To describe Carlos Nogueira’s works we need to use many words that belong to the lexicon of the dwelling: there are doors, windows, cupboards and boxes, walls and fissures, like those that open up in houses through use and the wearing away of time. There is a word for this persistence of houses that is not limited to or confined by architecture, a domestic aura, with all its connotations of that aspect of life that is lived indoors. Just as in houses there are places for things, in Carlos Nogueira’s sculpture there are places for configurations that are the vestiges of an order, or of many orders woven together in meshes of stitches that are significant coincidences. Few artists are so preoccupied with the order of things: every piece has measurements that are in themselves repetitions of former orders, numerical sequences that develop from matrices that are always multiples of three, in coincidences that are sometimes exhaustively worked and at other times occur, as if moved by an external hand or force. Despite being evidently intentional, the nature of this force is not clear, or it is wielded by the artist with an intentionality that doesn’t belong to the realm of rationality, but of a sensitivity to coincident events. Which acquire, through this intentionality, a metre that seems to permeate everything.
Every dimension of every component that makes up the work — let’s call them drawings and sculptures — appears to be demanded by a previous allegiance. To what? Undoubtedly to art as form, since the formal arrangement is derived from this prior order, like a subjective, personal, circular science that the artist allows to develop, or brings about. The domestic aura is thus born of this coexistence between things, fragments that come together in mechanisms of necessary coincidences and which occupy places that are entrusted to them.
These places are walls, portions of floors, temporary dwellings in short for metres and relations suspected of transcendence.
Harald Szeeman described such artistic projects, rooted in a vision of the world that is almost incommunicable and full of internal references, as ‘individual mythologies’. This is the domain in which Carlos Nogueira’s work operates: it makes no claim to any exemplarity that can be reduced to a rule, a canon or a procedure beyond those that are suited to its need for domesticity, for establishing small navigational atlases:
the arrangement of gathered and meticulously collected objects; the conversion of pieces that were furniture into sculptures that still retain the softness of the body that used them, or the transformation of doors and windows into blank doorways, that can be activated like projective mechanisms. This whole panoply of devices acquires meaning through relationships with the inhabiting of a space. It should be noted that works of art are always in exile. In the studio, they are things that fill up the space; in galleries and museums they are newcomers that fight to transform the containers that host them into places and to produce meaning and poetics. In the case of Carlos Nogueira, these poetics are whispered in scales that relate to the artist’s own body, with the concatenation of relations that, invisibly, structure meanings. Thus there is another rationality, related to sensibility, that seems to place each thing in a definite, frequently invisible place, as if the artist were attempting, with his eyes closed, to make these corporalised relations visible. The complexity is a result of the fact that the works began with an encounter (with something, with a remnant, at times negligible, at other times laden with memory and purpose) in which there resounds a (personal, incommunicable, transcendent) metre — that is asserted in the immanence of the place that is found, mythically summoned by the very work, as if a sculptural animism were inevitable. And if it is inevitable, it possesses a causality and thus a rationality. Where does that leave us?
Yet Carlos Nogueira cannot be regarded as operating in isolation from developments in contemporary art, producing work at odds with the actions of artists that, since minimalism, have shaken up the idea of the artistic object, its relationship with the everyday object and the status of the artistic object itself. Since the 1970s, Carlos Nogueira has incorporated a gestural poetics with close ties to the realm of performance into his work, developing a continuum between re‐signifying action and object that has become artistic through use. It seems clear that this, highly lyrical, aspect of his work stemmed from a temporality that emerged as a voluntary slowness with respect to objects and the world, and that this clearly contemplative deceleration contained a conceptual decision. As if the temporality opened up by the slow and repetitive gesture paradoxically pushed away the maelstrom of life, moving towards a vitalism of contemplation, of the wonder of the world.
Meanwhile, the scale of the work increased until it entered into dialogue with architecture, whether due to its archetypal components (shelter, roof, partition, wall) or to the urban scale that began to demand the discipline of a design, necessarily leading to a familiarity with architectural practice. What is interesting is that there has been neither a reification of the scale of the object in the form of the small‐scale sculptural object itself, nor a development of monumentality in Nogueira’s work as a result of the urban scale, since a discursive dimension, a possibility of describing the work as an ordering event, has always taken precedence over the importance of massivity. The intimacy between Carlos Nogueira’s work and processes also common to certain minimal artists do not imply an affinity however, but rather a critical procedural dialogue that is always dominated by a poetic enquiry that overlays everything. At times, the connection with architecture, due to the archetypal structures drawn from its disciplinary matrix, is more intense than the connection with a purely artistic tradition, although the characteristic design aspect of architecture is here replaced by the manipulation of elements and materials, even when the scale of the work involves a prior design stage. In spite of this, it is the haptic nature of the materials that prevails, positioning his sculpture within a line of thought that is not that of the opticality of architecture but rather of the space that is tactile and secreted by touch.
Meanwhile, there is another persistent presence that regularly asserts itself in Carlos Nogueira’s work, probably a residue of the same tactile importance evident in his sculptural work: drawing. As a direct inscription on the works, drawing runs through his most recent work, not out of a desire to discover a more direct line of contact between mind and hand, but because his three‐dimensional work requires the inscription of lines and surfaces to alter the haptic quality of the works, sometimes rendering surfaces rougher, or greasier, or denser; or because there is a need to reconstruct perspective, defying Euclidian tyranny; or purely and simply because in the act of drawing there is an echo of the process of writing, which itself is also drawing.
On the whole, it could be said that for Carlos Nogueira drawing is an integral part of the reconfiguration of the surface and is a correlate to the other methods that he employs: reflections in glass or mirrors and the use of wax and paraffin or, alternatively, stucco or thick and almost alimentary enamel paint. In each of these situations the issue of order and the question of seriality are again re‐examined: the series are productive because drawings intervene between their elements, introducing tiny differences that re‐signify the whole and confer on it qualities that differ from the qualities of its isolated elements. On the other hand, while seeming to establish the same, rhythmically, with the regularity of a succession, the seriality that emits and exhausts variations on elements (which is particularly apparent in these two exhibitions at the 3+1 and Appleton Square galleries) provokes disturbing elements that always question the intimate order, that same order that we have described as subjective and sensible.
In the final instance (and this expression is so misleading that it should be avoided) this invisible order only resides in the intervals between the visible and tactile elements that are repeated in the space, which come together and separate in fragile coexistences, based on their fleeting differences. It is thus a visible order that is only manifested in the intervals of visibility. For this, it needs time, its own constructive slowness, a staging and theatricality of the gesture and the word that designates. Death lurks in this temporality, not in a way that is necessarily tragic, because it provides metre and necessity. And this is another of the interesting contradictions of Carlos Nogueira’s work: the slowing down it calls for is more intense because there is an understanding of inevitable transience. In other words, it calls for time through awareness of its scarcity.
And the time in which this comes into effect is the scarce time of the house, of the window and the door that opens and closes, of the step that creaks, of the stool that fits under the table, of the ream of paper that could — perhaps still might — become a sculpture if, in a domestic flight, the gaze that rests upon it understands it and confers an order upon it.
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