André Romão (1984) is one of the great promising young Portuguese artists with an array of solo shows in noteworthy institutions and galleries in Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Germany.
‘Fruits and Flowers’ is an inclusive exhibition, I may even say holistic. The view of André Romão spreads across so many fields of the contemporaneity of humankind with a precise consciousness – that is as mathematical as it is poetical. The artist is profoundly attentive to history as a whole in our cultural and social construction as he is sensitive to the many aspects of being in the world and the endangering contemporary route of nature. The Interior and Exterior, the I and Otherness are here carefully examined as a fluid encounter.
By the gallery door the work “Abundância” (Abundance), a photograph, already confronts us with the invasive species of plants that are adaptable to new climates (the survival of nature and its invasiveness). As we enter the gallery space, André Romão has created a loop – a circular and cyclical environment. ‘Four poems’ – Haikus – are placed in four walls – summer, autumn, winter, spring. For the artist, his poems emerge from the mathematical idea behind the Haiku tradition, of counting syllables (5 – 7 – 5) and these 3 lines are meant be read in one single human breath. Anchoring the viewer to the breath is of the essence here. The poems are ‘bitter-sweet’ as are all the questions that this intriguing show may ask us. Are we living in hope? Are we grounded? Are we doomed to the uncontrolled man activity affecting nature, or is the world merely trying to survive and adapt?
Three sculptures are built upon the principles of man-made materials and the integration, survival, and transformation of nature in a new plastic environment. André Romão works with found materials. In “head-sculpture-rock” the artist converts a realistic plaster human head (from an unknown creator) into an ecosystem of mussels, limpets, barnacles, and corals. Picking on surrealistic influences, these natural elements are carefully placed inside the ‘open skull’ as if they were always there. How will these materials evolve together is an intriguing question. For the second sculpture, André Romão collected more than 400 beetle wings, which at a first glance may seem like feathers or a strange painted material. This assemblage of wings dazzles our eyes by their impressive myriad of colors. This artwork, “beetle-snake-column,” is even more profound as we find that it is a reproduction of the size and shape of the artist’s spinal cord. (Are we still breathing, reading, questioning, feeling, and standing?)
These two works are placed on Plexiglas reproductions of the Ikea ‘Billy’ bookcase, (the artist appropriates the shape of one of the curious economic and cultural phenomena) this time made in a different scale (the human scale) – one ‘Billy’ bookcase is sold every 5 seconds worldwide. Just as natural species invade our ecosystem, the ‘Billy’ invades our globalized homes. Does one of the same serves us all? Lastly, the third work, “Habitat”, is made of folded Plexiglas plates inhabited by limpets. Surely the same is happening in a plastic-saturated seascape.
Is this cohabitation possible or is it revealing a point of no return? Will we still be able to breathe as we read haikus? Will then pearls, teeth, rings still be a reality or will they become remains? The hope is that the ‘Barberini bees will still be plotting’ in the next cycle and that our fingers will still be here to continue to write the History.
– Catarina Vaz