Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Julio Pomar - Abstract Expressionism


Born in 1926 in Lisbon, and set up in Paris in 1963. Currently lives and works in Paris and Lisbon. Attended the School of Decorative Arts Antonio Arroio and the Schools of Fine Arts of Lisbon and Porto, in 1942 and participated in a first group in Lisbon, and made the first solo exhibition in 1947, in Porto. Devoted himself particularly to painting, but his work also includes works of drawing, engraving, sculpture and "assemblage, illustration, ceramics, tapestries and scenery for theatre.




Has, also, works of decorative tile mural for the station in the Windmill High Lisbon Metropolitan, (1983-84), the Circus of Brasilia (Gran'Circolar, 1987), the Station of the Metro Jardin Botanique in Brussels (1992) the Court of Moita (“Justice of Solomon ', 1993) and the train station of Corroios (1998). Participated in the Biennale de São Paulo, 1953, and also in the editions of 1975 and 1985. The Gulbenkian Foundation in 1978 organized the first retrospective of his work, which was exhibited in Lisbon, Porto and Brussels. In 1986, a new retrospective exhibition was presented by the museums of the Gulbenkian Foundation in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia and also at its headquarters in Lisbon.





Camões, 1988


Other exhibitions anthology of thematic scope took place in 1990, works with themes of Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Lisbon, in 1991, with paintings and drawings on literary subjects and portraits of writers (Pomar et la Literature), in Charleroi, Belgium





Edgar Poe, Fernando Pessoa e o Corvo, 1985


in 1997 with work on the theme of D. Quixote, in Cascais, and paintings on the Indians of Brazil, in Biarritz, France. Other anthologies of paintings were presented in 1999 and 2000 in Macau and Beijing, in 2001, in Aveiro (Recent Paintings), and in 2003 in Istanbul. Published in 2002, the volume of tests "and then painting?" And in 2003 the poem "TRATAdoDITOeFeito. Exhibited new paintings (Méridiennes - Meres indienne), in 2004, Patrice Trigano Gallery, Paris, and the Sintra Museum of Modern Art - Berardo Collection presented a retrospective of his work organized by Marcelin Pleynet under the title "Autobiography", where out the first part of a series of sculptures in bronze. Also in 2004, the CCB has set out an anthology of recent works entitled 'Human Comedy'. The first two volumes of the catalogue "raisonné 'of works of painting, sculpture and assemblages of iron were published in 2001 and 2004, the Éditions de la Difference, Paris.



Gadanheiro, 1945


Orchard has become a strong opponent to the fascist regime. Joined the Movement of Democratic Unity (MUD) and participated in student fights, which cost him the expulsion of ESBAP. The political activism is also reflected in his work. In painting, in works such as The Gadanheiro, exposed in 1945 the National Society of Fine Arts, the texts published in newspapers, which advocated a neo-realist aesthetic, and the promotion of the 1st Exhibition of the spring Ateneu Comercial do Porto in 1946.





Almoço do trolha, 1946



In 1947 organized the 1st solo exhibition of drawings, in Porto. However, the mural that runs the Cinema Batalha was ruined by the PIDE.



Cegos de Madrid, 1957




Soon after leaving the port, returning to the capital. There was jailed for four months and saw your picture in the Resistance be confiscated II General Exhibition of Plastic Arts of the National Society of Fine Arts in 1947.



Maria da Fonte, 1957

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fernando Lanhas changed the art scene at the end of the 2nd War


Fernando Lanhas, (born Oporto, 16 September 1923) is a Portuguese painter and architect. He studied architecture but became known as the leading name in Portuguese abstract painting. He started painting in 1944, influenced by music, astronomy, and the international abstract movement. Since then, he's been one of the most innovative and original Portuguese painters.




In the years spent in Oporto School of Fine Arts was a student attentive and engaged. In this institution addressed the Group of Students of Fine Arts. Had Colleagues such as Nadir Afonso, Manuel Pereira da Silva and Julio Pomar, with whom talked about art. He began painting figurative paintings, which quickly turned into abstract works. Involved in the organization of the Independents Exhibition, in 1944, and collaborated on the page "Art" of the daily newspaper of Oporto, "The Afternoon" in 1945. Shortly travelled to Paris, where he visited and enjoyed the Art of major events such as Sallon des Réalité Nouvelles, in 1947.



