For this is the truth: I have left the house of the scholars and slammed the door behind me.
Too long did my soul sit hungry at their table; I have not been schooled, as they have, to crack knowledge as one cracks nuts.
I love freedom and the air over fresh soil; I would sleep on ox-skins rather than on their dignities and respectabilities.
I am too hot and scorched by my own thought: it is often about to take my breath away. Then I have to get into the open air and away from all dusty rooms.¹
Cristina Troufa was born in Porto, in 1974, in year of revolution, during which Sophia de Mello Breyner wrote that it was that marvelous dawn, when hope and freedom arose and which she had been longing for, that inspired and led her to the UTOPIA movement of freedom. zet gallery has already accustomed its audiences to the intersection between disciplines, namely the understanding of visual arts stemming from the eternity of the poets’ words. Throughout the history of art, the artists who have worked self-representation have been emerging. Few, however, were those who transposed their bodies into their work, proposing a reflection on the multiplicity of things we are now and throughout life, questioning the veracity prevailing in the image. Cristina Troufa, as Helena Almeida (1934-2018), is always the focus of her own painting, widening the vanishing point towards a more comprehensive idea of what being a Woman is; her strengths, weaknesses, temptations, mysticisms, doubts and sins. The feminine utopia is Cristina’s utopia which, in this individual exhibition that zet gallery has organized for her, intersects with Sophia’s utopia, in a meta-reading between poetry, image, music and celebration. UTOPIA is a curatorship exercise in which the narrative is developed from a selection of poems by Sophia de Mello Breyner (1919-2004), taking advantage of the motto to pay tribute to the poet in the centenary year of her birth.
In a sea of words, Sophia could easily have defined Cristina, but Cristina is one of those women whose laughter unveils her beyond time, who carries the sea in her eyes through the vastness of the soul, who charges her fingers with poetry and her hands with the drawing and painting that we celebrate today. UTOPIA, the individual exhibition we have been dreaming of, is composed by almost seven dozen works of art, including painting, drawing and installation, produced since 2007 but with its focus over the last three years. Paraphrasing the artist her work is “something spiritual, a journey between several lives and different stages in time, in the same life, coexisting side by side, through strategies of self-representation that, ultimately, question the meaning of life. My work is about my life, myself and my beliefs. “ I swiftly read on and stopped at the point where Cristina states that her plasticity is predominantly marked by a “figurative surrealism”. And so I found myself thinking that those who paint and write, tend, at some point to surrealize themselves, to leave in search of spaces of psychic automatism that allow for an approximation of the subconscious and, if not, of the truth, at least our own truth, without fears, ties or doubts. We live in a time and societal space in which suffering is forbidden, where we are encouraged not to feel and to be void of fragility. The time of analgesic dependence has come. It is not important to understand the whys and the wherefores, only to nullify the immediate consequences, to camouflage. Falling is forbidden, failure is the subject of all recriminations. Crying is hysteria, shouting is shameful. Better to choke, to contain, not to think, not to reflect, to pretend. Gonçalo M. Tavares, born in 1970, designates the epiphenomenon as “intellectual pathology” and synthesizes:
Between the absence of pain and intelligence, the rational being, responsible for inventions, philosophy, art, technology, would most likely opt for the absence of pain. In short – and this is one of the essential synthesis – to Man, the fear of pain possibly outweighs the fear of stupidity.²
In Cristina Troufa’s self-representation, we do not feel the fear of pain or of exposing weaknesses. We rather witness the intelligence and crudeness of the senses, with the aggressiveness and sweetness of expressions, with the violence and bashfulness of the bodies. At times Cristina Troufa self multiplies as in a sequence of frames, creating the illusion of movement in predominantly triangular pieces of classical style, often baroque in the eminence of light-dark that benefits from the support, which is a polychromed plan, or in its natural characteristics, canvas or paper from which the figuration unfolds. Using an eminently pop palette, though with variations with more intense light, Cristina reveals herself in the use of flat colour. Part of the originality of her work lies in the way in which the figure sprouts from the base, in an inward to outward game, conceptually imprisoning body and soul and simultaneously placing the cry for liberation at every glance. In UTOPIA, we can find on palette a set of pieces of abstract nature, which reveal the experimental character of Cristina’s production but where we already feel the preference for a determined range of colors and its respective variations. The process, as it is with Helena Almeida, an undeniable reference to Cristina Troufa , begins with the photography that, in some situations, is up to her life partner, Carlos, to concretize. Or perhaps it is Cristina’s entire adventure, from the beginning until the final click. Therefore, it can be said that there is a pre-existence in the performance. From there, before the beginning of the painting exercise, Cristina explores the combination of positions and expressions, with a strong basis in drawing, hence its evidence in this exhibition, allowing audiences to immerse themselves in the ways and talents of the artist. Each work is therefore also a gesture of love, sharing and complicity.
