How it is (im)possible to measure time when vices and virtues are repeated


in: Diário de Notícias, September 2006

These are very simple actions that are repeated daily.  Actions that follow a pattern and help to measure time - the time lived and the one left in memory - and also those that open the field to further readings, starting with the confrontation between vice and virtue. This could be one way to describe in broad terms the work that João Leonardo, winner of the EDP New Artists Prize 2005, presented in Lisbon in its first two exhibitions: at the 111 Gallery, which opens today, and Arte Contempo Art Space, which opened Thursday. 

As Time Goes By...  opens the season at 111 Gallery with four pieces from two "vices" assumed by the author: smoking and writing. Two verbs, combined with the naturalness of the rituals ingrained in routine, which have jumped from the category of gesture to the structuring registration of the work of art. 

It is the time, as a pattern of action, which is embodied in works created with the SG Lights cigarette packs smoked for ten years (now the sculpture Calendar I) and with the crossword puzzles, completed from  the daily newspapers in a period of three years (Calendar II, which classifies as painting). The video, which names the exhibition, sums up the ultimate challenge of daily performances, associated with the act of smoking.

"I am interested in exploring not only the idea of patterns," says João Leonardo, but also their "deviations" and the positive side of repetition. "It's through repetition that we learn to speak, to write or to recognize people." And so the work List of Verbs, is explained, a large format drawing with all the Portuguese verbs written on it. An "obsessive compulsion to catalog and organize reality, a kind of thirst for infinity"  - written in elegant calligraphy. Everything is on display until October 28th. 

The metaphorical resonance of João Leonardo work takes a more vivid shape in the Arte Contempo exhibition, open until 14 October with two videos that address the "cultural cleansing". 

In The Funeral Party (2004), a character is kissed by men and women, and disinfects his mouth between contacts. From the issue of sexual identity to the symbolism of the kiss itself, from the "funeral of love", to the trafficking of human beings, the work evokes multiple issues.

In Clean (2003), the artist appropriates Bruce Nauman's video Art Make-Up, in order to subvert the gesture of putting / removing the mask of paint that covers his body. Crossing artistic references (by Rodin and Klimt's to Judd), philosophy (Hume, Baudrillard) or music (Bowie, Cure, Depeche Mode), the memory and the present meet here.

Paula Lobo