Rui Chafes

Galeria Atlantica

In his early exhibitions, Rui Chafes showed site-specific sculpture. A single construction would fill the gallery, leaving only the necessary space for the circulation of the viewers. Some of these constructions had interiors that were large enough to be entered. Materially, they often contrasted “natural” elements, such as bamboo and wood, with “artificial” ones, such as plastic. The play of different materials was determined by the relation between structural form and the surface, and the total effect was enhanced by the choice of color, texture, and illumination.

Chafes’ installations correspond to an affirmation of the impossibility, or difficulty, of the object. This is suggested by the works’ superdimensional scale, aggressive presence, precarious construction, and ephemeral nature. Overall, his sculpture relates to the romantic tradition, according to which each object only exists as both witness to impossibility and bearer of hope.

In his exhibition here, Chafes also presented this kind of sculptural object. Each was conceived as a part of a whole, and was exhibited in a meticulously prepared installation. “Depois de Para Sempre” (After forever, 1988) is the title of this latest series of Chafes’ sculpture. “Forever” is an expression that, in the current love discourse, signifies the short circuit between life and death. The expression “after” introduces the space of romantic transcendence—the space of the soul. These are metal sculptures with a refined chromatic and textural finish. Chafes combines various circular and pointed forms. The circular, spherical forms constitute centripetal poles of stability and enclosure; the pointed forms represent a dynamic configuration of openings.

As a whole, this range of formal and material structures and operations establishes an ambiguous sense of restraint and invitation. The possibilities of interpretation and allusive suggestion are immense and open: the original maternal nucleus, from which a body is formed and projected, or a flower that grows on the top of a stalk and that opens and closes, withers and dies. The sculptures evoke the necessity of growth and the material nature of death.

Alexandre Melo

Translated from the Portuguese by Helena Alves.