In the field of the drawing, he is in the large family of modern design, combining the ability to express the virtuosity of form.
Pure Design, in search of an asceticism which always renders, the drawing as a mean and end in itself.
Stripped of any accessory, its design leads us through a firm registration, but with a ductility open to higher sensitivities. The fascination leads us to believe that the design is where does not exist!




His called abstract painting, reduced to a few colours and minimal shapes, carries the same fascination and meditation on the same scales of time and space that Fernando Lanhas. research in the scientific field. Some canvas came from graphic compositions, other, denser and unexplained, more metaphysical then geometric, pursuing the movement of natural forces and forms, the dimensions of the cosmos. Sometimes symbolic representations cease guess: sun, tree, bird.


His involvement with the Independents Exhibition, who changed the art scene at the end of the 2nd War, promoting the debate on the abstraction along with the first neo-realistic statements. At 45, working with J. Lanham Pomar and V. Palla in the organization of the page 'Art' of the daily 'The Afternoon', of Oporto (which is itself listed in the catalogues of 49-50), where the future Surrealists Cesariny, Oom and Vespeira also defended the 'useful arts'. Lanhas then publishes studies for Drums (Old with Handkerchief) and Old White, which forms the set of paintings, is now exposed. Later works are abstractions and provide the first evidence of the ambitions of the painter and the debate about the social implications of art, which is represented by The Artist Abstract (only shown in photo) and Catherine (The Magnificent ugliness) of 46; Lanhas visit Paris on 47 and returns to abstractionism.



Honorary member of the National Academy of Fine Arts, a man of rare culture, has acknowledged taking a journey of original demand of rationality in art. In a time of tension in encysted cultural crisis of the subject, has been able to understand it as a learning experience for the integration of man in the world, the inevitable game of ephemeral passions and affections.


Monday, May 04, 2009

Monument to José Maria dos Santos in Palmela



This monument, made by Manuel Pereira da Silva, was to honour José Maria dos Santos (1832-1913), by the Palmela City Council. He became the largest Portuguese wine producer at the time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Arlindo Rocha, a pioneer of the abstract sculpture in Portugal


Arlindo Rocha and Manuel Pereira da Silva.

Arlindo Rocha, 1921 - 1999
Graduated in sculpture at the School of Fine Arts of Porto, in 1945.
In 1953 he obtained a scholarship from the Institute of High Culture, for Italy, and in 1959, a fellowship of BCG to Egypt and Greece and visits the major museums of Europe.
Was a member of the Oporto Group "Independents" (years 40).
Was awarded a silver medal at the Universal Exhibition in Brussels (1958).
Has works in public places - schools, palaces of justice, gardens, etc. Egg in Setúbal, Oporto and Viseu.



Oporto Bishop.


Arlindo Rocha is considered a pioneer of abstract sculpture in Portugal, among with Manuel Pereira da Silva, Jorge Vieira, and Fernando Fernandes in the emancipation movement of the sculpture from his vocation statuary. The pieces "Woman and Tree" in 1948 and "Science" of 1961, this one was radical abstract, are milestones in Portuguese sculpture of the last century.
His work tended to be geometric inevitably absolute. However, in recent years returned to a hard Figurative, with orders to local authorities.




Setúbal: The Poetry, The Sea and The Earth.


The abstraction, true the School of Paris, in two parts, sometimes more geometric and in other moments more lyrical. The most relevant national figures were: Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, exponent of the "Ecole de Paris", and here, in Portugal, Fernando Lanhas, Nadir Afonso, Manuel Pereira da Silva and Arlindo Rocha.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bust of Fernando Fernandes made by Manuel Pereira da Silva


1946 Bust of Fernando Fernandes made by Manuel Pereira da Silva.


Born on 11 April 1924, in Braga. In 1949, concluded the Course of Sculpture in the Oporto Academy of Fine Arts.


In 1952, participated in the exhibition at Modern Art of the National Intelligence with the work Piet. The logic and syllogism, in 1953, the first abstract sculptures presented in a school, getting the classification of 19 values.

The logic and syllogism.


