This group of works on paper by Jorge Feijão, shown at Giefarte in the Autumn of 2019, covers a temporal arc that ranges from 2001 to the present year. Their assemblage here can be considered a small retrospective, which opens with four studies from 2001 [Indian ink and ballpoint pen, 21 × 29,7 cm], originally shown in his first solo exhibition, at Sala do Veado, in 2004. One of those drawings – the one saturated with black hues, like the outcome of a straight line that curves again and again, of a skin that retracts and wrinkles, transforming itself into a lengthy process of vertigo and fall into the depths of the darkness of its own limits – already carries in itself the signs that will permit the distortion of the imaginary torso shapes we find in Monos [2009-2010, oil bar and acrylic on paper, with footstep traces, 70 × 100 cm].

The torsion contained in the black tones of many of Jorge Feijão’s drawings is a reflection of a physical image that has drifted away, leaving on the paper the extreme noise of its silence. A sort of sight and hearing that remain sharply present in that blackness, or in a dusty grey [as seen in two pieces of the series Metamorfoses, 2012]. In the accumulation of wrecked figures and tactile images, in the confusion of what might be what is outside and what might be inside an isolated shape, a portion of a physical body. Even though that is never made explicit, apart from that amalgamated black, offering itself as a crushed dirtiness that conveys volume. A contorted, nodulated black makes up the drawing. Which, however, wishes to be clean of such affectations as possessive pronouns [mine, yours, theirs] or articles [the, a, an]. Dirtiness: the line that curves again and again, the paint that deformed, the colour that transformed, the patient space that has layered itself down.

The drawing is neither a scene, in the theatrical sense, nor a plan, in the architectural one. Rather, it is the transformation of the geometric features and physicality of a body, taken away from a portion of space. The paper [the support that receives them] preserves them as the eye’s extreme possibility of response, able to restitute and restore a number of moments. Let us dwell on the relationship present in the six drawings from 2017 [charcoal and graphite, 50 × 60 cm]. Through them runs a simultaneity, a class of time that carries within itself a gradation touched by all that is timeless, by a time that is full, a redeemed time. It has passed through these six drawings, as a lengthy process of making. Patches and lines show us a life that is drawn between the emergence of an apparent historical-existential time and real time, which manifests as an epiphany, ready to offer us a panorama of a whole body of work. Because to visually experience a drawing and to share the gradations of its finitude is something that demands an enthusiastic commitment to the play of art, to its making and erasing, out of which resurgence will later surge. There is a forgetting of oneself, a being out of oneself, in the viewer who leans over a drawing, following its patches and lines, its colours. Kierkegaard finds a dialectical theology in the actions of the one who creates, which extend, in the moment of seeing, to the one who contemplates the work of art. I do not find that moment in which the viewer is fully committed to contemplation to be truly redemptive; only that the person in question may feel drawn into the work’s subjectivity and be in some way possessed by the object of their contemplation.

At a certain point in his work, Jorge Feijão developed a sense for enthusiasm; for a being out of oneself that results from the avoidance of an understanding of rationality, as Plato describes it in his Phaedrus. Many of the drawings in the long series titled Metamorfoses [eight pieces from it are shown here] allude to the Echo and Narcissus myth. The nymph Echo contemplates Narcissus. He, in turn, loses himself into the reflection of his image in the waters of a lake. Both represent the negation of being in themselves.

In both of them, in the nymph’s passion for the young man and in his obsession with the reflection of his body in the water, we find a self-oblivion, a delirium, an attempt at being in coincidence, at being at the same time. Here, the grey-toned drawing of Metamorfoses reflects itself on the drawing that explores the same hues. Or the drawing on backdrop paper [2009-2019, collages, Indian ink, charcoal, acrylic and spray paint, 200 × 150 cm], where a yellow line doubles its legitimacy for existing and its “I am here” simultaneity by curving itself over a green line, which in turn obscures its presence in the full depiction of a red line. In the depth the black tones generate over the paper’s curdled white, an oval opens. To the viewer, it conveys a feeling of endlessness. A collaged bit of black ink leans over it. Once again, the image of Narcissus – that bit of black – leans dizzyingly, not over the water of a spring or pool, but over the white lava of a volcano. More than a drawing, what we have here is the spirit of a painting through which fate and desolation reverberate and where the artist’s technique and knowledge have summoned a mood rich with interiority and perhaps shot through with compassion and awe.  

The black saturation of Indian ink – and also charcoal – in much of Feijão’s work represents an archaic descent into the multiple functions of figuration. Over time, his work has featured elementary lines and traces, which more recent pieces evoke, submerging them in a puzzling combination of collage and colour [Auto-retrato, 2015-2018, 189 × 148,5 cm, plastic paint, charcoal and wood glue]; these elements refuse to go away, as is the case of the bruised black patch, that in macerated layers depicts within itself a number of characters, isolated or in groups. Who knows, perhaps in this artist’s mind the pre-awareness of a fearful/benign monster leads to a minimal temporisation of the speakable, developing itself within the dynamics of a delay and a succession. Trespassing and gradation are what happens in Mesa [2006-2019, drawings on a marble slab covered in ceramic slip, on a table and studio trash bags, 80 × 120 × 80 cm].

Mesa [Table] arrives at the gallery space as a wounded object, torn away from its original context. Its representational power preserves drawings and trash bags. These contain debris, shavings, fragments, clues towards the precise meanings of the drawings that surround the table. In the dull glow of all its trash, Mesa carries the rooted reality of its ground, of the creativity that assisted its birth. I do not think it has left behind the tiniest bit of lint, pencil stud, or empty ink flask. It is here, as if it were living in its original context. It reconstructs the world to which it belongs and mirrors the “intention” of the artist who created it. It is here, as something rescued from a fire that still shows the marks of that fire.  

Painting in drawing; drawing within the act of painting. Maybe such is the way of being of the visual quality we find in the two pieces titled Auto-retrato [Self-portrait]. Everything in them is a forward and backward movement: memory and forgetfulness. Things, intentions, feelings, portions of time and space that have been experienced, lived in, or are simply intense objects of desire. They are laid on top of each other on the ordered and glued sheets of paper, mediation drawings for a face, a body, a portrait. The colour now releases a botanical or architectural motif, now conceals with an intense blot, full of bitterness and irony, the primacy of what is alive, embracing, in an expressive and committed univocal revelation, a representatio universi. Indissoluble expansion of the portrayed one’s image: the one imprisoned in a broken mirror, the one that flickered under the water of a swamp. An “eye” appears, in flight, like an isolated drawing. In refusal, it has not accepted the dominance of the wood glue. It sees, outside the picture, with the greatest clarity, how much a portrait wants to understood as a portrait.

Through the multiplicity of drawings they aggregate, the “self-portraits” carry in themselves an ingenious game. Together, they form an image of the artist. But each one of these drawings amounts to a portion of small motifs, of visual brevity, of colour flashes, which amount to brief seconds, in terms of time. These collages preserve a mosaic of micro-motifs; their succession of monadic colourful spaces rearranges itself, like in a kaleidoscope. This conveys the effect of a hidden, idealised repetition of permutations, of minimal suppressions that are obscured by colour.   

Jorge Feijão draws paintings of endless subtlety. The works gathered in this small retrospective display the resourceful approach of the artist’s thought to the life and art of today. João Miguel Fernandes Jorge