For Álvaro Lapa notebooks are portraits.
They are elegies, homages to extraordinary writers and they emerged on bus journeys in 1975 when he was
a teacher at a preparatory school.
The notebooks are icons, and like icons they represent nothing except a participation in the work of Michaux, Sade, Fernando Pessoa, Mallarmé, Antonin Artaud and Malcolm Lowry. The choice of those being paid homage comes from the passion that Lapa felt for these writers he came to know at different moments in his life, presented to him by Vergílio Ferreira, José-Augusto França or discovered by himself. As they do not represent anything they are fields open to our imagination – why does the Sade notebook have a shape that reminds one of a painting by Barnett Newman? Why does the Michaux notebook look like an outdoor panel? What does the text “Little legs / à la Chinese / ludettes” mean in the Artaud notebook?
He stated nothing about these habits, but in the long and beautiful interview he granted to Jorge Silva Melo he noted that these elegies are self-portraits.
They are portraits of himself on the shoulders of the writers that Álvaro Lapa admired, with the apparent displeasure of deciding to paint what he could not depict.
As he himself stated, there is a snobbish character in this idea of the homage, in the etymological sense of the term: sine nobilitas. Contained in this irony towards himself and on the nature of artistic practice itself is his particular form of seeing painting: for Álvaro Lapa the practice of painting was always a fleeting process, for which virtuosity formed the major barrier. So his paintings are achieved through the use of thought processes coming from literature, philosophy and personal experience, and which therefore are contorted inside the images. Álvaro Lapa’s painting is one in which the rules are those that he himself defined within a process that is asystemic and which always emerges from a fiction of self-depiction: of the place and of himself, as landscapes or as portraits.
And for this reason these “notebooks” are fictional portraits that tell the ironic story of his painting as a game of failures and of its recognition.
This is why Lapa’s self-portraits are “self self-portraits”.
All the others are already self-portraits; those that deliberately intend to be so belong to the unavoidable field of tautology.

Delfim Sardo


  • Title: Caderno de Michaux
  • Creator: Álvaro Lapa
  • Date Created: 1989-1990
  • Location: Lisbon
  • Physical Dimensions: 88 x 125 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: © Culturgest - Fundação Caixa Geral de Depósitos
  • Medium: Collage, acrylic enamel and felt tip marker on hardboard
  • Photographer: © Laura Castro Caldas / Paulo Cintra
  • Inventory: 334335

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