, what is the observer’s role in the artwork’s making?
LJ – Co-creator. This also happens in my exhibition now at Galeria Quadrado Azul, this dichotomy – figuration and abstraction, images where we recognize something from the world and others where we do not identify an external referent. They are works produced at the same time, they dialogue. The tension created above all in our perception when we are faced with these two types of work is decisive, the hiatus in which we are caught. The observer is called upon to manage this magnetic relationship.
MR – In Véu-Pedra (2019), the highlight is white squares added to the painting, but not integrated into it. How much of a need do you feel to go beyond what you have already done and break new ground? Or to “de-formalize”painting?
LJ – I like to think painting broadly, to find new ways of understanding what painting can be. Is it colour on a surface? Any pigments on any surfaces? With such a wide range of scales and mediums, do we always talk about painting? They do such different things! Is it a space that surrounds us? Is it a 2 x 8 cm gap that makes us travel far away? And is painting always an image? There are so many variables in this very simple equation… it’s a perpetual interview.
MR – About the future, can you share with us the upcoming projects?
LJ – I have several exhibitions going on at the moment.
At Brotéria, an exhibition with the German artist Isa Melsheimer, É o cenário que se move / It’s the scenery that moves, until July 2. We will have an open conversation about the exhibition with Isa Melsheimer, on Tuesday, June 28, at 7pm, at Brotéria. You’re all invited!
A ideia de voltar / The idea of returning, solo exhibition at Galeria Quadrado Azul, until the end of July.
I participate in the exhibition Tisanas, Infusões para Tempos Próximos / Tisanas, infusions for the impending future, curated by Maria do Mar Fazenda, at Centro de Arte e Cultura da Fundação Eugénio de Almeida, until October.
I was awarded a grant from the Atelier-Museu Júlio Pomar and will participate in the artist residency Residency Unlimited in New York for three months, between September and November 2022.
I’m looking for a large, stable and affordable studio in Lisbon/greater Lisbon from December onwards :D!