After finished the course, Fernando Fernandes attends the School of Fine Arts in Paris and the Slade School of Art in London. It had a fellowship of the Institute of High Culture and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Represented Portugal in the II and V Biennial of Modern Art of São Paulo in 1953 and 1959

Fernando Fernandes was colleague and fiend of Manuel Pereira da Silva in adventurous stay in Paris in 1946 and 1947, along with the Painter Júlio Resende and the Sculptor Eduardo Tavares who came to be user of the Manuel Pereira da Silva studio, which also occurred later, with the Sculptor Aureliano Lima and the Painter Reis Teixeira.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Henrique Moreira - Sculptor

In 1991 the sculptor Henrique Moreira was honoured by the land that he was borne, Avintes.
On the centenary of his birth, the Board Council of Avintes decided to erect this monument, the work was made by the sculptor Manuel Pereira da Silva.

Monument to the Sculptor Henrique Moreira in Avintes.


Henrique Araújo Moreira (Avintes, Vila Nova de Gaia, 1890 - 1979) was an important Portuguese sculptor.
He had study in the Oporto Academy of Fine Arts, where he was student of Master António Teixeira Lopes; Henrique Moreira left us a remarkable work, recognized in numerous awards, including those of gold medals that were awarded in exhibitions in Lisbon and Seville.
In his vast work, which perpetuates the legacy of naturalist Eight hundred, there is already an updated recipe for the emergence of Art Deco aesthetics, such as denouncing the decorative buttonhole, “The Boys” in the Allies Avenue, Oporto, it is obvious the convergence of a natural harmony of lines and volumes, this naturalist expression gives to the artworks an immense serenity.


The Boys, Allies Avenue in Oporto.


“The Lady Nude” Work of Henrique Moreira, was held in 1929 and is on Allies Avenue, Oporto. Represents a naked woman, seated, with arms supported on a plinth which four faces with masks throw water into a small tank.



The Lady Nude, Allies Avenue in Oporto.


“Tenderness” in the S. Lázaro Garden, Oporto.


In Carlos Alberto Square, a monument to the Portuguese killed in The Great War of 1914-18, Oporto.

The Unknown Soldier, Carlos Alberto Square in Oporto.


Priest Américo (1959/61 - Bronze) in the Republic Square, Oporto.


The Garden Antero de Figueiredo is a small garden located in front of the Foz Market, predominantly consisting of beds of flowers. At the centre there is the bust of the writer who gives name to the Garden.


Antero Figueiredo, Foz Market in Oporto.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Aureliano Lima - Sculptor and Poet

Aureliano Lima was born on 23 September 1916 in the Carregal do Sal, homeland he saw growing up to five years of his childhood, and in 1921, went live for a few years for the Lagares da Beira (Oliveira do Hospital) with his parents.

Sculptor, designer, poet and Portuguese medallist, self made man, comes to the arts in the mid-40s, after having exercised the most different professions (pharmacy assistant, a prison official ...). In 1939, it is in Coimbra. In the city of Mondego, writes, works in literary journals and, for the first time at the Exhibition of Coimbra Artists in 1948.

In the same year, was present in the III General Exhibition of Plastic Arts, organized in Lisbon by the National Society of Fine Arts. At the time, the first sculptural work - busts, as expressive of Teixeira de Pascoaes in adobe - remains bound by the precepts of figurative statuary that, later, abandoned in favour of a search not figurative, interested in exploring the poetic qualities of materials - the stone, wood or plaster and also the iron.

In 1958, goes to Oporto and shortly after to Vila Nova de Gaia, where he arrived to work in the studio of the sculptor Manuel Pereira da Silva. It was the final entry in to the artistic and cultural resources, an open door to new experiences, new creations and activities. "Still remember the first visits to the studio loaned Rua Afonso de Albuquerque, near the Torne School, which with Manuel Pereira da Silva, Aureliano Lima, shared that act almost starting to modern sculpture, outside the channels of official or academic, away from eyes of the critics that are rarely interested in sculpture in Portugal.”


In 1950, Manuel Pereira da Silva made this bust in plaster of Aureliano Lima.


In Serafim Ferreira - The Art in Portugal in the séc.XX: The Third Generation. Lisbon: Livraria Bertrand.


He worked in various newspapers and literary magazines, as Vértice, Seara Nova, Diário de Coimbra, The Commerce of Porto, Jornal de Notícias, Diário de Lisboa and Symposium / Lyrics.

