Echo is a major survey exhibition of one of the best known contemporary artists from Portugal. Julião Sarmento (Lisbon, 1948) has worked for over thirty years in a variety of media. In his paintings, sculptures, drawings, photo works and video installations he explores the elemental conditions of human life. His works are poetic philosophies of love, desire, and death.
The exhibition presents more than 60 works in different media showing the consistency and striking presence of his work from all periods. Although the variety in this selection would sit well in a retrospective, the theme of the show refers to the contemporaneity and immediacy of his output: ‘What I’m doing today is part of what I did yesterday.’ (Julião Sarmento)
The selection of works highlights the development of his work over the last ten years and connects it with earlier works. The title Echo not only points to a physical phenomenon but also to the ambiguity of emotional sensations. Through time and throughout the oeuvre, themes and motifs interconnect. The central issues and narrative models of Sarmento’s output already emerged in the 1970s, especially in his filmic and photographic work. Media and techniques are never a goal in themselves but always a means of expression for a non-solvable mind-body relationship, constantly reiterated through ‘showing by hiding’ the search for the sense and beauty of life.
The sequence of works in the show takes the form of a narrative, divided into ‘chapters’. This creates a series of very distinct rooms which introduce the visitor to different aspects of Sarmento’s thinking, starting with Pernas which paraphrases the miracle of the origin of the world. Shadows and silhouettes become metaphors for cognition. The issues of intuition and communication – as presented for example in the early film Faces – are mirrored in later works, such as the White Paintings. A number of less well known sculptural works not only rely on the activie participation of the viewer and the contribution of an inquiring mind, they also underline the theatrical notion of the dramaturgy of the show and demonstrate the suspense between the conceptual basis of the oeuvre as such and the sensuality expressed in every single work.