Monday, November 23, 2009

No - wait...

João Penalva

Photos, videos, installations

Portuguese-born London-based João Penalva’s large-scale retrospective is a selection of works reflecting on a number of his artistic considerations together with the approaches and strategies he applies.
Penalva started his career at the beginning of the 1970’s as a dancer. From 1970 to 1973 he studied ballet, the Graham and the Cunningham techniques at the London Contemporary Dance School, later he worked with choreographer Jean Pomares and then with Pina Bausch. Influenced by Jasper Johns, Rauschenberg and Beuys among many others in the beginning, he has been engaged in the visual arts since 1976. At that time he exclusively painted, later texts and narrativity became fundamental and inseparable parts of his art.
It seems that the specificity of Penalva’s work lies in the exuberant application of written and oral texts. Tracing the visual and verbal evidences he, as an artist, guides his viewers through and thus makes them aware of the role they play as interpretators, of the subjectivity of their approaches and of the necessarily fragmentary nature of reception.
The group of works in the exhibition creates for one another the context in which the viewer will inevitably raise the question of authenticity after a while. Listening to and reading these stories one seems to arrive at the next page of a collection of short stories rather than perciving the static images of an exhibition space. The question is then whether these stories are true and if yes, to what an extent? Unlike reading a novel where you would not ask Who is this Madame Bovary actually?
The way Penalva uses various references to visuality and the history of representation makes the viewer aware once again of the culturally determined and coded nature of the „gaze”.
“If it looks like Kurosawa it does so because you hear the language of a Kurosawa film. But if I were to use the same image with the voices of Swedish actors, Bergman would be your cultural reference and you would immediately identify it as unmistakably Swedish…” (João Penalva)

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