In Lisbon, he participates in the II Exhibition of Plastic Arts of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (1961). His sculptural work is, at the time, a major makeover. In further experiments not figurative perceives to be a dual voltage, reflected in the dialogue between form and form filled hollow between the line (the rods of iron, for example, the two works Untitled collection that belong to the CAMJAP, dated mid - 60) and the volumes relieved of its three-dimensional solid or in works of biomorphic feature or anthropomorphic.
Then left to work the masses compact. Prefers the emergence of expressive form in the vertical space, that the interaction with it, letting it penetrate the area, sometimes sublimated in colour, sometimes reinforced their presence in raw (through textures, contrasts, manufacturing marks ...). Later, the tension seems to hang the sculpture as an understanding of geometric shapes elementary game. And here also, since the 60s and 70s, the work of sculptural Aureliano is reflected in an innovative manner with which the artist works the contemporary language of painted iron and plastic.

The sculpture is then reduced to an abstract signal that interrupts the continuity of physical space (e.g. the number of polychrome sculptures of the 70 and 80). In these works, the contrast between full and empty, the reduction of the sculpture to a strict structure of plans, lines and circles painted in single colour, is close to a question about the value and visual identity of the sculpture, very rare in Portugal.

Between 1965 and 1967 was fellow of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Paris, where he attended as a sculptor of "Ateliers Szabo.
It has works of sculpture and paintings in various museums, public squares and private collections. Among them, focus on three sculptures: "Homage," a piece of bronze with 2.10 meters in height, within the Municipal Library of Vila Nova de Gaia, "The Cry," Monument in Nelas with 4.30 m, and the monument Fernando Pessoa, in Vila da Feira, with 5 meters high. He has made also several busts: Miguel Torga, Afonso Duarte, Paulo Quintela, Antero de Quental, Camilo Castelo Branco, Nietzsche, Beethoven, Edward Lawrence and Mario Braga.




The Cry, Monument in Nelas


In poetry is the author of several books: "Behind Rio" (Galaico Prize for poetry, 1961), Porto 1963, "The Circles and Signs", ed. Author's, Oporto 1974, "Inside-Out Time", ed. Author's, Oporto 1974, "The Gray Man or the Alchemy of Numbers", ed. Author's, Porto 1975, with foreword by Fernando Guimarães, "Song and Eucalyptus", Brasília Editora, Porto 1979, "Parallel Mirrors", Brasília Editora, Oporto 1983, "The bed and house," Brasília Editora, Porto 1986, "The Dr. De Vila Seca, Col. Blue Leopard, Oporto 1990.

As poet, Aureliano Lima was to publish a first collection of poetry in 1963 (Rio Underlying, "Galaico Prize") in the same year that held its first solo exhibition (Oporto, Alvarez Gallery). Over the following decades, participating in some major national exhibition of art (III Salão Nacional de Arte, Lisbon and Oporto, 1968; Exhibition of contemporary artists selected by AICA, 1972, III Vila Nova de Cerveira Biennale of Art de 1984 ...) and also runs some projects of medals.

In 1983, it opened in Vila da Feira a large monument dedicated to the poet Fernando Pessoa. The sculpture, a large (five meters high) in bronze, reflects how Aureliano Lima felt the plastic creation: energy and concentration, as a synthesis of form, reduction of a sequence of fragmented plans, an expressive grammar would take another monumental project, The Cry (Nelas, 1982-1983).

After his death in December 1984, the Municipal Museum has incorporated in its collection by Helena Maria Barata Lima, widow of that eminent sculptor, a set of sixteen pieces sculpture, whose donation in 1990, would be implemented as a gesture of affection and love for the mother land. In this collection we can see artistic productions in iron recovered and polychrome in a geometric and abstract trend language, that he was one of the precursors as well as sculptures in stone, plaster, bronze and wood that can be appreciate.

The iron sculptures in the years 50/60 mark the meeting of Aureliano with the steel construction of Julio Gonzalez and Picasso. The creation of Aureliano launched it in a game of three-dimensional metal rods welded on line, suggesting the presence of volume, lay in its transparency, a symbolic relationship between surface structure and abstract space where they operate. Result anchors plunged in thought of man, the artist, who seeks and finds.
Important for new paths explored, especially in the context of the Portuguese art of the 60s and 70s, his sculptural works remain relatively unknown. The difficulties in the assertion of a personal artistic career, the scarcity of resources, on the discretion of your creative journey, helped to hide the sense of a trial marked by creativity and irreverence plastic models to the traditional aesthetic. Self by circumstances of life was also, by temperament, an anti-academic for whom the sculpture could not confine itself to a program or illustrative apologetic because he was, above all, an independent presence in the world.

