Showing regularly since 1988, Branco has developed a very personal work through a variety of media, his practice including painting, sculpture, drawing, installation and computer image. Mostly known for his particular use of scale and for having animals as one of his main subjects, his work is always based on existing images. These images are taken from different sources and periods of the History of Art or from the media, such as newspapers photographs, science fiction movies and comic books, images that circulate in the web. This use of different historical strata is part of a constructive system, as expressed by the Portuguese art critic Bernardo Pinto de Almeida:
“As if using a scalpel, Branco dissects and cuts out numerous representations from classical art, which he deconstructs and then reassembles into enigmatic hybrid images. They are meticulously (re)constructed and remade by means of successive re-configurations, by editing and pasting varied pieces from other sources, very often virtual ones. He makes ample and free use of the immense possibilities offered by new technologies, such as increasing and reducing scale, enlarging, erasing, cropping, pasting and editing images, …
These forms, which he in turn remakes and remodels and manually reshapes, always give rise to new images, given that they are obtained through innumerable operations of virtualisation that have removed all vestiges of what is usually called their origin and even any sign that there ever had been a first image.” *
In the exhibition, we see the walls of the gallery punctuated by a series of small paintings, resembling pixels on a blank screen. Images of birds, skulls and drones (the subtitle of the show), referring to each of three main groups of images — birds standing for nature, skulls for culture and drones for technology. These images, which are discreet and contemplative, seem nevertheless to silently haunt us like some kind of spectres: surveillance cameras, drones and icebergs that float on still blue waters, have strangely become symbols of our present condition. The ‘classical’ way in which these images are painted, create a subtle tension in their immediate perception: on the one hand they tell us about our immediate present, on the other they seem — already — to belong to a distant past.
Spectres is linked to Miguel Branco’s simultaneous individual exhibition at Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, “Black Deer (Resonances, Enlèvements, Interferences)”. The works presented in this show develop multiple connections with the pieces of the museum collection.
* Extracts of Bernardo Pinto de Almeida’s text published on “The Silence of Animals”, Schloss Ambras, Innsbruck, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Austria, 2015.