A blindness of sorts
by João Lima Pinharanda
. carlos nogueira’s works establish a place. several places, actually, all convoked and created by the artist. they are instruments of a subjective eye, which owes as much to learning as to sight.
. each piece lives in the time of the place in which it exists. its eternity is secure. it persists in our memory of that place even after being dismantled – as if the place could no longer live without that added reality. his works have no notion of the precariousness which attends their fragile ephemerality. they are places made to be inhabited, that is to say, lived in, rather than simply occupied – like the bed is the place through which a river flows, or in which bodies lie down to rest and then rise. and a place in which one has lived never vanishes from one’s life.
. each dwelling (place/piece) suggests us a path. it is on the paths of each piece, rather than at its centre, that the author can be found. and so can we, subjects of/to an expression that is rooted in meanings and times which pre-date the meanings and times of today. carlos nogueira fights the dissemination of «non-places», just as a shaman struggles for the ritual regeneration of the origins. each piece/installation tries to be a place, in the same way that a bridge is a place, connecting times and meanings. it hangs over the abyss, over the fault line that disrupts geological continuity, or the continuity of sense – though using the visual language that disruption (Modernity) has bequeathed it, or was inevitably left to us as our only way of communicating (ourselves).
those paths (dwellings/pieces) lead to a place (path/piece) that must not be taken as a destination, a truth, but rather as a sense (Barthes).
2. the secret vice of naming
. we can define a diagram of the words used by the artist in his titles, as well as of its senses. we will eventually obtain a web of communicating realities. a series of permanences and repetitions, small formal or syntactic deviations, which nonetheless lead each word to the same circulatory network.
let us consider (without any particular order or analytical systematisation) a few instances: from... to / permanence / until the end / long time... went on; white white / salt / chalk; grey days / rains; painting / painting / drawing; I like you very much / I’d give you / and to you / send/give / are open to you / him; Malevich / Bosch / Camões (tributes to); sky / sky; sources / two sides / water / sea / river / river; landscape / landscapes; lands / lands / stone; between / open / doors;...
thus a kind of labyrinth is defined. and labyrinth is a word that appears only once on the listed titles (in 1996, and somewhat dictated from the outside, from the title of the architecture show in which the work was featured). only once. perhaps because the «labyrinth» is implicit in all the senses of his oeuvre. certainly because it exists explicitly in the geometric and symmetric unfolding of his plastic elements. and maybe because carlos nogueira wishes to refuse it. because he precisely wishes that each one of these pieces had the value of a step towards that clarity the labyrinth acts as an obstacle to. for instance, «forest», which immediately evokes for us the same generic concept of maze, also appears only once in his titles. light (and the same goes for any other word derived from it) is another unused word. and yet, since carlos nogueira constantly mentions the act of «painting»,and the often mentioned «white» is the counterweight he constantly employs to balance black, «gray» and «rain», light is constantly present: as is «chalk», «salt», as either a virtuality (the result of overlapping a series of reflecting surfaces) or a reality (through the use of lamps, for instance).
. we could now enumerate the materials of which his pieces are made, and the ways he disposes them across space, but that has already been done countless times. they are humble, yet essential materials, and thus heavy with signs: their meanings compose the most ancient forms of human wisdom (besides being now a final refuge in the language of certain poets). they are also basic architectures: they establish the ground where everything is implanted or reposes, and from which everything grows, and its verticality. through both of them (the materials and their disposition) carlos nogueira minimally describes and defines the limits of a maximal space, like someone tracing ciphered maps on a fragile expanse of sand.
. carlos nogueira complements his works with titles of poetical flavour and mythical, creationist tones (as Al Berto correctly pointed out in his «A Criação da Noite por Carlos Nogueira», A Secreta Vida das Imagens, 1991). or does he complement his poetic enunciations with incantatorily and magically staged visual pieces? we are in the desert, and find ourselves at the source of things. at the lost heart of the senses. the word that names and makes appear. the obscene image of the spectacular world as a forest of deceit is refused here, replaced by the memory of a reality that can now only be attained through ourselves. that is why the idea and the evidence of nature appear both as staged illusions in carlos nogueira’s work. they are not landscapes, they are maps, as stated previously. maps that allow us to walk across the landscape without yielding to it. that ensure, in the harsh time (place) of this place (time), a space for the body.
3. having, giving and receiving
. because they refer to what looks at them and lives in them (and because they exist only if that dialogue takes place), carlos nogueira’s works demand a body. an absolute body. that is to say, a physical and spiritual body. that absolute body is, let us say, the dwelling par excellence. we have already discussed the dwelling. it is a matter of (through it, because of that absolute body) «having, giving and receiving». and this is the final vertex of the equilateral triangle we have defined here (address, name, body). and a triangle it itself is. head, trunk and limbs: «having, giving and receiving».
. «having, giving and receiving» means exchanging one’s life. not changing: exchanging. to establish permanent modes of sharing. with people. with things. with oneself. everything in carlos nogueira’s words/career leads us to believe in his desire to make available the conditions that allow others, independently from his intervention, to pursue the play of endless sharing he sets up. as if it were a matter of building a perpetual motion machine. a world machine. or a machine for surviving in the world – with the aim of fighting whatever disturbs balance in it. a body in search of a lost edenic reality. from a timeless time of perfection. from a place of boundless appeasement. but one which, confronted with outside turmoil, finds itself forced to always (re)start its task from itself. from the I as centre. the first stage of approaching the Other. a double or multiple mirror: that depends on how each protagonist desires himself (in the) Other and desires (himself of) the Other.
carlos nogueira cares for himself. for his own and for us. ocupa-se de si. he thinks saving works. reaps the fruits of his life. adds meaning to what is common. humble. low. to what is left. he turns chalk into light. graphite into night. a light bulb into a sun. a mast into a tree. salt into sea. pieces of a totality staged as a continuous process.
. «he looked». Lacan wrote that to look is the eye’s erection. «at him/it». him/it is someone or something. a man or a sea. a yellow dog or a sky. «for a long time». the time of looking and seeing is all the time in the world.
«and then went on drawing». for such a long time. as much time as he took looking at him. or even more. until he came here. until the salty evening wind rose. and the sand blew across the paper sheets. and the light turned into mist. and deep night. until he could no longer see (him) – like someone who gazed too long at the naked sun.
Lisbon, 30 December 1996
In Carlos Nogueira, olhou para ele durante muito tempo / continuou
então a desenhar, Galeria Canvas e Companhia, Porto, 1997.