Aureliano, even in the 60s and 70s, working a series of sculptures in stone, marble and wood. In these works sit down to read the study, Constantin Brancusi, Henry Moore in which Aureliano explores the properties of natural materials which, assuming a simplified, stripped of roots become germline. Thus, nature appears to be polished coated pure abstraction of a value which is close to unveiling the contemplation of works of art.

Aureliano Lima's work is marked by constructivism abstract. His creative spirit expressed in the sculpture in various materials (plaster, bronze, wood, marble, stone, polychrome iron, iron recovered) as well as in his painting highly abstract and with a clear traces of contemporary minimalism.

Aureliano Lima deserves our attention and admiration for the novelty of his art that tore the apathy of the figurative art of his time.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Independents, Oporto artist group

The abstract art is historically linked to the Portuguese Independents exhibitions, its main organizer and coordinator, Fernando Lanhas, coincidentally is the central figure of abstractionism.

After the I exhibition in April 1943, in the of Fine Arts School of Porto, with sculptures of Altino Maia, Mário Truta, Arlindo Rocha, Serafim Teixeira, Augusto Tavares and Manuel Pereira da Silva, the Independents exhibitions will be place outside the school and several times outside the Oporto, a first example of decentralization, does not avoid a certain marginalization of Oporto artists on events and initiatives for greater visibility and impact of the capital.

The II Independent Exhibition shows, in February 1944, at the Atheneum Commercial of Oporto, with sculptures of Altino Maia, Arlindo Rocha, Eduardo Tavares, Joaquim Meireles, Manuel Monteiro da Cunha, Maria Graciosa de Carvalho, Mário Truta, M. Félix de Brito, Manuel Pereira da Silva and Serafim Teixeira. It will be from there that the action of Fernando Lanhas will be felt in the consistent quality of the catalogue and exhibitions, as well as persistence in keeping alive the initiatives.

The III Independents Exhibition takes place in the same year, in the hall of the Coliseum of Oporto, with sculptures of Abel Salazar, Altino Maia, Antonio Azevedo, Arlindo Rocha, Eduardo Tavares, Henrique Moreira, Manuel Pereira da Silva, Mário Truta and Sousa Caldas. In the catalogue of the exhibition, that goes to Coimbra, Leiria and Lisbon, in 1945, states that the name of "Independents" is not a name at random, but involves the awareness that art is a heritage of humanity and hence the "Our presence varied, it being understood that this should enable it to build the future, can not be denied the right to remember the past (1).
For Fernando Lanhas the "Independents Exhibition" of Oporto is a significant historical moment in our painting and sculpture. First, because together painters and sculptors of different training (the reason for the word "Independents" has no affiliation of an "ism" particular), also engaged in a collective action and immersed in the same enthusiasm. Second, because there appears, without pre-concepts or complexes, this original and fruitful abstraction. And thirdly, because they escape to the centralized voracity of the capital.


Between 1946 and 1950, there are four more independent exhibitions in the Bookstore Gallery Portugála, in Oporto, on 46, 48 and 50, and one in Braga in the 49. From 1943 to 1950, exhibited in almost all expositions the painters Amândio Silva, Aníbal Alcino, António Lino, Chambers Carlos Ramos, Dordio Gomes, Fernando Lanhas, Júlio Pomar, Júlio Resende, Nadir Afonso, Rui Pimentel and Vitor Palla.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Nadir Afonso - Painter



Nadir Afonso, (1920, Portugal) is a geometric abstractionist painter. Formally trained in architecture, which he practiced early in his career with Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer, Nadir Afonso later studied painting in Paris and became one of the pioneers in Kinetic art, working alongside Victor Vasarely, Fernand Léger, Auguste Herbin, and André Bloc.


Aliados Square, 1943. Early works: Nadir Afonso already displays a preference for urban themes, which he will extensively develop in the Cities series.


As a theorist of his own geometry-based aesthetics, published in several books, Nadir Afonso defends that art is purely objective and ruled by laws that treat art not as an act of imagination but of observation, perception, and form manipulation.

Nadir Afonso achieved international recognition early on in his career and currently holds many of his works in museums. His most famous works are the Cities series, which depict places all around the world. As of 2007 he is still actively painting.




