Wasting my Time with You #928
Date 1991
Medium Mixed media on canvas
Dimensions 290 x 407.5 cm
Inventory ID UID 102-515
Two opposing and complementary sections are united in this painting. In the black section, which refers to night, four slats of a fence are diagrammatically represented (these may be read as something that demarcates and encloses a domestic space). In the white section – which invokes daytime and light – we see someone releasing the waist of a skirt, or perhaps of trousers, either to peek down, or to allow someone else (though not us) to glimpse the figure’s intimate parts. A bent elbow comes dangerously close to the edge of a step (suggesting latent violence). Other fragments allude to vegetation, possibly indicating a garden. And two black dots, similar to the tattoos of prison inmates, intimate the notion of painting as a skin upon which are inscribed signs and traces, as indelible marks that we transport with us and that we cannot hide. Julião Sarmento began his long series of White Paintings in 1990. On large canvases, covered with an off-white ground of grainy or sandy texture, figures and objects appear, seemingly erased and re-drawn. A process of trial and error, traditionally attributed to drawing, is here employed as a constituent part of painting. This tension between drawing and painting gives form simultaneously to the conceptual and material aspects of Sarmento’s figurations. The artist attests to the “spectral” and “virtual” nature of the image, in the sense that it is precisely this condition that determines the “ideal woman”; in other words not an object of desire, but as the idea of it. The fact that the figure (female, though ambiguously so) lacks a head reinforces its condition as generic and archetypal. Sarmento exhorts the spectator mentally to compose a “drawing” in the process of being made. He would like us to begin to guess at, and discern, both figures and stories to which we do not have full access, completing them or imaginatively granting them corporeality. It is with the intimate and the personal as points of departure that Julião Sarmento works. In this way, as a voyeur illicitly spying a scene, the spectator finds him or herself faced with the traces of someone enslaved in the elaboration of something irrational or passionate, withheld at the moment of endeavour – always deferred and impossible – of materialising the definitive and absolute image of the object of its desire. Bruno Marques