© Luís Paulo Costa, “Every image embodies a way of seeing”.1
Protocol can be defined as the establishing of a hierarchical order determining rules of conduct. To think about how to act before a work of art, considering there are proper forms for its analysis can be understood as an act of protocol of sorts. This belief produces an anatomical feature known as the good eye, limited to believing that one's eye is absolutely correct, so long as it is instructed in the matter at hand. To this good eye Irit Rogoff counters with the curious eye, one that questions (itself) and configures new ways of seeing. Curiosity, a trait of the common man, implies then a certain disquiet, outside of the known universe, within the pleasure of discovering what lies beyond the surface. It ranks, therefore, with commitment, emotional and physical empathy towards the art piece, and thus breaches the protocol.
Ponto de Vista [Point of View] (2011) plays with this paradox. On one hand, it defines how the public must position their body, relaying to them the ideal manner to be placed before the piece. On the other hand, the suggestion of randomness, of free will, the multiplicity of choices, and, likewise, the initial difficulty to interpret the "authoritarian" and normative character of the marks suggests a different attitude, one that implies them as a second creator, whose awareness of their physical positioning becomes an essential factor. The movement of the spectator leads to the aforementioned curious eye.
The works of Luís Paulo Costa, contrary to proper protocol, play with risk and improvisation. This imponderability can be found in We Use Red Balls (2011), defining the artist's attitude towards the spectator, in an interaction close to the idea of a game. The red of the golf balls establishes here a notion of danger associated with the idea of standing still, but also to the ludic temptation that lies within us all. Like the other pieces on display, this piece comes with a catch. This nigh-revolutionary action of "confusing the system" becomes an artistic gesture. It is almost revolutionary for here there is no explicitly political intention or any sort of manifesto, but rather the recognition of the truth that a work of art, and namely painting, is a surface prone to error and the imponderable. Changeable like life itself.
Most of these works have a photographic base, found at random, as if the artist happened to stumble upon the imaginary image museum of the world. They are then covered by a pictorial layer, and hence the title of this exhibit: Pintado por Cima [Painted Over]. Painting function here as a second skin.2
This dialogue/confrontation between the photographic image and the paintings is a fundamental factor for understanding this exhibit. According to Rosalind Krauss, supported by Pierre Bordieu (Un Art Moyen) watching a photograph leads o repetitive notions by affirming "this is this" or "this is that", within the limitation of a stereotype. Painting breaks with this way of thinking by establishing a velocity that is different to that of the contemporary sense of urgency, humanizing what seems machinal and repetitive. Even if it is not unique in its theme, it is so in its essence. In these pieces, it seems to make the photographic original disappear, although it remains fundamental for the artist, who reinforces this notion in their titles, suggesting both what is hidden and what overlaps it. Thus, along with their origin, these images create an alter-reality that is revealed in its plastic corporality. Not just an appropriation, but a true recreation. This is what is witnessed in, among many other examples, Big Moon (2011). This piece departs from a snapshot of the largest moon in two decades taken on the countryside by the artist, an event that took place on 19-03-11. What results from it is, probably, the feeling shared by all when setting out to take snapshots of the moon and the frustration of expectation when the result is a small white dot that in no way reveals the magnificence of the object pictured. In pictorial terms it is a white circle on a black background - in the abstraction of reality however it belongs with the imagination of possible infinities. This creative capacity, allied with a curious eye, allows us to break with the rules, the common, the ordinary.
There is a Portuguese idiom that expresses what we affirm here: borrar a pintura toda [to blotch up the painting, literally]. This action (condemnable by those one should "paint straight") represents however the creative sense that has always been true in painting: that everything can be resumed to the way we appropriate subjectively the world available to us, countering the protocol of common sense. The banal can, after all, be truly extraordinary...
Carla de Utra Mendes
1 Berger, John, Ways of Seeing
2 In his essay, Moi-Peau, Didier Anzieu affirms that skin is, just as in life or painting, a surface of contradictions and ambivalence, somewhere between resistance and vulnerability, protection and risk, and prone to various accidents.