Évora Surrealista, 1945. Surreal period, denoting a drift to abstractionism at age 25.


Formative years
Nadir Afonso Rodrigues was born in the rural, remote town of Chaves, Portugal, on December 4, 1920. His parents were Palmira Rodrigues Afonso and poet Artur Maria Afonso. His very unusual first name was suggested by a gypsy to his father on his way to the Civil Registry, where he was due to be registered as Orlando.


By the age of four, he made his first "painting" on a wall at home: a perfect red circle, which anticipated his life as under the signs of rhythm and geometric precision. His teen years were dedicated to painting, earning him his first national prize at age 17. It was only natural that he was sent to the bigger city of Porto to enroll in the School of Fine Arts for the art (painting) degree. However, at the registration desk, he took the advice of the clerk, who told him that his high school diploma allowed him to enroll in Architecture, which was then a more promising career. As he later admitted, he made a mistake by listening to that man.


Composition, 1946. Iris period: first purely abstract works.

Still, Nadir Afonso took on the challenge and completed the graduation in Architecture, but he had to flunk the third year because some of his professors could not accept Nadir Afonso's artistic style. Settled in Porto, he started to design houses and industrial buildings, while at the same time painting the city around him under his other surname, Rodrigues. As a member of the artist collective "Porto Independents", he took part in all their art exhibitions until 1946 and became a favourite with the national critics. His oil A Ribeira was purchased by the Contemporary Art Museum of Lisbon (the country capital) in 1944, when he was only 24 years old.



Deux Styles, 1952. Egyptian period (and Baroque period): looking for the geometry imbedded everywhere and in every object.


Art and architecture
In 1946, Nadir Afonso left Porto for Paris with a number of unfinished works from his iris period, and changed his signature with the surname Afonso. There, a Brazilian painter Candido Portinari helped him secure a scholarship from the French Government to study art and painting at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. He resided at the Hôtel des Mines in the Latin Quarter and spent his time regularly at students hangouts. Nadir Afonso recalls this period of his life as the first time that he was in contact with the great world of Art. Because his scholarship lasted only one year, Nadir Afonso worked until 1948 (and again in 1951) with the architect Le Corbusier who, knowing his passion for painting, gave him the mornings off without cutting his salary. He also worked for a while, with the artist Fernand Léger.

Espacillimité, 1954. Espacillimité series: still and moving paintings resulting from the pioneering Kinetic art studies.

While working under Le Corbusier in Paris, Nadir Afonso gradually developed his own style of geometric abstractionism. His new fundamentals of aesthetics reoriented his concepts of the origin and essence of art that resulted in his 1948 research thesis controversial to his architectural work, Architecture Is Not an Art. "Architecture is a science, a team elaboration", and therefore a means of expression that cannot satisfy a solitary soul like him. In 1949, Nadir Afonso leaves Paris and for a while immerses himself fully in his paintings. He goes through a period of inspiration in the Portuguese Baroque, followed by an Egyptian period.


Venice, 1956. The beginning of the long-running Cities series, still very connoted with the Espacillimité series.


From December 1951 to 1954, Nadir Afonso crosses the Atlantic to answer an invitation to work with the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer; it was three years of "necessary architecture and obsessive painting." That obsession forces him to return to Paris, looking for artists researching Kinetic art. He joins the group of the Denise René Gallery, connecting with French-Hungarianpainter Victor Vasarely (father of the Op-art), Danish painter Richard Mortensen, French painter Auguste Herbin, and French architect André Bloc, culminating in 1958 in the public showing, at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, of his animated painting Espacillimité (now on display at the Chiado Museum in Lisbon). His first book, La Sensibilité Plastique, is published the same year with the support of art critic Michel Gaüzes, patron Madame Vaugel and Victor Vasarely. In 1959, his first anthology exhibition takes place at the Maison des Beaux-Arts in Paris, while initial exhibitions of his new style in his native country fail initially to raise as much interest as in the early expressionist years.




Occident, 1966. Cities series: the geometric alphabet devised by Nadir Afonso expands beyond Espacillimité.




