Solo exhibition at Las Palmas project space, Lisbon (January 2019)
Photo credits: Samuel Duarte
Text by Carolina Forjaz Trigueiros, 2019
Hugo Brazão works in different media, selecting different materials in each different project or challenge that he takes. The first stimulus is, in many occasions, a result of the space and context, unravelling a set of references, archived or accumulated research, that go from popular culture to a digital universe without any hierarchy or prejudice. The crossing between painting, sculpture or textile is as natural as these multiple associations. They are so diverse that they open the way to a flexible narrative, that doesn’t lead to any definite or linear conclusions. Like an extension from his thinking. The context is the catalyser of ideas that takes shape in a similar way to a medley of strings. Like a hyperlink of connections that can contain ambiguous information, that contradict themselves, depending on its user and on each visualisation. Ideas that can manipulate or be manipulated and, because of that, like a trap between what we believe in, what we think we know and what we experiment with… In this ambiguous game of references, the artist founds his plot, materialises this web of thoughts and stimulates a narrative.
Following this note, we can now attempt to explain the current simulacrum: the artist appropriates the colour of the walls of Las Palmas, as if that was purposeful for this show. This dissolution between what is an implicit condition of the space and what could be an artistic intention, pronounces the connections that are built around this shade of pink.
A very similar shade of pink has been coined in the 70s by Alexander Schauss. He was interested in analysing how colour affects people psychologically and physically and claimed that this shade of pink has a calming, therapeutic effect, and it can reduce aggressive and hostile behaviours. During this research the Schauss pink, P-618, or due to this incident Baker-Miller Pink, was tested in the prison cells of the Naval Correctional facilities of Seattle, Washington, where – apparently – the beneficial effects of the exposure to this colour were proven. This tendency was spread to other places (clinics, changing rooms, etc) and has always been controversial, with disparate and not very clear results.
Following this idea, we can see in the textile piece by the entrance, the attempt to get to the origin of this shade of pink and its therapeutic properties. In this case, to its closest natural pigment: the cochineal red – extracted from the dried body of mature female cochineal bugs that live in some species of cacti. However, this process banalizes the death of thousands or millions of insects that, if they can be seen as a plague, they also produce the famous carminic acid (E-120). In that way, the various elements of the exhibition converge, contaminate each other, produce a dialogue, but also contradict themselves. Between what is said and what is omitted.
There is an effort in the artistic process that involves cataloguing the name or possible definition of this colour. There is a youthfulness and patent irony in the use of, for example, Calamine powder in one of the works, to allude the soothing properties of this mineral; Himalayan salt in another work, or even Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) – known for temporarily treating digestive problems.
But, in any case, the excessive use of any of these products can have secondary effects, the same as if you are exposed to the shade of pink on the walls, as proved by Schauss.
So, if everything is calm, at the same time everything seems not to be. If the exhibition space is a metaphor for a pacific, serene, space of well-being, we also shouldn’t feel that tranquil. As the painting that references the Pink river Dolphin, that is after all an endangered species of dolphin.
And it’s this latent subtext that reformulates all the assumptions taken and that will interpolate us. When everything is pacific, we can stop thinking and being critical and open. Anxiety and enthusiasm can, in many cases, live together.
This way, this artistic exercise has, in practicality, the methodical aspects of a therapy: the artist dedicates time to tidy up and mess up different concepts, similar to the psychoanalytical model of free association. The ambiguity of the objects, paintings and the fountain itself that keeps running, gradually transforming the ambient, and renovating another layer of possible interpretations. Mixing episodes, temporal chronologies, names and landscapes that exist or existed in the past. References from reality as well as from the imaginary.
There is something that is incoherent and, sometimes, uncomfortable. The artist shuffles the cards. Exchanges eventual truths for other questions, and we are back to doubt. As in the world we live in: an amalgamation of references that overlap each other. It is in this subversion of objects, parody and of a fountain with a potential calming effect, that we can ask: do we have ten minutes?
TAKE TEN doesn’t assume that art can cure, or that it is therapeutic. Or that the shade of pink on the walls can do so.
It also doesn’t revolutionize or break. It stages it. In many ways and in the best-case scenario, it suggests to notice something. At least for 10 minutes. We all know that humour can be a powerful tool. Especially when we are talking about serious issues. The absurd can help us to understand the other side and create new narratives and paths… maybe even about ourselves.