EDITION: (Catalogue) Centro Cultural Vila Flor     DATE: January 2010 

Let us consider art as something that comes from a very particular context, the affirming of which depends on a
movement of transcendence out of its historical origin, embodying a universal language and taking on levels of
reading that make the work able to be rediscovered and reinvented at each new period. In this sense, identifying
painting, distinguishing it from the other forms of materialization of the image and signalling the space that it
might occupy in reality, demands understanding of its present context of emanation. Through this analysis we
ask ourselves whether today it possesses the mechanisms of survival and development that allow it to break with
the particular and be experienced in a universal manner. The fundamental question, therefore, is this one: is it
still possible to find aesthetic processes of affirmation and identity in painting?

In the XVII century Cartesianism founded the intellectual bases of the Promethean civilization of happiness and
announced a new prospect of infinite, inexorable progress for humankind. Later on, the moderns created a
“religion” out of progress as a form of politicising Cartesianism, through the adopting of a programme - an idea
of an undefined path towards the happiness that can be reached through technical domination of the world. A
sort of Promised Land rises out of this paradigm, with a paradise accessible to everyone on its horizon - a place in
which men’s reason and action make a permanent degree of satisfaction possible. The illusion was established
that the anguish felt and known since far-off times would definitively disappear, giving way to a state of well-
being in our lives, at a time in which it would be possible to develop the potentialities of the soul (intelligence,
sensitivity and will), raising us to an area of complete happiness and total pleasure. Technological development
allowed the appearance of potential solution, at the same time raising new doubts and new problems. Unlimited
exploitation of the available resources, which are increasingly scarce on the planet, interferes with everything
that man might achieve, and brings into question the intense productive activity of an opulent society based on
wastefulness. We thus become aware that the programme referred to was insufficient due to being incapable of
responding to all needs. The successive accumulation of small failures and the emerging of new problems show
that the promised well-being is still being ostensibly announced as a measure of salvation, with it neither taking
place automatically nor through a direct relationship with the level of technological domination acquired, unlike
what they have wished us to believe. In this context we can only feel small moments of slacking off of the
suffering, laid out and made manifest in a different manner. The fact that we embellish life for short moments
and that there are very few people who achieve high levels of material satisfaction disguises the feeling of failure
in relation to the projects that are constantly put back until later for contemporary man, as well as the
atmosphere of ill-feeling and insecurity that is felt on a daily basis and is spread to all walks of society.

Within this experience of lack of satisfaction that has never allowed us to see the future as something positive, we
are beginning to build and raise up complex structures, emerging as alternative processes of seeking the
happiness that insists on not appearing. It was said that the use of reason would end up solving all problems and,
supported on that reformist hope based on an idea of valorisation of individual enriching and the economic
growth of the group, in symmetry with that of the devaluing of the principle of the redistribution of wealth, we
lived out a social reality that refuses to admit the fact that we did not come into this world just to produce, but
also to construct a balanced human being. Ideally, alongside reason, other qualities should exist in this, such as
sensitivity and will. We struggle obsessively, with massive doses of rationalism, against a strange form of anguish
felt from birth. One does not deny reason’s indispensable need achieve a fair, equitable and balanced society. Yet
reason is not enough of a condition for the achieving of these ideals. When one conceives of a method of solving
problems by applying bare reason alone, without considering the dimensions of ethics and aesthetics. One is led
to act stripped of a fundamental part of one’s structuring values, thus provoking more imbalances in society. The
founding of modernity consisted of dissociation among the previously founded disciplines of science, art and
religion, with privilege being granted to intelligence over sensitivity and will. Ethics and aesthetics do not derive
automatically from reason, and thus it is not enough to proclaim reason in order to guarantee its practice. This
paradigm fails because it assumes reason as a one way track, ignoring that rationality is toned with sensitivity
and will, given that these elements bring along further degrees of complexity and subjectivity into people’s
behaviour, placing them at a new crossroads. Thus there is a competing division of powers in the human being,
demanding a permanent effort of balance and discovery of ephemeral fixed points. Technology does not respond
to sensitivity, but rather to the pondering of a performing efficiency, measured according to interests and power
relationships that are removed from a primordial aim of developing our potentialities. We have a society
organized into structures closer to unbridled will than to measurable sensitivity, and for that reason technology
respects neither nature nor man imprisoned in the small cog of his alienating impersonal wheel. Rationalism has
also not given us a powerful ethics because by definition the subconscious is beyond its bounds - man is not a
rational animal: contrarily, he is the animal for whom reason creates serious problems when one imagines an
instinctive and emotional substratum called the subconscious.
Mythology and religion are aimed at the subconscious, and the principles of ethics were drawn up from these
two major areas of construction of the imagination. In contrast, the reason invented by the Greeks led to the
appearing of religion as a system for explaining the phenomena that could not be understood through schemes of
pure rationalisation. Religion would later on succumb when being confronted by science, with the later being
victorious in relation to intelligence, but having also failed completely in moving away from sensitivity and will.
Thus, the appearing of a reasonable society, that is, a democratic one, without privileges, fair and socially caring,
was neither complemented by the introduction of a humanistic technology nor by a convincing ethos. Reason did
not introduce ethics or aesthetics into science, and this serious situation would give rise to an anti-aesthetic and
inhuman technology. Perhaps this might explain the current return to a feeling of spirituality, in a movement
that took place as a result of the recognition of science’s incapacity to explain everything or to solve the existence
of blank gaps in rational knowledge. On the other hand there is a certain saturation of what is explained and a
disenchantment provoked by the lack of dimension of the mysterious. It is time to stop believing exclusively in
reason and to recover sensitivity and will; as a human gesture, painting probably represents the continuation of a
historical ballast made up of attempts to access some mystery of a sacred kind - the unknown.

