[open the box] Álvaro Lapa

A PORTRAIT IS ALWAYS (ALSO)A SELF-PORTRAIT by Delfim Sardo

By Culturgest - Fundação Caixa Geral de Depósitos

Auto auto-retrato (1972) by Álvaro LapaCulturgest - Fundação Caixa Geral de Depósitos

Álvaro Lapa

Auto auto-retrato, 1972
Charcoal, pastel and ballpoint pen on paper
39 x 30 cm
Inventory 393859
© Laura Castro Caldas / Paulo Cintra

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 txt “Little legs / à la Chinese / ludettes” mean in the Artaud notebook?

Caderno de Michaux (1989-1990) by Álvaro LapaCulturgest - Fundação Caixa Geral de Depósitos

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.

Caderno de Pessoa (1989) by Álvaro LapaCulturgest - Fundação Caixa Geral de Depósitos

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.

Caderno de Michaux (1989-1990) by Álvaro LapaCulturgest - Fundação Caixa Geral de Depósitos

Álvaro Lapa

Caderno de Pessoa, 1989
Collage, acrylic enamel and infusion on hardboard
70 x 100cm
Inventory 334334
© Laura Castro Caldas / Paulo Cintra

Caderno de Pessoa (1989) by Álvaro LapaCulturgest - Fundação Caixa Geral de Depósitos

Álvaro Lapa

Caderno de Michaux, 1989-90
Collage, acrylic enamel and felt tip marker on hardboard
88 x 125cm
Inventory 334335
© Laura Castro Caldas / Paulo Cintra

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.

Caderno de Artaud (1990) by Álvaro LapaCulturgest - Fundação Caixa Geral de Depósitos

Álvaro Lapa

Caderno de Artaud, 1990
Acrylic enamel and felt tip marker on hardboard
20 x 41 cm
Inventory 334336
© Laura Castro Caldas / Paulo Cintra

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.

Biography
Álvaro Lapa was born in Évora, in 1939. He enrolled in the Faculdade de Direito de Lisboa in 1956, and in 1960 he began to attend the Philosophy course, which he completes in Oporto, in 1975. On his trip to Paris in 1961 he contacted young artists close to the Grupo Surrealista. In 1970 he travelled around Europe and contacted “alternative” public experiences in Amsterdam. He moves to Oporto in 1973, where he teaches Aesthetics at the Escola Superior de Belas-Artes. His work has been exhibited in several galleries and museums, and he is represented in important institutional and private collections. Of particular note among his activity as a writer is the book, Raso como o chão, published by Editorial Estampa in 1977.

Bibliography
Álvaro Lapa (cat.), Lisboa, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 1999.
Álvaro Lapa (cat.), Lisboa, Fundação EDP, 2007.

Credits: Story

Text
© Delfim Sardo, 2009
Biography / Bibliography
© Mariana Viterbo Brandão, 2009
Translation
© David Alan Prescott, 2009

Story production (Collection Caixa Geral de Depósitos)
Lúcia Marques (coordinator)
Hugo Dinis (production assistant)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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