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Common Objects by Teresa Dias Coelho
Teresa Dias Coelho is now exhibiting paintings of objects, from an electric fan to a desk lamp, from a hair-dryer to a radio, from an electric iron to a clock.
They are objects from the fifties and sixties, the originals on the verge of obsolescence; the kind of thing we can't decide whether to keep or to throw away, although we acknowledge that the quality and intrinsic style is probably superior to anything on the market today for the same purpose.
The dust of time that has settled on Dias Coelho's utility objects gives her paintings a special chromatism that alternates between bright but slightly faded colours (reminiscent of the colour photographs of the same period, or the first polaroids) and a grey that is a "false" grey in that it is produced by mixing primary colours.
The objects, however, far from looking shabby or worn out, retain their aesthetic and functional qualities despite being enveloped, as we have said, in a tenuous haze. They are living creatures, impervious to the passage of time and the circulation and mortality of versions developed by the consumer society.
Wood, cloth, Bakelite, steel, glass, metal all seem to complement each other in meaningful pairs that assume the presence of electricity, endowing men and women with the magic ability to perform the act of switching on or off. The surrounding space, maternal and protective, confines and creates a cocoon that lends these creatures the almost mystical and immortal quality of something that comes from the past but refuses to accept the verdict of time; or of a longed-for doll packaged in a plastic bubble that the child cannot, or will not, open.
This kind of industrial archaeology is related in its technical precision with photography, which has the virtuality of recording the past to which Dias Coelho's designs transport us, through a unidirectional vision.
All of which makes sense in this painter. The sixties left an indelible mark on her, and she lived them differently from most of the Portuguese population. She records this historic past, however, discreetly and in a way that, while willing to face the important facts of life, envelops them in the "diaphanous cloak of fantasy" and an extremely practical and feminine sensibility apparently in touch with the "commonplace things" that in reality are used as a vehicle or strategy for dissimulation.
These objects, which we could be excused for finding merely pretty and worth displaying in the windows of our favourite curiosity shop, in fact have the internal life of a synthesis, a historical importance which is at the heart of epic or intimate events that took place - or should have taken place - in the twentieth century.
The struggle for survival, death, rejection of the consumer society, lost childhood, may today all smack of clichés about which there is nothing more to be said - unless expressed through Dias Coelho's highly delicate brush-strokes, which bring together in perfect harmony both an individual and a collective memory.
Filipe Rocha da Silva
Introduction to the Exhibition
10th September 2002