Full-time painter


Paris is the world center of the arts but the fierce competition between artists proves too much for Nadir Afonso. In 1965, conscious of his social inadaptation, he moves back to his hometown of Chaves and little by little takes refuge in isolation and accentuates the orientation of his life towards the creation of his art. He terminates the architecture practice and pursues his aesthetics studies based on geometry, which he considers the essence of art. Once in a while, he leaves his hideout to return to Paris and meet with friends author Roger Garaudy, painter Victor Vasarely, and critic Michel Gaüzes. By indication of Garaudy, he travels to Toulouse to meet aestheticist Pierre Bru, with whom he reviews the syntactic form of his studies, before publishing Les Mécanismes de la Création Artistique (The Mechanisms of Artistic Creation), the book where he introduces his original theory of art as an exact science.





Port of Copenhagen, 1975. Painting city by city, Nadir Afonso's style will get more abstract in years ahead.


In 1974, he makes a solo exhibition at the Selected Artists Galleries, in New York. U.S. critics acclaim him as "one of the first proponents of geometric abstraction in Portugal [and] one of the new generation European artists."

Living in reclusion, Nadir Afonso defined himself in 2006 as "Portuguese and a son of the inner country. I learned from tradition to be humble, to praise the masters, and to live these eighty-six years with the simplicity that my lowly status has always guaranteed me. To do a balance of my existence and of my work now is absurd." He has spent the last three decades painting, exhibiting, and writing with regular and growing comfort. He is twice married, with five children, born between 1948 and 1989.


Nadir Afonso exhibits regularly in Lisbon, Porto, Paris, New York, and all over the world, and as of 2007 is still active at work. He is represented in museums in Lisbon and Porto (Portugal), Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo (Brazil), Budapest (Hungary), Paris (Pompidou Center), Wurzburg and Berlim (Germany), among others. He has formed a foundation bearing his name, to which he donated his personal artwork collection, and has engaged Pritzker Prize-winner architect Alvaro Siza to design its headquarters in his hometown of Chaves.



Dresden, 1985. The geometric alphabet is still evolving.


International recognition
The recognition of Nadir Afonso's talent came early in his career, both in his home country and internationally. Aged 24, an oil of his, A Ribeira, had already been purchased by the Contemporary Art Museum of Lisbon and the Portuguese government invited him twice to represent Portugal at the São Paulo Art Biennial. By the age of 50, he was well known and regularly exhibited in New York and Paris.

However, his reclusive personality and the memory of his first attempt in 1946 to show his paintings to an art gallery in Paris, which was snubbed and left him humiliated, have since meant that he shies from publicity and no exhibition has ever been promoted by himself. Victor Vasarely, the father of op art, had already noticed it in 1968:

"This artist I have known for over 20 years is undoubtedly the most important Portuguese contemporary painter and his work is unjustly little known across the world."




Moscow, 1995. A colorful period in the Cities series, even though Nadir Afonso declares that color is secondary and an afterthought.



Personal aesthetics theory
Art is usually conceived as subjective, but for Nadir Afonso it is purely objective and ruled by laws. "Art is a show of exactitude", "a game of laws in spaces but not of significations in objects". From these axioms, his own personal theory of geometry-based "rational aestetics within an intuitive art" evolved, which he published in book form, alongside his philosophical thoughts on the Universe and its laws. These works are the key to understand the artist and his art, and are summarized by himself in a few words:

"Searching for the absolute, for an art language in which shapes possess a mathematical rigorousness, where nothing needs to be added nor removed. The feeling of total exactitude."
Because of his rationalism, Nadir Afonso confronted Kandinsky, the father of abstract art, and criticized him for subduing geometry to the human spirit instead of making it the essence of art. This "geometry of art" is not however the "geometry of geometrists", as it is not about symbols nor anything in particular; rather, it is the spatial law itself, with the four qualities of perfection, harmony, evocation, and originality.

His work is methodical, because "an artwork is not an act of 'imagination' (...) but of observation, perception, form manipulation." "I start with shapes, still arbitrary. I put ten shapes on the frame; I look at it and suddenly a sort of spark ignites. Then the form appears. Color is secondary, used to accentuate the intensity of the form." Nadir Afonso does not renege on his early expressionist and surrealist works: "An individual initially does not see the true nature of things, he starts by representing the real, because he is convinced therein lies the essence of the artwork. I thought that too. But, as I kept working, the underlying laws of art, which are the laws of geometry, slowly revealed themselves in front of my eyes. There was no effort on my part, it was just the daily work what led me to that result, guided by intuition." The illustrations of this article are a chronological representation of the evolution of Nadir Afonso's style and thought towards the original geometric alphabet with which he creates his artworks, as explained in his books and seen most prominently in his Cities series.


