Lisbona Contemporanea II - Marta Lock Official critic and presentation
Despite its position on the border between the old continent and its openness to the new, Portugal has spent many years in a mode of artistic retardation due to the conservative nature of its rulers and its people, which has led the creative innovations of the twentieth century's vibrancy to reach the Lusitanian land when in the rest of Europe they had already been overtaken by other new currents. After the splendour of the Manueline style and the chromatic vivacity of the azulejios, the nation seemed to have fallen into a creative silence that began to see its reawakening at the beginning of the 20th century, with the emergence of some of the greatest names in Portuguese art such as Amedeo de Souza-Cardoso, a frequent visitor to Parisian salons, where he became friends with Modigliani and Brâncuşi, who adhered to Cubism, José de Almada Negreiros, an exponent and promoter of Modernism, and Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, one of Portugal's greatest abstractionists. This initial artistic vivacity was followed by a dark period, that of Salazar's dictatorship, in which every type of cultural manifestation was stifled by the regime, from which the country managed to free itself only after forty years; in that period all artists who wanted to express themselves and continue to pursue their expressive dream were forced to flee, finding asylum in neighbouring countries where they were able to build a respectable career. A great exponent of Portuguese painting, exiled to France for political reasons, was Jùlio Pomar, who initially belonged to Neo-Realism, then moved on to Neo-Expressionism and Abstract Expressionism, passing through Informalism, displaying an extraordinary chameleon-like ability that enabled him to dominate the Portuguese art scene for many years. And then Paula Rego, who emigrated to the United Kingdom and entered the School of London, where she was able to develop her themes, giving life to a singular and exciting artistic style, capable of capturing the eye of the observer both by virtue of her deformed bodies in which essence and emotion take priority over aesthetics, and by virtue of that saudade, that melancholy for episodes and landscapes of her beloved Portugal that accompanied her new life in England and which cannot fail to pervade her paintings. To confirm the extent to which female creativity has succeeded in crossing the borders of the country and establishing itself abroad, we cannot forget Lourdes de Castro, with her stylised and almost Pop Expressionism that has made her one of the most quoted artists on the world scene. In this context, initially slowed down by political reasons and by Portugal's fragile economy, those who have promoted and made modern and contemporary art accessible are the great private collectors, thanks to whom the city of Lisbon, mainly, but also Porto, have the opportunity to show the local and foreign public some of the most important collections, thanks to which it is possible to get to know and experience the world art scene of the last century and a half. The second edition of Lisbon Contemporanea is a confirmation of the success of the 2020 edition, that of the year horribilis in the history of the 21st century, which, however, saw the interest of many collectors from Lisbon, but also from abroad, thanks to the efforts of Gonzalo Madeira, curator of the Natalia Gromicho gallery, with whom we decided to repeat the experience in order to continue to show the Lusitanian public the new European artistic voices, to open a dialogue between different styles and pictorial languages, sometimes apparently in contrast with each other but in reality always in harmonious agreement, and to choose to do something to never again allow Portugal to fall into the isolation in which it has been for too many years. Twenty-one artists present, representing not only their countries of origin, but also different and multifaceted approaches to creative expression, which has never been so individualised as in our times, free from all schemes, rules and the sense of belonging to a group or movement that characterised the 20th century; as in the past, Lisbon welcomes the versatility and personalisation of pictorial and sculptural figures that are captivating precisely because of their originality. Belgium, Germany, Austria, England, Romania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Italy, France, Greece and Poland are the countries represented in this international exhibition, as many are the styles present: Informal Art, Material Informal, Abstract Expressionism, Expressionism, Pop Digital Art, Digital Art, Neo-Impressionism, Art Singulier, Dadaism, Graffiti style. The fascination of discovery and dialogue between the various forms of expression cannot fail to captivate the gaze and fascinate visitors, who will be led to discover not only the message of the individual artist but also the cultural roots from which each draws and to give form to their own personal sensations, their deepest emotions, in a communicative beat that fills the gallery with colour and emotion. A journey through art, therefore, from the south to the north of Europe, from the east to the west, to remind us that there are no borders, no distinctions, no splits, just the harmony of the single message emanating from the artworks.