Lisbon

Michael Biberstein

Galeria Comicos

Michael Biberstein’s work combines two kinds of reference, each of distinct origin and resonance. One is the representation of landscape, executed within traditional modes and methods, and related to the history of certain kinds of painting—mainly Romanticism and early Chinese painting. The other are the formal elements of a reductionist attitude of minimalist appearance. Biberstein presents diptychs in which one panel depicts a landscape and the other presents a gray monochrome, as well as a number of smaller works on paper that juxtapose a delicate landscape with the floorplan of a house or shelter.

In an earlier phase of his work, the author pursued the reduction of the formal, abstract elements of representation, searching for a structure of meaning within minimal variants of those elements. The same method was applied to an analysis of the exhibition space, the shows taking on the form of site-specific installations. Biberstein’s was an analytical, systematic, structuralist attitude. But the final aim—and this is true of the most recent works as well—was an investigation of the ways in which representation and perception lead to a transcendent modification of the observer’s frame of mind. The purpose, paradoxically, is to submit the spiritual efficacy of plastic forms to systematic analysis.

The abandonment of this exclusively analytical method corresponds, in more general terms, to a theoretical change marking the ’80s: a discovery of the limits of systematic methodology, particularly that methodology’s inability to account for the variety of artistic production. Biberstein’s recent work shows the analytic posture receding, in favor of maximizing residual effect. These works seek to open a direct line to the spectator, through the emotions generated by a landscape, a procedure that is parallel, but not subordinate, to analytic detachment. Thus, the work generates sensations of warmth and coolness, envelopment and rejection. The duplicity of sensations corresponds to the experience of a sublime landscape: the fascination and fear of dissolving into an infinite expanse. In its seeming formal and theoretical indecisiveness, this work is a witness to a transition that may shortly turn out to be decisive: the transition from a systematic conception of truth to the ideal of poetic truth.

Alexandre Melo

Translated from the Portuguese by Ana Gummao.