In his famous painting La Mémoire (1948), René Magritte depicted the head of a female statue bleeding from a wounded temple. The strangeness provoked by the association of these two elements pertaining to two different contexts – the vulnerability of human body and the timelessness of sculpture – introduces us to the reflection in which Gonçalo Preto’s new series of works are rooted.
Fragmento is based on the juxtaposition of images depitcting parts of the human body and fragments of ancient sculptures, both investigated by Preto with the same analytical eye and rendered on paper through a realistic and detailed description.
The starting point of Anamnese, the portrait of a young man with a disfigured face, is a picture dating back to the World War First, that emerged from a research on the work of British Francis Derwent Wood and American Anna Coleman Ladd, two sculptors who put their art at the service of the injured soldiers during the war. Wood opened his so called “Tin Noses Shop” in London, while Ladd founded the Studio for Portrait Masks in Paris: both laboratories were devoted to the creation of masks to be worn by men whose faces had been disfigured and made to resemble the soldiers’ former selves. Similarly to the process of sculpture restoration, the artists made plaster casts of the damaged faces, a reconstruction based on pre-injury photographs, and modeled masks in order to restore their mutilated original features.
Anamnese is facing Apogeo, the drawing of an ancient mask whose entirety has been compromised by fractures and damages, and whose original aspect is irremediably lost. If the effect of the mangled human face is disturbing, because the viewer instinctively empathises with the human body, with its fractures and missing parts the mask looks familiar: subject to the action of time, and accidentally broken, it acquires a human dimension.
The diptych Untitled is based on the same relationship: displayed horizontally in a case, inviting the viewer to lean over to see them up close, the image showing an accumulation of fragmentary ancient statues and busts is juxtaposed to the perturbing drawing of disarticulated bodies piled up. Both ruins of war, consequences of a timeless violence, they at the same evoke episodes of recent brutal destruction in ancient archelogical sites, like Nimrud and Palmyra.
In Solstício, the sculpture and the body are fused together in the drawing of a bronze hand in which the coldness of the metal melts with the warmth and tension of the gesture, while the diptych of paintings No fio da navalha show the same image of a wounded human ear subject to a disappeareance through a patina that seems to visualize our process of adaptation to upsetting images.
In Fragmento broken bodies and wounded sculptures face each other in a silent dialogue, both subject to the passage of time and witnesses of a trauma.
Gonçalo Preto (Lisbon, 1991) lives and works in Lisbon. He studied Product Design at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Lisbon, and completed his education studying Drawing and Painting at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, USA. In 2012 he studied at the Kassel Kunsthochschule, Kassel, Germany. His group exhibitions include: Blue, The Switch Gallery, Lisbon, 2016; Babel, Miguel Justino Contemporary Art, Lisbon, 2016; 4, Cidadela Art District, Cascais, 2015; Spring Show, Academy of Art University, San Francisco, 2015; Spring Show, Academy of Art University, San Francisco, 2014; Means to an End, Neurotitan Gallery, Berlin, 2013; Not Exklusiv, Rundgang, Kassel Kunsthochschule, Kassel, 2012.