During the 1940s, abstract painting achieved recognition in Portugal primarily through the works of Fernando Lanhas. Employing rhythmic designs in shades of cool blue, light greys and white, he produced works of restrained, bristling, geometric abstraction. Although today he is primarily known as a painter, the rationality of his forms can also be related to his other vocation as an architect who designed and built houses in the modernist style in Portugal. For the Istanbul Biennial, works on three architectural presentation boards are exhibited alongside a collage triptych. The former are sober, monochrome photographs depicting various views of a white modernist building – the spiral staircase, the façade and shots of rooms – arranged alongside delicate floor plans. The three collages depict the house that Lanhas designed and built for his own family. In their careful arrangement, they transmute the rigidity and clarity of the architectural forms from the cool modernism and rationalism of their design to sites of domestic affection, intimacy and identification. This is achieved through the juxtaposition of personal family photographs alongside photographs depicting the exterior of the house. Details such as shelving and a terrace, for example, are combined with images of pillows and child at play. Thus the works combine an architect’s propensity for draftsmanship and organisation with a painter’s compositional and tactile skills. These collages, where the impersonality of construction is imprinted with the subjective and private, fragmentary motifs of childhood or human memory, show how even the most austere attempts at abstraction, whether in painting or in design, can be motivated by personality, emotion and love.


  • Title: Untitled Untitled
  • Creator: Fernando Lanhas
  • Date Created: 1960/1968
  • Location: Istanbul Modern Art Museum
  • Medium: Photography and collage on platex (triptych)

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