In tribute to the life and work of Julião Sarmento (Lisbon, 1948 - 2021), the Collection Caixa Geral de Depósitos is highlighting Moderato Cantabile, 1985. Four images, from apparently different sets, waving between the figurative and the abstraction, gather to form this painting in a way that translates into an almost cinematographic tableau, which goes along with the research the artist focused on in the 1980s. By juxtaposing these scenes, a certain formal narrative seems to emerge moving the viewer away from an existing story. It is not the literal understanding, however, that appeals to the artist, quite the contrary; the doubt, the confusion, the attempt to capture the images becomes a never-ending quest to fix the unfixable or to contain that which is uncontainable. It is in this sphere of unlikelihood that, in this voracious and disturbing contemporary world of ours, Julião Sarmento's works became greater.

Moderato Cantabile was recently on display in the exhibition O pequeno mundo  [The small world] curated by Sérgio Mah at the MACNA – Nadir  Afonso Contemporary Art Museum, in Chaves. In the exhibition catalogue published on the occasion, the curator wrote: “The painting’s title, that quotes a well-known book by Marguerite Duras, instantly states fictionality as a relevant prerequisite to experience this work, which consists of four elements. The work conveys an idea of ​​montage, as a way of enabling a peculiar space-time configuration between gestures and (their) (mental) images. This montage represents the building of a syntax that structures the spatial organization between different parts, as well as a way of bringing together the existing connections and separations between physical, material and visual forms. We may be tempted to create associations between what we see in this painting and certain aspects of Duras' work. However, as we are not in the realm of comprehensibility, this effort will be futile. We are in the land of potential, of imaginary views, a place where the artist compels us to uncover the nature and purpose of our own gaze.”

The artist studied Architecture at the Escola Superior de Belas Artes [Lisbon School of Fine Arts] between 1968 and 1974. His first solo exhibition took place at Sociedade Nacional de Belas-Artes’ Modern Art Gallery in 1976. He participated in Alternativa Zero (1977) and After Modernism (1983), two important group exhibitions presented in Lisbon. His career quickly took off and he soon gained international recognition taking part in relevant exhibitions of contemporary art, such as the XI Paris Biennale (1980), Documenta 7 (1982) and Documenta 8 (1987), Kassel, the 49th Venice Biennale (2001) and the 25th São Paulo Biennale (2002). In 1997, Sarmento represented Portugal at the Venice Biennale.

A protocol agreement signed by C.M.L. [Lisbon City Hall] and artist Julião Sarmento on May 29, 2017, established a partnership designed to house the artist’s contemporary art collection – the “Colecção SILD” – at Pavilhão Azul, in Belém. The project is by architect Carrilho da Graça and curator Sérgio Mah will be the director of the future museum.


Hugo Dinis

Moderato Cantabile
Acrylic paint on paper
198,3 x 199 cm
Inv. 328882
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