At the beginning of the nineties Julião Sarmento’s work went through a great transformation after the exhibition Dias de escuro e de luz, that he held at the Galeria Luís Serpa in Lisbon. The profuse violence of his works in the eighties gave way to large white fields on which female characters move, perform mysterious acts, manipulate sharp objects and hide. The paintings are covered in a white layer which is the support for the visible marks of all the states of those drawings on which they appeared or disappeared. The white canvases (as they are known) are palimpsests of those gestures that are like the marks of time, like memories that remain of women who stage their domesticity, who offer themselves up.
The women have no faces in any of these works.
None of them has her identity violated by her face being exposed. Indeed, they are not one woman or another, but examples of an incessant search through the cartography of desire, the violence of the space between them and the furniture, them and the bowls, or the feet, the hands, the tables, the knives, the (sometimes amputated) fingers, the sex, only alluded to.
Thus Julião Sarmento’s painting contains a lexicon of repeated images – and the repetitive, obsessive character is an essential factor in the tension that his canvases hold and which go in fibrillation, like a halo or a sound – a buzzing, for example – to the spectator.
In this film made of inserts, montages and images that often go beyond the limits of the canvas, there is a silent yet voracious cinema in the way it captures the spectator’s gaze and leaves it suspended in the bow, in the tension it draws.
We are fixed in our condition as voyeurs, caught in the web of what is given to us to see, and left inevitably alone in front of the screen into which the canvas has been turned, waiting for our projection.