Where is João Pombeiro looking for freedom?

A review by Marta Jecu*.

In the dialogue with Tiny Domingos, João Pombeiro talks about wanting to make a connection between the history of Berlin and this exhibition. Berlin wall, the most handy to come symbol, disappears at first from the mind, while entering his exhibition at Rosalux. But "freedom is a state of mind" and is also gesture. A palimpsest of different signs, acts and citations – the wall unfolds a compact space of conceptual expression. Joao Pombeiro reloads this attitude of mind and develops uninhibited his posture in a widened art-theoretical reference context.

Taking a look on
João Pombeiro's website, we can see a bunch of very different directions, strategies, problematizations, which extract elements from disparate fields of experience, substance and style, express artistic traditions, but don't follow down their implications. Somehow confusing, these elements seem not coordinated in a stable conceptual frame. But I would say, that this is not a less mature and less rigorously internalised conceptual process, but rather a different approach: Joao Pombeiro seems the one who searches for very disparate sources of information, images and builds fragments in a personal palimpsests, which is by its nature provisory, temporary and fluid. This attitude doesn't look for the abode of a doctrine, in which to grow, and isn't concerned with speculating on a theoretical norm. It rather proceeds accumulatively, receptively and sensitive to hints, reacting too situations, spontaneously and rather candid – in an "everyday" rhythm. Even if the process is not so analytical to be self-critical, his approach brings in distortions, unexpected turnings of established frames, destabilisation. These deviations open territories, where a long awaited freshness, free expression, lack of self restricting consciousness unfold a deep conceptual substance. Vivid, spontaneous and receptive – this attitude turns out to be very effective, to develop an active potential on a smaller or bigger scale.

Joao Pombeiro's work made for the gallery Rosalux in Berlin, if seen having in mind his other works, gains a dimension which it would otherwise lose. Seeing this unitary constructed space in the gallery, minimal but condensed, and isolating it from the context of his other works, we could be tempted to associate this work to structuralist frames of interpretation, to the preoccupation for text as architectural image. In this light his images and texts could be seen as rigorously constructing on each other, in order to built a stable edifice of meaning. From a different perspective we could see his work also as a graphic game, where text is loosing its significance to become a compact surface, invested with calligraphic qualities. His text-image also could function like a sign, signifying a coded, underlying context.

But as previously stated, I think these theoretical frameworks do not fuse with this work and bring no additional relevance for it.

Joao Pombeiro rather gives a glance to all these fields of "exercise" and turns the game to his will. These references are used to fortify his game but are finally completely ignored, for the artist seeks to follow his personal sense of free, vagabond expression. Stating a truism, making a riddle or a joke, Joao Pombeiro is going round and round in circle, visually and conceptually, till the circle he constructs, is undermined by its own means.
"Every art definition follows a circular logic" - overlapped analysis: a general statement, a particular work, a graphic form collide and the closed circular affirmation, with its inclusive borders, the stated rules by which the work functions, the pre-determined statement, suddenly open up. Text and image deconstruct on each other, make way for free spaces of expression. "I went to the big opening at the gallery, but everyone was there just to be seen, so I left and went to the movies" His statements are questioning their own content. An affirmation is set in circular motion, evidence is repeated, until a distance from the object slips in and the initial meaning is turned upside down. Unexpected, evident absurdness fragments what it cites, till a new conceptual continuity emerges.

The visual text is associated with sonority in the spoken riddles. So, Joao Pombeiro is adding another device for freeing up the immobile canonical statement. Verbalizing, in a continuous tongue-cracking litany, destabilises the well-guarded structure of written words, sonority brings mobility in space. Continuous, tricky shifting, humour and negation impose an affirmative space of discourse.

Marta Jecu

Berlin, 2007