Mário Vitória and the powers of imagination

To Artur Cruzeiro Seixas

Mário Vitória is a singular artist. He belongs to a rare, eccentric and as such sparsely populated family, whose members only appear once in a while, and persist in bringing into the sphere of art and painting unexpected signs, directly influenced by the field of fantasy and pure imagination, however, without stopping to drink on reality, their most decisive source.

This faculty of imagining from some references to reality, i.e., producing phantasmagorical allegories of immense visual impact from reality, has a deep tradition in Western art. From medieval Bestiaries, which were so often made in stone and on the highest points of the old cathedrals, to the enigmatic figures of some Flemish paintings; from Brueghel to Hyeronimus Bosch; of the symbolist meditations of a Felix Valloton to certain perspectives of Surrealism, concerning the heart of the supernatural, this tradition became itself a necessity. A necessity of what, we would ask? The need to allegorize the world through extraordinary and bizarre comparisons that exclude the mere coincidence, and in its place establish a vast field of unfulfilled possibilities turned into pure powers of imagination.

I refer to fabrications of worlds, but following the pure logic of what they could have been instead of what they really were. And what makes them dazzling, exuberant, is to precisely appear as unfulfilled possibilities, but without losing the logical sense true imagination puts in all it does, walking in a dimension always closely parallel to reality.
The colours, the shapes, the various metamorphoses, which are successively and generously given to our sight as exuberant shows, are no more than records of other possibilities that go along with what was or is real, and phantasmagorically turn them into visions, like dreams, but from which they retain the encrypted reference of a time of its happening.

It was Freud who, in his treaty devoted to the Interpretation of Dreams, wrote that the essential mechanisms of the dream are displacement and condensation. That is, the scenery displacement of a certain occurrence to another space, which evokes, though paradoxically, another event. And the condensation of disparate elements from various occurrences in another scene, lateral to the first, which combines in a single synthetic level the varied multiplicity of different separated events.

It also occurs in the oneiric processes that are gradually developed within the painting of Mário Vitória. Whether by the seductive suggestion of the dream, or by the brutal imposition of nightmare images; the fact is that, the events of his primordial scenario move and then generate, within its space as it is reconstructed, many and other scenarios where other possibilities of development take place, incorporating unexpected allusions, recollections, memories; never losing sight of the gleaned references of reality.
The phantasmagorical process, already alluded before, thereby, becomes a kind of internal necessity, even if not constitutive and intrinsic to this painting and its vicissitudes. It constitutes, first and foremost, as a method and as a model of creation while of transfiguration and communication of an unstoppable metamorphosis of figures and even of senses. And, through it, it becomes possible to accommodate these figures within a single field, where we witness a perpetual change, which disrupts and devastates with the same gesture.

At the same time, through this process what is communicated is precisely the artist’s meditation on the characteristic condition of the typical instability and mutability of the contemporary in its uncertainties and weaknesses. That is why we are tempted to bring him to the Bosch Family, insofar as he was also not looking for more than allegorize his time.

Herein, Vitória clearly departs from what best characterizes the surrealist imagery, even if he sometimes converges, with the former, on the very liberating enchantments of an unbridled imagination.

Unlike the former, the world the artist’s painting reports us to is this one, the one in which we live in, and not another that would, as in Rimbaud’s verse, somewhere in another continent of the spirit. Vitória’s world is this one, even if we do not immediately recognize it, because it appears transfigured and metamorphosed by disturbing images and charged with ciphers and clues unrecognizable in themselves.

In this sense, it is still interesting to understand how he appropriates a certain way to imagine the space that can not fail to evoke metaphysical spaces of a Cruzeiro Seixas. But if he does, it is to let relations of another nature flow in them. Unlike the oneiric-metaphysical dimension of the great Portuguese surrealist, Mário Vitória surprises paraphrases of the contemporary world instead, which he interprets as allegorist, at the same time he uses references to painting or imagery of popular figurative arts as fantastic strip cartoons. If one realizes in some more recent work a homage to the former artist, which he clearly quotes, it is because the presence of the drawing is structuring in both, and because Vitória sometimes appropriates the spatial model of the first to better conduct the itinerary to where its procession of characters lead to.

In his work, drawing has actually become more than a structuring and indispensable mean to his constructing processes: it is in a way, in my view, the very nature that rises from this work that if today it grows freely in the field of painting, then it is because it still remembers its origin in the field of drawing.

Virtuous draughtsman, able to master with ease the large scales, so as to let the fluency of drawing itself search for more free plastic solutions of work (his small format drawings are indeed exemplary); Mário Vitória establishes, in large format drawings as in painting, constructing visual processes that feed on solutions the drawing leads to, gradually finding in these the possible meaning that later leads him to seek a more precise final form.

But the truth is that, in one case or the other, it is always the drawing that defines the structural strength of each work, in the same way as it is what defines the spatial relationships, or models the figures and suggests plastic solutions that interest him the most.

In fact, the drawing’s imagination is cruel as it leads its characters to senseless alleys with more narrative sense than the painting itself.

The drawing has a unique and singular way of imagining in which not only dulcifies in suggestions of tenderness but also draws near to an analytical approach leading to disfigurement.

Not surprisingly, therefore, that Vitória would lead his characters to extreme situations close to disaster states. If they come alive in drawings, it is as such his destiny to be driven by the unfathomable whims that move him…


Bernardo Pinto de Almeida, June 2012