Julião Sarmento

Picture Show

Mar  3-31, 2007

Galeria Fortes Vilaça

Galeria Fortes Vilaça has the pleasure of presenting Julião Sarmento's Picture Show. This new exhibition is made up of paintings, drawings and a sculpture, all of which confirm the singularity of this Portuguese artist's work. In this series, Sarmento explores the connection between the fine arts and the cinema. All the pieces have titles that recall the divas and female stars of Hollywood's heyday from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, like Greta, Audrey, Grace and Elizabeth.

A universal representation of woman – a female figure in a sexy black dress with the head cut off at the chin – appears in all the paintings like a repository of these stars and divas. According to Sarmento, "The representation of a headless woman prevents the paintings from becoming portraits, as the construction of a face or the outline of an eye would transform the figure into a specific, real woman". The artist applies a wax to the canvasses that erases at surface level parts of the bodies, giving the works a deliberately unfinished feel, in which the marks of his actions can be seen. Small fragments of dialogues from the films to which the titles of the paintings refer are silk-screened on the white backgrounds.

In the drawings, the mixture of visual and written languages is intensified. Short sentences share the space with black and white photographs of the actresses at work; and a series of drawings of pairs of hands appear at the center of each piece. Touching each other and intertwining differently in each drawing, the hands compose a wide repertoire of gestures, allowing a form of non-verbal, corporal communication.

In the only sculpture on show, the female figure is given human proportions and is placed sitting alongside a painting, between two shelves fixed to the gallery wall: one supporting her body, the other cutting through her face.
The fragmentation and incompleteness of the bodies represent what Sarmento calls a "glimpse of a passage" –  "the moment that we notice there is someone near by, and, without even looking straight at the person, we recognize the empty space left by their passage". To represent this "glimpse of a passage" is also, as David Barro has suggested, to "…value absence in the face of the multiplication of possibilities".

For Julião Sarmento, the works on show are not intended to form a narrative between each other, nor are they intended to be descriptive or illustrative in relation to the actions in the films referred to, rather, each piece is intended individually to generate its own lexicon.