Pedro Proença

Comicos / Pedro Oliveira

Pedro Proença often presents his work in group shows alongside that of other artists notable for its visual exuberance,eclectic references, provocatively ludicrous elements, and clearly ironic approach to the making of art. Proença’s own work, however, is completely personal. His paintings are dominated by drawing and indeed, he commands a rigorous graphic technique. The figurative images lean toward the metamorphic, the expansive, and the ornamental. Human, animal, and vegetable forms develop rhythmically into perverse deformations that transform one into the other. Usually his drawings have neither beginning nor end, unfolding in multiple directions like climbing vines. Indeed, his work seems to want to occupy all of the space in which it appears. Proença created a site-specific installation, Dynamis: Virtu e Potenza (Canzone) (Dynamic: virtue and power [song] 1989), that completely covered the walls of the gallery except for a few spaces left for autonomous works, which nevertheless maintained a visual dialogue with the larger installation.

Proença’s obscure but witty narratives draw on literature, myth, as well as the culture at large. Texts, phrases, and individual words appear frequently, often undermining the apparent meanings of the motifs by instigating a tangle of contradictory clues that involve the viewer in a convoluted game of charades. While drawing remains central to Proença’s endeavor, his work has become increasingly complex. The artist relishes the play of form and background, superimposed and contrasted patterns, and shifting colors. The paintings are divided into panels of various shapes and sizes, and frequently arranged to frame empty wall space. Some of the pieces even go around corners. The gigantic work in the Lisbon show stretched over two walls, and included painted polyptychs set up as inverted U shapes, smaller square canvases within each U, and metallic plates engraved with phrases in Latin, all linked up by a straggle of protruding wires bearing electric light bulbs. This piece was typical of the diversity of invention that Proença is currently bringing to bear.

Alexandre Melo

Translated from the Portuguese by Silvia M. F. Sardeira.