The main aim of this theology of progress would be to violently impose a hiatus between nature and man, thus
creating a distinction that would generate a new space of action, disconnected from the natural environment - a
space that might provide an adaptation and complexifying of our sensorial and mechanical dimension, one
totally subordinated to rationality and to new contexts formed by technological structures that place
intermediations and distances between individuals and the physical world. The symbiotic link between culture
and nature would thus be interrupted, and the countless differences encountered after this moment would make
high levels of autonomy and processes of emancipation possible. However, they would also generate imbalances
that are still seen today as problems needing solving. These imbalances show the precarious nature of our
existence, under the danger of our being confronted with a final dilemma of survival in the near future.
We are happy about the idea that we know that all of Man’s constructive and edifying action is presented as a
projection, a redeeming aesthetic view that refers back to the internal organization of living beings. Starting from
that experience of analysis applied to ourselves we construct new logics of expectation in order for us to
understand our surroundings. At the origin of this organicist conception is the central place occupied by the
human figure, which up to now has not been harmed by the appearing of more subjective and abstract levels of
thought, then later reflected in art. Everything appears to confirm the appearing of non-figurative art as a factor
made possible by the importance of figuration, maintaining Man as a paradigm of a human scale and
transformed into the measure of all things. The stating and proclamation of these values thoroughly maintain the
distance established between the artistic product and all other objects, despite this separation now starting to be
challenged by a new, much more fleeting reality, altering and replacing the way that old built constructions are
Our current condition shows us a life ideal, always starting from presuppositions previously acquired by
humanity, and is beginning to develop other ways of understanding reality. A lack of capacity to establish an
efficient protection of the natural heritage in relation to progress and technological development and the seeking
of an urban well-being through more and more diversified devices allow us to think about a sensorial, playful and
social re-appropriation of the space, substantially modifying some of the perspectives of our understanding of the
world and of rationalism itself, which is responsible for this enormous constructive activity.
The single dimension of the system is based on the solipsistic use of technological intelligence and on technical
domination, which are carried out within a utilitarian principle, and this fact tends to lead it to its self-
weakening and to entropy. One is aware that we are not going through an all-encompassing and multi-
dimensional moment allying human aspirations to the values of sensitivity and beauty. One can also see the
absence of a link between memory and the imagination, and we still cannot determine the limits that might
contain the strange process of subjective satisfaction, supported by an acritical and consuming individualism
that is incapable of establishing a new universal order for our time. The resulting contradictions are immense,
and make us wish to live in a hyper-protected social environment which is watched over, secure and anti-septic,
able to make organisations prosper, avoiding its exposition to risks and preventing processes of the
individualisation of the subjects. The permanent repression of human instincts, sacrifice and sublimation emerge
in this context as somewhat confused, as elements indispensable to an idea of well-being. The structures become
more offensive and increasingly interfere in the active space of individual people, forming post-political systems
of domination that hold an excess of repression within them. Everywhere one can detect a series of strange
symbolic configurations (the barriers, the signs of danger, the walls, the fences, the warnings, the guard dogs and
the security agents as familiar elements of control) now interiorised as part of an extreme process of
