The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
On this canvas the Portuguese artist Julião Sarmento drew part of a human figure, twice. The fragment at the top consists of a tight skirt under which Sarmento shows two legs to just below the knee. Above the skirt, he has suggested the upper body with a few lines. The lower fragment reveals the upper body, arms and hands. One finger of the right hand is perpendicular to the left hand. The bottom-left corner of the canvas shows a stick with a sling. The background has an irregular grainy structure and looks patchy. In the fragments of the figures, the underlying lines of the sketch have been painted over transparently. There is a horizontal seam in the canvas and the lowest fragment of the figure seems to be cut off by this seam.
In the 1970s Sarmento worked mainly with film, video and photography. After that he started to make paintings. These have a collage-like character and initially looked colourful and explosive. Nevertheless, according to Sarmento, they are really about sorrow, loneliness and isolation, and about “the impossibility of really seeing and understanding because there are simply too many possibilities.” This colourful period was followed by a period in which Sarmento worked mainly with grey. He explained: “I like grey because it is so anonymous”, and “(… ) with grey it is possible to create something unique, something that is somewhere between painting and classical drawing.” The “white” canvases which Sarmento has made since the 1990s are also somewhere between drawing and painting. He draws figurative and abstract elements with graphite onto a background painted white.
The fragments of images in the “white” paintings, such as 'Metropolis', seem to rise up from the canvas because they have been repeatedly sketched and then painted over again. Some of the shapes are razor sharp, while others are very vague. As regards the extent to which they can be recognized, the fragments are also sometimes vague and sometimes clear. However, their meaning always remains enigmatic. Bits of stories seem to be depicted, but neither the fragments themselves nor their interrelationship clearly tell what the story is about. Sarmento’s works are like the memory of a dream in which desire has central place, a desire which is always accompanied by absence, things which are incomplete, and memories.
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