I can’t see you, but I know you’re here

Those who best know the artist’s work will perhaps be surprised at first, since painting never got a special role in the work of Rui Calçada Bastos (Lisbon, 1971). Nevertheless, the painting stands here not so much as a disruption, but mostly as an evidence of continuity. Calçada Bastos’ work comes together, fundamentally, under an entangled game which is the touchstone for its understanding as a whole action. I Can’t See You, But I Know You’re Here is, therefore, a result of multiple thoughts and movements. It has the thickness of an ongoing process thrown into the present, in the inhabitable gesture. Being a highly immersive exhibition, it claims for a dive into the space and for the activation and expansion of the works beyond the simple act of contemplating. It demands a special attention to what we don’t see at first, but certainly is here, as when in Wings of Desire, by Wim Wenders, the man seeks in the drawing’s gesture for the traces of the angel he does not see, but whose presence he undoubtedly feels, and so he affirms: “I can’t see you, but I know you’re here”.

At various dimensions, the exhibition underlines the importance of a drawing gesture that begins in the artist and finds its final shape and its sense in the viewer. The most obvious one is maybe the blue-green wall that pushes us into some kind of cleaning place, a place of praise, a place for the memory or even a place to fight Lethe. We are thus in a space of simultaneous preservation and continuity, just like the space of a museum, where objects rise and get a different value. This is how the color of the room greatly determines both the relevance of what is exposed and our role in relation to the works. In each portrait (of three sets), we recognize possible shapes of the vanished that came into the artist’s gesture. It is the final stage of a process of caring for the imminently visible and implicitly active identities. The portraits present the remains of an existence that manifests itself to us because it has also been in the world once and touched it in all of its dimensions, in a lifetime that was so often anonymous. They are a record of the vanished poses, profiles, shades and lights, and express different identities that, again, only gain their final shape and meaning within us, the spectators. Another example of the open drawing that crosses the exhibition is the work at the bottom of the gallery. In this piece, the artist makes use of a set of old frame supporting wires, which appear like witnesses of an anterior truth in which they served their propose, while expanding our reading into multiple views on the works and on the exhibition as a whole. So, more than a final gesture or a physical evidence from the past, that work of art turns itself into the expression of the eternal possibilities of the present and the future, which may be more or less close to what they were before, depending on the connections that the viewer establishes between their memory and imagination. Finally, thrown over this game, the map of titles both boosts and provides continuity to the fundamental openness that is all over the exhibition. Each one of them is also a possible story or a potential work source. They put all the works of the exhibition over the artist’s shoulders and show some of his internal reflections on them. This way, they could express a more private dimension that would easily contribute to a more fixed and closed reading of the exhibition; but, on the contrary, they are intentionally floating in order to leave it more and more open to the transformation and to the intricate future of the exhibition and of the artist’s work, in general.


Maria Joana Vilela