Juliao Sarmento

Galeria Atlantica

The body as object and desire as mode are two topics that emerge from the work of Julião Sarmento. The artist’s mutable, visual language suggests a correspondence between his position as a producer of images and the position of the lover in relation to the object of his passion. Here, it is important to make a distinction between the common notion of passion and a tragic notion of passion. According to the common notion, passion is the expression of an explicit relation. According to the tragic notion, passion is the product of an impossible relation. In this second sense, passion is a work that can be compared to a visual creation. What lies between the pulsating origin and the end product is not the linear movement toward an instinctive satisfaction, but rather the dimension of the work itself. And it is in this dimension that the groundwork is laid for what may be a process of seduction or a process of perversion.

This exhibition brings together works completed over the past several years. On the evidence here, Sarmento has both maintained a number of constants and undergone considerable change. One of the distinguishing elements of his work is the strength of the personal imagery. The artist has elaborated upon a few set images over the years—images that have, as a rule, a sexual affiliation that inscribes them in the domain of sadomasochism, voyeurism, and fetishism. What is important to point out, however, is that these images, although profoundly anchored in the artist’s imagining (in the Lacanian sense), do not manifest themselves as a closed system, nor as an exhaustive repetition of mechanical combinations. Sarmento’s imagery is permanently open to the world and feeds itself continuously on new situations extracted from the experience of daily life—conversations, stories, books, films, and magazines.

Compositionally, the superimposition or juxtaposition of fragments expresses an essential openness, and renders reductive readings or definitive explanations impossible. In Sarmento’s work, the fragments organize themselves according to a logic of balance and counterpoint; they relate to each other, interact, and respond mutally. But their differences do not disappear when they reunite; rather, they are intensified by the contrast. At each new confrontation, difference opens new possibilities and new series of consequences.

Overall, the strength of Sarmento’s work results from its being at once obsessive and open — obsessive, because it remains faithful to a nucleus generated by visions and personal pulsations, and open, because it reveals an immense capacity for the absorption and manipulation of the stimuli of the surrounding world.

Alexandre Melo

Translated from the Portuguese by Amy Antin and Claudto Nascimento.