We often talk about art, as if it were a concept that is poured equally into all societies, just like water or the sun. Water, anywhere in the world, gets wet and the sun warms up. But art is not an earthly asset, but a symbolic construction that we adapt to our needs for tribal significance.¹

TROPICAL WORKSHOP by Francisco Vidal (b.1978) aims to be an expographic recreation of his creative time and space, in the evident emergence of an approximation, through Art, to the territories that semantically mark his paintings and drawings. In a solo exhibition that takes place in the zet gallery from March 14th to May 2nd, 2020, Francisco Vidal brings us Africa, from Angola to Cape Verde, gives us Lisbon and New York back and makes us feel the world, tropicality, and passion. With a plethora of fundamentally recent works, which go between paper support, canvas or compositions of machetes, not forgetting the dimension of the utopian-installation of some of the proposals, Francisco Vidal transports us to his free gesture, full of irreverence, jazz, and spirituality. The studio, in the old Oeiras Foundry, is a world of lost and found, of memories and counterstrokes where work is happening in the intense originality of those who know that there is no universal law in Art. Despite the influences that we can find, in Francisco Vidal, of artists that marked the American underground scene in the 1980s or that we recognize a strong neo-expressionism whose palette and boldness brings us to Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), the Portuguese-Angolan adds to all this a world dimension and an authenticity, intentionally political and of tropical aesthetics that are new.

Unlike human autonomy, the autonomy of art realizes the radical and profound difference that exists between artworks. The composition of an artwork differs from another. There is no content that all artworks have in common. Artworks are radical individuals. Human beings are individuals who participate universally.

The important thing here is that human beings are not artworks. The latter is much more radical, individual and original than a Sapien sapiens could ever be. That is why all attempts to assimilate art into human life are condemned to the direct or indirect affirmation of evil. That is why all attempts to assimilate art into human life are condemned to the direct or indirect affirmation of evil. It can be argued that this is one of the causes of morbidity at the end of the century. It is clearly one of the themes of Baudelaire’s “The Flowers of Evil”. If humans become artworks, they become immoral, because artworks oppose themselves to the universal. They cannot exist under the rule of a universal law.²

What he proposes is radical and unique. It does not seek morality, but in the struggle and the common features of its gesture and its palette, points of view, the present and what is restless are (re)discovered. In the ephemeris of the contemporary condition of the Artwork, Francisco Vidal is a painter and believes in the persistence of the know-how and freedom of the movement he exercises over the brush, in a sublime capture of reality and transfiguring. The series of drawings that make up this exhibition, be it in black and white, be it in colour, operate under the aegis of an installation dimension of the journey, of going and returning. Are small stories that, in many cases, come close to the aesthetic of comics and, therefore, dipping in pop art and its permutations and continuity throughout the decades. Above all, there are no hidden figures, there is Art for Art and there is, in opposition, the man and the artist who seek in painting (and drawing) the form of the core, the measure of spirituality and the confrontation with the crossing.

Is there a more concrete way to exercise the power of judgment in conditions of contemporaneity? I suggested that at least four themes cross the heterogeneity that dominates the current situation. Today, thousands of artists channel their diverse concerns on issues of time, place, mediation and affection. To be more precise, we could say that they question the friction between multiple temporalities, the duality of location/displacement, the saturation of mediations in the society of the spectacle, the internal cracks and, above all, how these factors shape affection and collective connections.³

In everything, a questioning and repulsion of the fleetingness of things and the futility of days. We seek through painting and drawing, the sensation of inner light and, at the same time, that which is capable of changing the world and being happy in its details and its plots. Francisco Vidal is no new subject and his name is known here and there. Licensed in Fine Arts from the Escola Superior de Tecnologia e Gestão de Arte & Design of Caldas da Rainha and with a Master’s in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts at Columbia University, in New York. Francisco Vidal is an essential name of painting, drawing, and gesture that becomes colour, becomes Africa and where magic is made. With a journey initiated in the new millennium, the works of this artist integrate prestigious national and international collections, including the EDP Foundation, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation or the Cachola Collection, among many others. We now bring him to Braga with an exhibition with about one hundred artworks that will flood us with colour and meaning, in a language that integrates figuration and the free association of colours and elements, almost to the surrealist dimension of Mad Love by André Breton (1896-1966):

Never, I repeat, never has terrestrial magnetism, whose analysis leads us to place one of the magnetic poles in the spirit of man and the other in the bosom of nature, been more relentlessly exposed. The certainty that either way, this magnetism exists allows us, to a certain extent, to avoid the question of whether they will be poles of the same name or opposite names.4

Francisco Vidal’s painting has strength and is truthful, it has will and rebellion, it is magnetic and immoral, because beyond the strictly human (returning to Markus). There are no dogmas, there are no rules or repetitions. But there is the pursuit of observing the world that we want to tell, that we want to affirm and mock. Francisco Vidal’s work has its own places and its journeys, its own origins, and its path, it is deeply cosmopolitan, avant-garde and, at the same time, artisanal: everything comes from gesture, of its automatism and its resistance towards the machine. In the encounter with the memory of the Oeiras Foundry, with activity extinguished in the late 1980s, a workshop is developed and, through the metadiscipline that unites thought with visual practice, a compulsive although calm production. There is jazz coming out of the speakers and slogans arriving at the stand.

Are you looking for men with a more beautiful culture? In that case, you must also admit, that when looking for beautiful landscapes, some views and perspectives are limited. Certainly, also exist panoramic men, that really are, like panoramic landscapes, humbling and impressive: but not beautiful.5

Francisco Vidal is not panoramic. No. It’s from the inside. It goes to the core of things, removes the essence of everything in simple gestures that he after covers with motifs and colour, respecting the immanence of the supports and their peculiarities. The ready-made also walks around and the appropriations of what is day-to-day, and which becomes part of the artistic object. The choice of works that integrate TROPICAL WORKSHOP also intended to highlight the multiplicity of possibilities that the artist explores, especially in terms of support. TROPICAL WORKSHOP is, therefore, the beginning of the common dream (of the artist and ours) of a deep belief in an art that is peculiar yet universal, that has no borders or races, which is or is not. TROPICAL WORKSHOP, from the studio in Oeiras, is Francisco Vidal’s painting and drawing in the depths of our white cube made gallery, which covers itself with beauty, which is truthful and believes in good. Francisco Vidal is from our utopian tribe and it is this tribal, tropical and workshop-based utopia that we now affirm, screaming, in strength and without losing the momentum.

Helena Mendes Pereira
zet gallery’s chief curator

¹ROMÁN, Juan Carlos – Los 100 problemas del arte contemporáneo. Murcia: CENDEAC, 2016. Pages 83 and 84.

²GABRIEL, Markus – El Poder del Arte. Santiago do Chile: Editorial Roneo, 2019. Pages 63 and 64.

³SMITH, Terry –¿Qué es el arte contemporâneo? Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 2012. Page 279.

4BRETON, André – O Amor Louco. Lisboa: Antigone, 2019. Page 170.

5NIETZSCHE, Friedrich – Ilusión y verdade del arte. Madrid: Casimiro libros, 2013. Page 47.