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João Motta Guedes
Exhibition text Carolina Quintela

28.09 __ 11.11.2023
© Bruno Lopes


The blue flower by João Motta Guedes



Introduced to the world by Novalis in his literary work Heinrich von Opferdingen (1802), the Blue Flower became one of the symbols of romanticism. Although unfinished, the short novel tells the story of the protagonist's journey of self-knowledge in search of this flower, which ends up taking on a much greater importance to reality as a concrete and tangible end. Through symbolic images, this journey is centred on an intuitive vision of the world in search of the ineffable and the immaterial absolute, nostalgic and poetic. In this way, the flower symbolises perfection and rarity, as well as the constant search for the infinite, in which the path is assumed as an intention and the crossing as an opening to transformative experiences. 

With a strong influence from poetry and literature, João Motta Guedes has been developing his artistic work in various mediums and mostly around the concepts of freedom, vulnerability and love, as well as what truly moves an artist: desire. The poetic vision of the world and the unfolding of unknown paths that it makes possible are characteristic of his practice and have a magical propelling value that allows the transfiguration of the real world from the power of language and the search for the immaterial. With a nature anchored in what can perhaps be called romantic conceptualism, I believe it is possible to see in his work a parallel with the ideas underlying Novalis' Blue Flower. The movement against the finitude of the world through art, which is an object of study that allows for evasion through aesthetic experience, pointing to a sensitive apprehension of what surrounds us. How to live?, Motta Guedes' first solo exhibition at Galeria NAVE, presents a body of work that aims to problematise and reflect on the idea of travel as a metaphor for life, based simultaneously on the affective memory of a journey in which the artist was opened up to various paths of discovery and questioning. By formally staging and invoking a real place where he was in the past, the artist explores the imaginary from this lived space, which contains his subjective perception. In this sense, the gallery space is transformed and throws us into another place, the now undulating floor is covered in stones and a railway appears in the distance, as well as, until we reach it, a new horizon presents itself in the form of a set of luminous sculptures lined up, which challenge the viewer. 

The sculpture "Untitled poem (Horizon)", a line of questions that emerge slowly and that are a kind of luminous harbinger of relief and warning, reminds us that life happens in cycles of questions that are updated over time. As for “How to live?”, formally a rail with a marked rhythmic structure, its ends have the outline of two doors or portals, which challenge us to cross and embark on a metaphorical journey of discovery in which various questions cross our minds. We can therefore see that this exhibition/installation, by evoking affective memory through symbols and codes, and by simultaneously allowing the viewer to penetrate and interact with the works in the space, also invites them to take part in this journey and think about their own life, the space to be reached, to be undertaken, the contemplation and, finally, the return and its symbolic allegory. The poetic invocation is taken by the imagination and the original place is transposed.

This simulacrum and the proposed transience, as well as the elements that populate the exhibition space, reveal the work of art as a dreamlike and sensitive encounter that opens up a space for transcendence. An intuitive and immersive landscape, symbolic of a place of recognition and evasion. Just as in Heinrich von Opferdingen, in which Novalis describes the imagery of a place and its journey, Motta Guedes materialises the imagery of another place and, in this way, the questions that the artist asks us correspond to a cosmic map of how and what it is to live. However, unlike Novalis, who sees infinity as a painful perception of life because it is limited, Motta Guedes views infinity as a matter of hope and the power of the countless possibilities of the future. Everything is a path, everything is learning, and the beauty of life lies in the journey and the constant future.



Carolina Quintela

September, 2023

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