Art Review

Slightly later than planned (something about a customs strike at Lisbon airport)

Memories From The Future

Slightly later than planned (something about a customs strike at Lisbon airport), Portuguese artist Gil Heitor Cortesao’s multi-layered paintings rolled into Carbon 12’s new Al Quoz space last week. Having seen one or two of Cortesao’s pieces before, including his scene from an almost baroquely decrepit theatre, this new collection is definitely stronger and benefits from a tight curatorial edge.

Using pages ripped from old interior design magazines from the ’70s, Cortesao reproduces scenes of modernist orderly bliss on glass. He then lays a sheet of Plexiglass over the top. Marked with coloured smudges, the Plexiglass distorts Cortesao’s near-photo-realistic images – it mars and corrupts, giving these masterpieces of functional decor an insidious atmosphere of dereliction.

Seeing Cortesao’s style in the flesh really is something. When you step close to the images, what seems so realistic from afar quickly disassembles before the eyes. It’s possible to see how simplistic, almost amateurish, the painting is – and this perfectly complements the corrupting effect of the layer of Plexiglass. The works present the interiors as dim, closed off. We witness the crumbling of all those modernist ideals; of an orderly utopia undivided by cultural relevance. Suddenly, the lofty pretensions of that time (which its architectural and interior aesthetics typified so well) seem so blind.

The sharp lines of an angular stairwell appear oppressive. What looks like a hotel lobby, given a futuristic once-over with white leather and a spaceship-esque overhanging viewing platform, looks almost ridiculous. And it really does come down to Cortesao’s corrupting layer of Plexiglass. It infuses the scenes with enough murkiness to eliminate their kitsch, making the squeaky-clean world of modernism seem rather short-sighted and, frankly, weird.

The strongest element in these works is the world beyond, which is hinted at by the artist. In one large work, depicting a mix of cold marble and red leather that one might expect in an early ‘80s Austrian chalet, we see a band of grey in the distance. The plexiglass gives the grey a slight white highlight at the top, suggesting a forest or a mountain range. We see two figures seemingly standing in awe of this foreboding mass.

It’s these small, suggestive elements that really mark out what Cortesao is doing. His ideas are tight, but never presented too heavy-handedly. There’s a slight sense that there should be more in this show, but it’s hard not to get lost in Cortesao’s unnerving world.

It’s a good solo show to inaugurate Carbon 12’s new spot, with the same international brunt exhibited in the gallery’s former Marina space. With four galleries now on Al Serkal Avenue (including the upcoming Mojo Gallery, which opens this week), Carbon 12 has made a good move heading to this surprisingly lively batch of warehouses.

Carbon 12, Al Quoz. Until November 26.

Gail Catlin

Liquid crystal, eh? Don’t be put off – as suspicious as that sounds, Dubai’s galleries fortunately haven’t drifted into the point-of-no-return world of painting with Swarovski gems. Yet.

But we’re intrigued by news of Gail Catlin’s solo show, which launches yet another new gallery in the Al Serkal Avenue quarter of Al Quoz. Originally from South Africa, Catlin’s style (born of 10 years studying crystals with a scientist) causes her works to ‘dance under the light’, offering paintings that respond to changes in light and temperature. Using a substance commonly found in LCDs, the liquid crystal actually breaks, divides and refracts light as it hits the canvas, causing an impressive fluid effect.

Now, we could easily banish this to the world of novelty. But from what we’ve seen, Catlin’s abstracted canvases are pretty interesting and, even if it all looks quite decorative, it’s still not a bad introduction to this new gallery space that is, at the very least, different.

We’ve been told that the space will devote a number of exhibitions specifically to illustration and graphics, and there’s also a mezzanine area that’s reserved as a potential workspace for visiting artists.

Mojo Gallery, Al Quoz. November 1-December 1.

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