Tile panels on the Lisbon Metro (1998)


Aesthetic Feeling

Nadir Afonso
A) We can feel emotion before an object:

1) Because it reminds us of another object (evocation).
For example: we feel emotion before the tree trunk that reminds us of somebody crucified; before the cloud that suggests an eagle, the garden that appeals to our childhood, the portrait that evokes a loved one;

2) Because the intended function of the object satisfies a need in us or responds to our notion of need (perfection). For example: we feel emotion before the utensil, the glass, the chair, the table, the machine, the functional, practical, light, portable, comfortable vehicle;

3) Because the object presents to us special features (originality). For example: we feel emotion before the black flower, the elegant giraffe, the polar landscape;


Ribeira, Porto (years 50)

B) We can feel emotion before a law:
Because the space itself contains metric laws pertaining to geometric form (harmony). For example: we feel emotion before the lunar circle; before the hexagon of the quartz crystal; before the skyline over the sea.


Paris (years 70)

C) “The creator tries to convey emotion to us”... and it is here that the first aesthetic conflict is born! How can man convey emotion (which comes to him sometimes from a pure feeling of love) when he paints, for example, the portrait of a “loved one”? This emotion is intransmissible! If the artist considers that his picture of the “loved one” is a work of art (because it arouses his emotion), so can the critic consider that it is not (because it does not arouse his emotion) … The same work cannot be declared “artistic” by some and “inartistic” by others!



Brussels (years 70)

But there’s more. When the art critic is a “renowned authority on aesthetics” he classifies, for example, the picture of the “tree trunk” under works of art (because it suggests to him, as to the artist and the like, a crucified being) and does not classify the picture “loved one” (because it does not suggest any loved one to him). And if we are careful enough to look into the illusion under which both the art critic and the artist fell, we will see that the same mistake extends to all significations inherent in all objects.
Conclusion of the aesthetic conclusion: it is not in the representation of objects that the characteristics of a work of art lie. Meaning evolves through the environment, the time, the race, the people, according to function, need, belief, culture, affection… and everything that depends on them is an incidental, transitory, individual emotion. Only the laws of space, independent from evolution, contain accuracy, and only they can reveal eternity and universality to us – the absolute to which every true work of art aspires.





Madrid (years 90)

Of course, to counter this statement, traditional aesthetics have an argument they consider an inevitable “check mate”: “not all works of art represent geometries – “lunar circles” or “crystal hexagons” and many of the works that represent them cannot help being, despite that, mediocre products”! The answer is right in terms of reasoning and wrong in terms of perception: the laws of space have their most evident expression in the simple forms of Nature: the circle, the square, the equilateral triangle, the hexagon... and in the act of making the work of art this data and its intermediate components becomes more complex according to structures that obey a correlative law: integration and disintegration which we call morphometry. It is these structural rules that weave this factive feeling of perennially and accuracy as if represented things were revealed to us full of “mysterious meanings”. Such a structuring norm is, however, irreducible from intuitive mathematics to constituted sciences and only accessible to the faculties of perception.

New York (years 90)

Only thus is it understandable that elementary forms – the circle, the hexagon, etc. – do not make in themselves a composite set, as it is understandable that a composite set does not present to scientific reason these primordial geometric elements. Hence, in the same order and sequence, it is understandable that, in the aesthetic view of those who do not grasp these principles, the illusion is formed that the sense of artistic creation emanates from a “revelation” of meaning inherent in objects.
My major concern has been to mark the existence and set out the rules of integration and disintegration of spaces: unsuspected morphometric laws of traditional aesthetics and keystone of my whole work. In particular, my work Le Sens de l’Art seeks essentially, from the first to the last line of text, the natural norms of this geometrisation.



Rio de Janeiro (years 90)

Aesthetes do not agree with me because, if it were as I say, “art would have no mystery”.
Nadir Afonso




Seville, 2007. At age 86, first oversized painting (176x235 cm), using his full geometric alphabet.



Artworks
Nadir Afonso has produced mainly paintings and serigraphs. His current preferred materials are acrylic paint on canvas (bigger works), and gouache on paper (smaller works, often studies for bigger works). His best-known and most distinctive work is the Cities series, each painting usually representing a city from anywhere in the world.