not even time passes
Carlos Nogueira’s ‘constructions’ and ‘drawings’, notes and photographs are constantly at work informing each other. Chronology and dates are of little importance. The flow of form and thought carries back and forth through time, repeatedly utilising certain materials (iron, glass, concrete, stone, wood) or applying methodologies in symbiotic connection with changing situations, landscapes, buildings or bodies. His never‐to‐be‐resolved quest combines industrial and elemental, transparent and opaque, opening up and resisting, inside and outside, planes and volumes, lightness and weight. Black and white, shades of grey and brown constitute his core spectrum, with occasional vestiges or developments in colour — and nature.
Nogueira is incomprehensibly less known on the international stage than some of his peers, despite notable projects abroad in Brazil, Italy and Switzerland, representing Portugal at the Venice Biennale in 1986, and a striking sculptural intervention on The Economist Plaza in London in 1998, to name just some of his achievements. His site‐specific installations and various art forms tend to be extremely elegant, precise, subdued, abstract and angular, veering close to Minimalism, Conceptual Art, Arte Povera and Land Art. With some imagination useful pointers might be drawn from mentioning Robert Rauschenberg and assemblages, Donald Judd for edge and rigour, Richard Serra for monumentality and the environment, On Kawara and postcards, Michelangelo Pistoletto and mirror paintings, but also Carl Andre, Dan Graham, and Cy Twombly, for instance.
The first 17 years of Nogueira’s life in Mozambique hold vivid memories. He often states that he was ‘born where the wind blows differently’ and recalls the sea, the sun, the sky, the forest, the smells, the weather, tolerance, rigour, immensity, connectivity, tranquillity. These impressions and his acute awareness of the specificities of each place seem to continuously emerge in his work with elegance, refinement and simplicity.
This is where he first developed his heightened receptiveness to the study of space: ‘I learn from each site, from the direction of the wind, people passing by, the incline of the mountain’. In a catalogue essay in 2002, art critic Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith describes Nogueira’s work as ‘enhancing vision’.1 Ver or seeing from multiple perspectives is essential.
Nogueira’s engagement with human beings and places is also prominent in his profound relation to architecture and its teaching. He has worked with architects such as José Adrião, Manuel Aires Mateus, Maria de Lurdes Janeiro, José Manuel Fernandes, Ueli Krauss, Manuel Lacerda and Miguel Nery. He was involved in the exhibition that paid tribute to the architect Luís Cristino da Silva (1896‐1976) at the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon in 1998, and designed an outdoor marble mural construction (2005) for the façade of the Centro Nuno Belmar da Costa, a centre for people with cerebral palsy in the residential quarters that Cristino da Silva, Falcão e Cunha and Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles had designed as part of an ambitious modernist urban development in Nova Oeiras in the 1950s.
Composing two exhibitions simultaneously in autumn 2015 in different parts of Lisbon, Nogueira adapted his choice of works with careful consideration for each space, form and feel. The dialogue between the two projects is remarkable, creating mirror effects across town, despite the absolute specificity of each one. They are both accompanied by one distinct short poem that offers a meaningful set of words and ideas that can function to enter the work, lingering in the mind as one circulates in the exhibition. Both have to do with the body and its sensuality. They encourage the viewer/reader to slow down their rhythm and pay attention to their environment, built or imagined, in the present tense. Nogueira makes personal recommendations to
embody space and time through these words and the works, in a manner reminiscent of his gifts of paper flower bouquets in street actions in the 1980s. At 3+1 Contemporary Art, the figure is elusive. At Appleton Square, despite the momentum, its discreet outlines can go unnoticed.
The title of the first exhibition — not even time passes — is a line from another of his poems that has often punctuated his catalogues.2
This regular form of expression brings complementary dimensions. Language and its particular tonalities are evocative materials. Permanence is a word of significance in Nogueira’s vocabulary, for its continuity and fluidity. He explains that he loves journeys that begin and never end. His thinking carries through different periods in a porous way; certain series return repeatedly in alternative forms. Nothing is necessarily fixed but the highest quality and potential permanence is sought. What pre‐existed takes on new meanings. Every simple detail clearly counts. Horizontals, verticals, and various oblique lines coalesce, differ and punctuate the spaces. Classical geometry, design and architectural knowledge come into play in these arrangements.
