Oporto’s art scene has had a particular importance to KARAT since 2012, when we initiated the artist exchange PORTO/KÖLN (Oporto/Cologne) – THE OCEAN AND THE RIVER. To select the Portuguese participants we spent a few days in the city, interviewing dozens of artists in depth about their work.
In this way, within a very short span of time a picture began to form of an intriguing scene and a new generation of artists who were exceptionally driven and passionate about their work. One of the many things that impressed us, was the confidence and apparent ease with which the artists moved between different media and applications of their ideas. Furthermore, they possessed an idealism and work ethic that wilfully ignored the crumbling economy and the lack of interest by the general public.
In the course of three years a lot has changed. What was essentially an underground phenomenon is now reaching a much bigger and more diverse audience in Oporto. And slowly but surely, galleries are starting to take an interest. This young generation of artists seems to succeed in changing the cultural microclimate of Oporto.
One strand of Diana’s many collecting endeavours involves different kinds of paper, foil, plastic sheets, and thermal blankets. In her studio she studies their surfaces carefully, examines how they can be folded or bend; how they deform into a ripple pattern, when a coat of acrylic paint is applied to them; their absorptive or reflective qualities, as well as the quality of the light that they bounce off onto other surfaces. Slowly, the objects begin to develop an identity.
Something quite inexplicable happens when she strings this vocabulary together and forms sentences out of them in an exhibition space, each time in a different way. As the viewer slows down to take in the interplay of the different objects and their character, a dense atmosphere begins to envelop him or her, like a moment late on a silent, beautiful, and somehow suffocating summer afternoon.
Long chains of repetition and variation of certain motives stretch through Diana’s work and are woven together by her like different storylines. Following these threads reveals the stunning depth which Diana’s practice has achieved over the past years.
Hernâni Reis Baptista
It is Hernâni’s video work in particular, where one of his great strengths becomes very clear. Pieces like “Paz Camaradas”, “Execuçoes”, and “Lá fora” unite widely diverse emotions, atmospheres and attitudes, but there are not ambiguous. They are decidedly two things at once, or three or four. Like a viewer intuitively would make a distinction between the reflection on a piece of glass and the piece of glass itself, in Hernâni’s work different elements lead a parallel existence, reflecting on another but remaining separate. There is not a push in one direction, no attempt to convince the viewer of one view, but rather a state of momentary balance and lucidity in which the complex emotional or philosophical geography of the situation can be appreciated.
There is a fine sense of humour in all of Hernâni’s work an even when he is addressing harsh, violent realities. He is apparently able to make anything appear weightless by the playful and stunningly elegant way he approaches his work, but the problems and questions are not ridiculed, they stay intact.
The process of contamination is of great interest to David. The contamination of our mind and behaviour through media and society, and also the way objects, spaces and atmospheres contaminate each other. He welcomes the influence of contamination and degradation on his work, like the glitches and imperfections in his mesmerising videos, which often remind of minimal electronic music in the way they use repetition and monotony.
David’s work defies categorisation and it is an impossible task to sum it up in a couple of sentences. It is often very raw and intuitive but produced from within a very thought-through and unusual mind-set. This is especially true of his performance work where anger and an absurd humour function within a carefully constructed situation.
KARAT was founded in 2012 in Cologne and converted 14 derelict light boxes in the outer wall of a multi-storey car park into an art space. However, KARAT has realised projects in other locations as well, including Oporto, Portugal and Amsterdam. KARAT are Yvonne Klasen and Paul Leo.