04.07 > 05.09.2019
Pedro Gomes — A óptica do utilizador
Curadoria Sérgio Fazenda Rodrigues

Developed specifically for the site, the drawings that Pedro Gomes presents (in the main room of Appleton Square, in Lisbon) operate as a reflection on our gaze and its relationship with the nature of the exhibition space. Offering a critical perspective on modernist thought, the artist examines the idea underpinning the Gallery's format and challenges the specificity of the White Cube model, questioning the way in which art works are usually accommodated and perceived.

Pedro Gomes presents a group of 34 large drawings articulated as a whole, in a mosaic occupying three walls. This mosaic creates an enveloping space, which welcomes us and embraces our gaze in a sequence of contrasting areas. Though the images reinforce the unity of the whole, each sheet of paper lures us with a specificity of its own. Through variations in the saturation of lines drawn and patches removed, each drawing thus inhibits the succession of contours attached to them and in this way evades a reading of immediate continuity. Avoiding the propagation of a single figure across the various supports, it could be said that the artist privileges a sense of familiarity, wherein each element is recognised as part of a group while simultaneously remaining autonomous. It should be noted that the subtlety of this process involves the willingness to repeat principles and not only results.

These drawings reveal to us a set of exhibition rooms where several notions of time may be identified: a sense of time which refers to the exhibition logic and orders the frames on the wall, occasionally suggesting a 19th-century salon; and another which frames the architectural space in closer proximity to the present and in which compartmental and functional elements such as security and lighting systems can be made out.

In each drawing we find images that are at times multiple. While each image insinuates a corner, passage or simply the wall of a compartment, this vision is never direct, but instead offers a foreshortened reading that deepens the three-dimensionality of the space. The composition thus presents us with a perspectival suggestion that occasionally alludes to the idea of transparency in the overlapping it creates. This overlapping generated by transparency satirises the modernist paradigm of spatial fluidity, yet remains at times merely graphic and two-dimensional. In a second overlapping, Pedro Gomes applies another layer that functions as a pattern that plays a unifying role: deliberately contradicting the image and openly disrupting the perception of the observer, this pattern acts in a similar way to white noise, blurring the base figure in order to specify the visual experience.
Indeed, a game of inscription and erasure, spatialisation and structuring, separation and compression unfolds in a dynamic register in which the drawing itself often approximates a baroque logic and the idea of painting, with the work constructed through an articulation of layers and senses and in the way these are actively hidden and highlighted in turn.
Curiously, the whole acquires the dimensions of an installation when the enthrallment produced by this game affects the manner in which the room is occupied as a whole. While the drawings take on a symmetrical layout that begins from a central line, those that appear in the corners reinforce the reading of the image by bending in the upper corners of the room.
Any apparent simplicity in Pedro Gomes' drawings is subversive; indeed, the artist offers a kaleidoscopic and evolving vision in which the organisation of the image confounds our perception. The overlapping, focus and fading that exist in each sheet of paper generate an entity that operates at various levels. The procedure of making and undoing / inscribing and erasing is recognised inside the drawn frames, in the proximate relationship between them and the figures they encompass, in the compartments they inhabit and, finally, in the space that the artist occupies.

Construction and deconstruction is an activity that appears meticulously across several layers. The mark is not limited to the build-up of ink on the various shades of white of the support medium or in the simple drawing of lines, but includes also the indentation, peeling and tearing of the paper itself, revealing the corporality of the work. It would thus appear that alongside the planning element which establishes the programmed and phased construction of each drawing, there is also room for improvisational intervention where another kind of control takes place through removal; yet this always takes place in a physical and conceptual relationship that questions the image, the nature of drawing and a way of thinking and communicating (in) space.

Brian O'Doherty refers to the false neutrality of the exhibition hall in his well-known work 'Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space'. Considered a stereotype for the gallery today and an institutional model for the museum room, the traditional white enclosure has a theatrical dimension that is a product of modern thought. Its sterile organisation facilitates a reading of the works that enshrines them, creating a scenic layout in which the distance generated is not impartial but part of a refined strategy to reinforce the supposed worth of that which is exhibited. Curiously, according to the same author, if in the 19th century it was the frame which served to delimit the work of art, today it is the configuration of the exhibition space itself which tends to stage, frame and confine the place of the art object. This explains the saturated occupation of the walls of the end-of-the-century salons and unveils how the theatricality of the white space, in all its apparent cleanliness and detachment, is far from innocuous.

The work developed by Pedro Gomes questions this spatial dynamic. As the artist contradicts the space with a logic of compression and density, simultaneously promising, deceiving and bewildering, he opens a path towards doubt and enchantment, questioning a model which is as well established as it is taken for granted. The experience of the saturated screen leads us to the multiplicity of the gaze and to the overlapping of contents, which is a veritable paradigm for the present moment. 'The Viewpoint of the User' is thus an intervention that focuses on the nature of the act of seeing and where, more than managing the distance of a gaze which hovers untethered, the proximity of a body is sought out: a body that visually touches the drawings and becomes embedded in them.

Sérgio Fazenda Rodrigues

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