Lately, the work of Julião Sarmento has achieved a growing and remarkable relevance in terms of the way the image confronts the viewer. Out of this seemingly formal issue, several degrees of meaning are extracted via the methodologies Sarmento explores in his various media. Painting, sculpture, video or photography are processes that interweave in fragmented relationships that run through the history of art, making use of images produced by cinema or literature that challenge us, sometimes in almost transgressive terms, by looking into our intimacy and its connection with the collective imagination.
The exhibition, which was planned to make use of three exhibition spaces in the city: the Kula Gallery, the Milesi Palace and the Museum of Fine Arts, offers viewers several points of entry into Sarmento's work, by displaying works in various media, such as the video piece, which creates a unique impression by filling the whole space of the Kula Gallery, in which the exhibition begins. This piece, ROC (40 plus one), features several topics which will be explored by the artist throughout the exhibition. In the video, a woman recites Ludwig Wittgenstein's Remarks on Colour whole slowly undressing in front of a Neoclassical backdrop. Through the spoken word, speculative and philosophical thought merges with the body's performance, in an action that becomes unique and initiatic as the clothes fall.
The exhibition's title, As Good as It Gets, is also the title of a painting that is part of the set of works to be exhibited at the Gallery of Fine Arts. This common and clichéd phrase contrasts with the elements in the painting. The three hands' posture and movement create a strange and disturbingly ambiguous composition, under a drawing of an architectural structure that is unrecognizable and partially diffuse, like a previous existence slowly fading away. One hand grabs an arm whose hand penetrates another arm with its thumb, leaving the third hand open and almost inert. We fail to immediately apprehend those odd-numbered fragments of the body, or how many bodies were there originally. These body parts in the picture contextualize the permanent contradiction Sarmento's work conveys to us, and which the exhibition displays as an itinerary of narratives that are ever-open, never pursuing a corollary or conclusion. This event can be seen as an introduction to a body of work that is constantly open, something that in Julião Sarmento's artistic practice and thought amounts to an act of resistance that fractures all the interpretative possibilities each piece offers and deconstructs.
João Silvério, curator
About the artist
Julião Sarmento was born in 1948 in Lisbon, Portugal and lives and works in Estoril, Portugal. He studied painting and architecture at the Lisbon School of Fine Arts. Throughout his career, Sarmento has worked in a wide range of media – painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, film, video and installation. He has had numerous one-person and group exhibitions throughout the world over the past four decades. Julião Sarmento represented Portugal at the 46th Venice Biennale (1997). He was included in Documenta 7 (1982) and 8 (1987); the Venice Biennale (1980 and 2001) and the São Paulo Biennale in 2002. His work is represented in many public and private collections in North and South America, Europe and Japan.