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The CAC Málaga Presents a Survey of Julião Sarmento's Work from the Last Decade
Portuguese artist Juliao Sarmento poses for a photograph next his work entitled 'Kiss me (with foam)' during the presentation of his ten year retrospective exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum of Malaga, southern Spain. The exhibition runs from 10 December 2010 to 06 March 2011. EPA/JORGE ZAPATA.

MALAGA.- The CAC Málaga is presenting Julião Sarmento 2000-2010, a retrospective exhibition covering the last ten years of the work of this artist, who is the leading international name in contemporary Portuguese art. Sarmento’s work is notable for its intimate nature and its remarkable capacity to raise issues that go beyond the visual, creating a reality located between experience and memory. This dichotomy is evident in his work, obliging the viewer to choose between spirituality and eroticism, morality and sexuality or narrative and word. Minimalist, semi-figurative paintings, drawings, sculptures, videos and collages are the subject of this exhibition at the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, in which the eclectic nature of Sarmento’s work becomes clearly evident, as does his outstanding ability to encompass almost all the creative disciplines. The exhibition, organised by the CAC Málaga, will travel next year to Es Baluard, Museu d’Art Modern i Contemporani de Palma.

The exhibition Julião Sarmento 2000-2010 covers what can be considered the artist’s most prolific period with regard to his use of technical resources. Sarmento suggests more than he shows and implies more than he directly reveals. Behind each work lie the obsessions of a creative figure who engages in an ongoing process of questioning concepts such as pleasure, time, desire, absence and the word, encouraging the viewer to propose his or her answers.

In order to do so, Sarmento makes use of language and literature. They become fundamental tools in his work, which frequently incorporates quotations or allusions that assume the nature of images. More or less direct quotations in English, Latin and Portuguese from Bataille, Borges, Joyce, Flaubert, Pessoa and Foucault, as well as his own phrases (Bukowsi, 2008, Slowly Dying, 2005, and Under my Breasts, 2005), recur throughout his work. These phrases are deliberately removed from their normal context in order to oblige the viewer to find a new reality, exercise his or her gaze and encounter new meaning in them.

For Fernando Francés, director of the CAC Málaga: “Julião Sarmento investigates contemporary subjects and concerns, making use of techniques that move between figuration and abstraction and in which restraint and sobriety are the key elements in his creative process. Sarmento reveals without showing, announces moments that never arrive and provokes a certain sense of disquiet that delays the achievement of pleasure, which is the leitmotiv of his oeuvre. The influence of the European and American avant-gardes is evident in his interest in combining different fragments of reality, for which he makes use of newspaper and magazine cuttings and photograms that he paints over or manipulates in order to give them new meaning. This can be seen, for example, in Poppy and Kathie, both of 2006.”

Sarmento’s work involves an ongoing investigation of the complexity of interpersonal relations and involves issues such as psychological interaction, sensuality and transgression. The image of woman is a recurring motif, represented through monochrome silhouettes and pared-down lines that the artist envelops in an aura of mystery (Women’s Physical Contact, 2002 and Even Though, 2004). In addition, images of international actresses who are paradigms of beauty, sensuality and magnetism are to be seen in a series of collages of 2006 (Veronica Lake in Janet and Lauren Bacall in Nora).

They function to carry the meaning of the work by combining image and text in the form of photograms from their films and the last sentence that each uttered in them.

The exhibition is completed by three videos (Cromlech, 2010, Toile, 2006, and Voyeur, 2007) and three sculptures: Forget Me (with bucket), 2006, Kiss Me (with foam), 2005, and Guibert, 2007-2008. Aside from the format used, it is clear that Sarmento’s works contain a high degree of narrativity and involve a wealth of hidden meanings beneath apparently banal appearances or experiences.

Julião Sarmento (born Lisbon, Portugal, 1948) studied painting and architecture at the Escola Superior de Belas Artes in Lisbon, from where he graduated in 1976. He is one of the few Portuguese artists to have exhibited at the MoMA and the Guggenheim in New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Venice Biennial, as well as having shown his work in major galleries around the world.

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