Ana Manso, the end, 2016, oil on canvas, 20 1/8 × 14 5/8".

Ana Manso, the end, 2016, oil on canvas, 20 1/8 × 14 5/8".

Ana Manso

Ana Manso, the end, 2016, oil on canvas, 20 1/8 × 14 5/8".

To those familiar with the work of Portuguese artist Ana Manso, her double evocation of the idea of “order” in her recent exhibition—both in its title, “In Order of Appearance,” and in her emphasis on one of its structural pillars—might come as a surprise. In her practice, which has been deeply rooted within the medium of painting, Manso has always rejected any form of order, much as she has avoided the manifold fields of representation. Instead, the notion of an endless “landscape” composed of layers of paint, which are reminiscent of capsules of time—moments in which the artist returns to the canvas in an attempt to add to the gradually composed surface, whether by appending another layer or by extending the surface of the painting as such—suggests a form of abstraction based on the process of editing.

This operation connects Manso’s work to an invisible timeline. But hers is an analog process, and so her timeline forbids the “delete” or “undo” functions that we have become so used to in the digital age. She continually adds layers to already-layered surfaces, constructing what might be best understood as a process-based narrative but could also be described as an intuitive interplay among brushstrokes, forms, and colors. By using the idea of a timeline as a conceptual arena, Manso in many ways leaps into the subject of the cinematic. Specifically, this structure creates a break in her practice and allows for an introspective approach and a new, more conceptual viewing of her work by way of an implicit narrative that reveals not only the process of the works’ making but also the importance of their titles, which serve to evoke individual parts of an assumed timeline, as exemplified by the end (all works 2016) or in the meantime, or the nature of its structure as such: one thing before another, one thing after another. As in experimental cinema, however, the conventional idea of the structure of storytelling is avoided and put under question here, allowing for fragments of the timeline to loosen from their base and to mix and merge as freely as the colors, layers, shapes, and forms in the paintings.

“In Order of Appearance” confronted the viewer with the materialization of a chain of events brought to life through a series of canvases, as a well as by one thing before another, one thing after another, a wall drawing of a horseshoe and an architectural detail. Manso has been playing with the figurative and the representational for some time—yet in this context, the mural served an architectural function, too. It provided an interval between individual parts of the assumed narrative, whose order was simultaneously reconsidered.

Although Manso was working with a revised and lightened color palette, her new paintings did not lose the characteristic depth of her previous efforts. On the contrary, their fragmented and complex nature allows them to reveal a multitude of individual surfaces and suggests a revised understanding of abstraction, which appears as an accumulation of solid and tangible fragments of the abstract reality that we live in today.

Markéta Stará Condeixa