View of “Gonçalo Sena,” 2017. Photo: Bruno Lopes.

View of “Gonçalo Sena,” 2017. Photo: Bruno Lopes.

Gonçalo Sena

Galeria Quadrado Azul | Lisbon

View of “Gonçalo Sena,” 2017. Photo: Bruno Lopes.

The work of Berlin-based Portuguese artist Gonçalo Sena oscillates between the perceived borders of sculpture, architecture, installation, and object-based practice: gray areas that create a fertile field for the interplay of colliding matter and crashing form. With a strong architectural sensibility, Sena erects what can best be described as a conceptual ecosystem, within which his works are brought to life and act out their material characteristics. This long-awaited solo exhibition at Galeria Quadrado Azul created such an environment, uniting a wide array of seemingly distinct works, which after closer inspection revealed a shared and immersive world of their own, frequently touching on the space between the natural and the artificial.

Constructed as a series of small scenarios, compositions, conversation pieces, and sculptures involving a range of materials, “Walls and Torsos” introduced new works while echoing some of the artist’s older pieces. The show might at first have evoked the sensation of a mini-retrospective, but the manner in which the works were installed—as if in dialogue with one another—actually encouraged a revised viewing of the artist’s past and present production, both unifying the thematic ambience and emphasizing the tension between the materials. Scattered cuttlefish bones in the main gallery space, for example, connected Língua de areia (Sandbank) 2017—a suspended, salmon-colored, painted metal sculpture—with surrounding works, from framed drawings of concrete and india ink on the adjacent walls to a readymade stack of irregularly painted white garden chairs positioned at the center of the space. The chairs were part of 88.8 MHz, 2017, an installation with an audio component by artists Nuno da Luz and Joana Escoval. Two light projectors flashing in uneven intervals were paired with 88.8 MHz, generating alternating periods of stillness and action. On one hand, such tools provided a sensory backdrop for the viewing of the works; on the other, they eradicated a sense of hierarchy, resulting in a somewhat chaotic yet surprisingly balanced show, the core of which was located in opposition—between natural and artificial, abstract and representational, real and simulated.

Such dualism was further supported by the installation, which utilized a tactic of mirroring. This principle determined the position of works relative to one another and additionally strengthened the emphasis on their materiality and frequently uncanny reference points. Immersed in the exhibition, the viewer became trapped between readymade objects, hybrids, simulations, walls, and torsos. While challenging our understanding of contemporary sculpture and installation, Sena emphasizes the importance of materiality in an increasingly immaterial world, traversing the very gray zones in which we find ourselves today.

Markéta Stará Condeixa