Like Robert Sabatier (1923-2012), Cristina inhabits “a proverb so vast that it would take a universe to fill it”3, she is a dreamer of reveries and cosmos that uses everyday life to purge restlessness and vertigo. She is the author of her own solitude, a being that sprouts from the world, inward and outward.
Suddenly, he becomes a dreamer of the world. He opens up to the world and the world opens up to him. We would have never seen the world clearly if we had not dreamed what we saw. In a reverie of solitude, which increases the dreamer’s solitude, two depths come together, replicating in echoes that wander between the depth of the being of the world, and depth of the dreamer. Time has no longer a yesterday or tomorrow. Time is submerged in the double depth of the dreamer and the world.4
It is partly in the possibility of the dreamer of the world, that Cristina’s utopia intersects with and links to Sophia’s utopia, a woman and a poet who dedicated her life to the cause of freedom including Portuguese political activity in the post-revolutionary period, having maintained intense civic intervention on her personal matters and on matters of the State. On the other hand, in both Cristina and Sofia, we witness the revolution for the feminine cause. And if in Sophia’s case this is accomplished through words, in Cristina’s it is done in the denial of the corporeal stereotype, by not obliging its characters to follow the social significations that, by preconception, we attribute to the physical and moral qualities of men and women, as explained to us by David Le Breton, born in 1953:
The moral and physical qualities attributed to men or women are not inherent in bodily attributes but are inherent in the social significance we give them and the norms of behavior implied. Feminism through militant activity has made it possible to reflect on certain social inequalities and on the stereotypes of speeches and attitudes, on the social practices that make women, as Goffman in another way shows, beings often exposed and subordinate to men.5
Cristina Troufa makes an assertion of her thematic stemming from within, putting her body and her object of study beyond the limits of disruption. Her women, albeit always Cristina, represent the dreamers of the world, they engage in all tasks, activities and eloquences. They pervert and provoke the eye, not of the beholder, but of those who feel and become annoyed by what they see.
Like Sophia and Nietzsche (1844-1900), who have curiously accompanied me from the first day I fell in love with books and words, and like every poet and philosopher, Cristina Troufa loves Freedom and fights against the self-censorship that is imposed to her as a woman by society. She makes us contemplate our moment of truth, what we omit when hiding our pain, failure or loss. The international day of the woman whose memory we put to this UTOPIA, is also a challenge to the veracity of being a woman, without fear of falling and looking forward to an immediate future, though more so the urgency of the present. There are no coincidences in UTOPIA. There are only Cristina’s women attached to the eternal words of Sophia, in a gallery space made open book where each and everyone of us fits. In Utopia we want to embrace all women. We aim to do so with art and in an activist contemplation of the future. Impossible? Simply UTOPIA.
Helena Mendes Pereira
zet gallery’s chief curator
¹NIETZSCHE – Assim falava Zaratustra. Lisboa: Guimarães Editores, 2007. Page 148.
²TAVARES, Gonçalo M. – Atlas do Corpo e da Imaginação. Alfragide: Editorial Caminho, 2013. Page 343.
³Citado em BACHELARD, Gaston – A Poética do Devaneio. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2009. Page 165.
4 BACHELARD, Gaston – A Poética do Devaneio. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2009. Pages 165 and 166.
5 BRETON, David Le – A Sociologia do Corpo. Petrópolis: Editora Vozes, 2010 (4th editon). Pages 68 and 69