The installations are impeccable, as highly studied and considered as his artworks. 3+1 Contemporary Art is a long narrow gallery that Nogueira punctuated with two sculptural constructions including construção horizontal [horizontal construction] (2015), which stretches in six parts, across four metres on the left. These are composed rather like windows in wall‐mounted metallic frames — incorporating found and revisited shutters, and slick industrial double‐layered panes of glass (one mirrored and the other opaque). A similar construction on the opposite wall, this time as a diptych, desenho esquivo [elusive drawing] (2015) stages one of its oblong glass elements resting tilted on the ground, breaking the symmetry but nevertheless beautifully addressing the overall balance of the work and its connectivity. Like a trompe l’œil, the delicate sculptural structure of what looks like burnt wood, desenho de casa geminada com jardim aberto [drawing of a semi‐detached house with open garden] (2015), is in fact covered in a thin layer of paper that has been drawn upon with charcoal. This house design sketch also suggests openness and nature.
The layout at Appleton Square is split on two levels — a ground floor with higher ceilings and natural light and a more enclosed basement gallery. Here, Nogueira called the exhibition the weight of things. lightness and clarity, toying with the conditions of the spaces. Six shelving units painted in white enamel paint in construção em branco [construction in white] (2015), supporting a spatially‐distorting abstract and rhythmic charcoal drawing, are hung slightly suspended off the floor to correspond with the level of the inbuilt gap in the wall. Two galvanised iron metal baskets (washing‐up containers) hover side by side like empty embracing birdcages about to take flight. Doubles abound. Indeed, two freestanding construções verticais [vertical constructions] reach up to almost 260 meters and look elongated and upward bound compared to their companions in 3+1. Despite the use of heavy materials, they float in their frontality and reveal overlapping layers of measured complexity — real, manufactured, revisited. Some shutters are repainted, others are left as they were encountered with their chips, dents, smudges, and decayed soft tints. They are placed slightly at a remove from the wall where expressive shadows are allowed to add to the mise en abyme. The variations in depth of field, transparency, spatial occupation or gaps in each of these constructions’ alter entirely the final effect. Manufacture and bricolage, the old and the new, rich and poor materials are merged and framed to coexist.
Nogueira assembles ‘things’ and fragments for years until they find their place as artworks in his oeuvre. Can he be likened to Oscar Wilde, who talked about spending the morning putting in a comma, and the evening taking it away? This quote from a letter written by Michel Leiris to his wife Zette in 1931 echoes with Nogueira’s core interest in experiential process rather than a final end point: ‘Ce n’est plus du tout le but qui me passionne mais la recherche, seulement en tant que recherche. L’océan de poésie dans lequel nous sommes plongés finit par être tellement coutumier qu’on n’y fait même plus attention... Tout est regardé en fonction du travail en cours et n’importe quel spectacle sera, avant toute autre chose, prétexte à notes et
A previously functional compartmentalised wooden box with scribbled numberings for a past logical classification becomes casa comprida (díptico) [long house (diptych)] (1985‐2015). The notions of habitat, the home, homeliness and a certain quest for comfort pervade the works — and prolong the connection to the body. In both exhibitions, Nogueira hung two ‘drawings’, wooden boxes with different areas, spaces or places (three, four, five and seven of them), for alternative experiences, whether individual or multiple.
Beehives for life. The presence of paraffin wax imbues them with something warm and quasi‐sacred, and highlights Nogueira’s work as contemplation pieces, with distinctive presence and physicality, if not tactility.
Nearly sublime but never really willing to be that pure.
‘I’m trying to seize the fourth dimension of this instant‐now so fleeting that it’s already gone because it’s already become a new instant‐now that’s also already gone. Everything has an instant in which it is. I want to grab hold of the is of the thing.’ Clarice Lispector, Água Viva, 1973.4
Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith, ‘Enhancing Vision: Sculptural Works by Carlos Nogueira’, Carlos Nogueira. a ver (Lisbon: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Centro de Arte
Moderna José de Azeredo Perdigão, 2002), p. 30.
Carlos Nogueira tends to design his catalogues himself. This poem has been published on different occasions, for instance in the above‐mentioned catalogue, p. 19:
the winds blow in off the sea
gaining strength, gaining strength,
on the nature of things all comes to an end
and not even time passes
Letter from Michel Leiris to Zette, 27 October 1931, viewed at the Leiris & Co exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz, summer 2015. Author’s translation: ‘It is
no longer the end result that I am passionate about but well and truly research, research for research’s sake. The ocean of poetry we dwell in becomes so familiar
that we don’t pay attention to it any longer... Everything is considered in relation to the work in progress and any spectacle will be, first and foremost, a pretext for
note‐taking and photographs.’
Clarice Lispector, Água Viva, translated by Stefan Tobler (New York: New Directions Books, 2012), p. 3.