normalization of behaviour, based on fear and on a constant representation of menace, unconsciously accepted
as an efficient manner of ordering and protecting social relationships. No contemporary organisation does
without these new universal security elements, and the emergence of a more and more abstract and virtual world
will stimulate the progressive appearance of other, more diversified mechanisms of control. There then appears a
strange feeling of fear and insecurity, mixed in with the idea of one being threatened in a world organised into
closed spaces. In this sense life is turning into a set of acts that are permanently scrutinized within a small
hyperspace, subject to intense vigilance. The impossibility of our doing without this global system of security that
is already set up and is increasingly sophisticated in its forms turns us into a small link in an enormous chain of
mechanisms of technological control that nowadays stretch to everywhere on the planet. The aspiration towards
the idea of a non-repressive society in which relationships of domination do not exist and instincts are
sublimated, such as is the case in artistic creation, with a minimising of risks to our bodies has been abandoned.
Resisting the alterations set out by art means doing away with the reconfiguration of the organisation of work,
making a new, less restrictive society viable, one closer to the aesthetic model than to the enslaving method of the
principle of reality, based on productivity.
Today art is confronted with a context marked out by the proliferation of new multimedia products. Cyberspace
and information and communication Technologies have started to create a model of comfort that is radically
strange to the sensations resulting from a process of transformation of reality, in which the body and nature have
been dispensed with, generating a new type of knowledge. The virtual environment, the operationality of all
kinds of exchanges and the interactivity of communication are opening up a new era of digital immateriality:
men’s images and actions are no longer centred on the elimination of unpleasant efforts, but above all on that
which might favour the security of communication, the instantaneous nature of exchange and the quality of the
process of emitting and receiving messages. Images and words are a part of a state of permanent accessibility in
everything that can be communicated and is, for now, apparently unlimited in its contents. The new technologies
are setting up a new type of social relationship, founded on an immaterial element: information and the
respective abundance of information that exist in virtual interactions. In this new context the physical dimension
of the body-machine and of the feeling man becomes obsolete, with the emerging of the man in communication -
a person linked to a network, a being interconnected within a purely cognitive and informational cartography,
being able to be contacted anywhere, anytime. There is an increasing circulation of products in the shape of bits
and not as manufactured goods. The pleasure of feeling things is like a state of drunkenness on
telecommunications and digital abundance. The comfort-relaxation model is giving way to the well-being-
connected model, or rather to global connectivity, providing all the users with the satisfaction of no longer being
isolated from the world and being permanently connected to the outside, in a state of immediate and unlimited
access to information, to images and to music. Cyberspace thus creates a new type of images that provide a
spatial reality of a different kind, stimulating a process of rivalry between the former and the new sensorial
experiences, that can attract our attention even more. This mechanism for reorganising ideas is characterised by
simultaneously having hyper-private and hyper-public traits - two sides of the same territory, considerably
broadened in its possible forms - more actively influencing the way we now see things. As a consequence, the
available space found on the net may be used by any person, connected in a personalised and individualistic way.
The many different applications of this permanent state of connection may both appear to us within a subjective
(private) context or in a collective (public) one, in which all situations are similar and coexist in a single time that
knows no delays.

Painting thus has to exist in a context marked out decisively by five essential factors that have tried to be
identified and described above: an imbalance between, on the one hand, rationality and sensitivity and will - this
situation leads to a dangerous predominance of technology over ethics and aesthetics; a hiatus between nature
and man; science’s incapacity to provide the explanations necessary for understanding the world; the existence of
a post-political society, the collective mobilization of which is only induced by fear and insecurity; finally, the
emergence of man in permanent communication and globalising interconnectivity in a virtual and immaterial
net in which image proliferates. In line with these conditioning factors, painting has to develop its mechanisms of
survival and its processes of affirming and forming identity.
The exercise of understanding and decoding Manuel Caeiro’s painting arouses all of these issues. Nevertheless,
the discussion again refers to an abstract level and to the specificity of his work, which is configured as a reading
key that will grant us access to an interpretation with a much broader scope on the meanings locked within it.

Manuel Caeiro’s work should be seen within the context of the new reality described above. The circulation of
images and the competition among them creates a climate of imminent aggression on gazes and feelings. In the
adopting of light materials and natural views, kept to devices that can be disassembled and are moveable, there is
the establishing of a set of combinations by modules that lend themselves different formal elaborations. There is
still an idea of structuring based on a constructed and extremely human space, that can be seen through the
projection of our body on the modular structures exhibited. The paintings bring together several different layouts
among planes that are only apparently impersonal, because our possibility of projecting our bodies onto them,
seen as a standard measure, is able to rescale their configurations and to set up an emotive feeling in the
relationships established between the work and the observer. Through our gaze, the layout of the several
different elements within each work provokes the feeling of our successively conquering more space. The
information contained in the images in Manuel Caeiro’s works grants pride of place to a sort of anti-excess,
founding a new order that is still closed in on itself, access to which is shut off to us and that is shown in the
aseptic functionality presented in the several different structurings they contain. There remains an always
incomplete suggestive image that is being organised and planned out over a white background. This image thus
forms a sort of transparency over the white - a light inducing a subliminal form, seeing what is not there and
entering the painting, made up as a space to be filled out, open to imagination and to our capacity for
constructing in emptiness. In the painting there are many formal structuring, transmitting an idea of a medium
stripped of identifying elements, making it impossible for us to receive coordinates on their location. When one
opts to emphasize the slight, mobility and the adaptability of forms, there is an automatic stimulating of
processes of functional association among the elements set out and mechanisms generating more meanings.
Manuel Caeiro’s work is expressed through a poetics of geometry that appeals to our most deeply rational side,
and in that sense it makes the apology for a process of refining of symbols.
The versatility of the lucid strategy used in each work invites us to safeguard a nomadic attitude in the way we
perceive it, and this is then reflected in the imaginative structuring of the relationship among the forms, in a
plural universe of interpretations of the elements it contains. We are led to observe all the constructions carried
out as if they had a sensorial dimension, and this creates the impression of well-being and a feeling of pleasure,
coming from the fact that we place ourselves within them and intimately fuse ourselves with them, using the
scale of our bodies. There is a shift in the use of the visual form to another, more sensitive reality. The works are
not limited to functioning efficiently as constructed images that house a geometrical aim of their own; they
should, to the contrary, arouse the senses, establish a relationship of pleasure with them, taking on a tactile
quality capable of unleashing a sensitive and emotional experience.

After a historical period throughout which there was the developing of approaches in which the aesthetic
function suggested a work that was cold, one-dimensional and compartmentalised within a world that is too safe
and sure, art and painting now appear within a context formed by a different reality. Nowadays the strategic
dimension is much more all-embracing, and depends on the impossibility of one having a global view on the
mutating of ideas and on their most expressive forms. We now invest in more bodily sensations and in the
satisfying of the needs of the senses. Apparently, the more we subjectivise our lives, the more we stray from an
idea of technical concern that might impose its creations on the outside in a unilateral manner. At the moment
we are going through a difficult moment, a multiple time that finds difficulty and insecurity in returning to an
idea of centrality for the human being, as if it were still capable of responding to the major expectations of life.
Manuel Caeiro’s painting, in opening up to na increasingly digital and virtual space, develops its forms from this
sort of frontier - a limbo that might survive the advancing march of immateriality in which it realizes its aesthetic
movements. Caeiro’s work thus exists inside a territory formed by a surface with a dualist expression. The
mapping out of this new reality demands an effort towards synthesis, which is reflected in the anachronism of the
splits between Man and nature, between rationality and sensitivity, simultaneously pointing out a channel with a
multiple spectrum, in which the culture of unreality and of the digital coexists with the desire to intensify the
development of personal aptitude in order to feel the sensorial texture of things, through the use of taste and of
the search for a sensuality inscribed in the forms and materials.

The cognitive and ideological environment in which we live, founded around an unshakeable faith in progress
and on the technical rationality of science, seems to suggest an eternal return to the same intransigent spirit,
which emerged through Bauhaus design. In the meantime, if at that time the works created expressed a culture
that glorified formal refinement, pure efficiency, conquering reason and the victory over the archaic forces of the
past, nowadays none of these situations is true. We are living through a time marked out by the exhausting of
idolatry of history, and we want everything to be non-revolutionary, protective and pacifying. At the moment we
neither have to fight against the elements inherited from a limiting traditional culture, nor to raise up the
triumphant symbols of a modernity that saw itself as a salvation. We simply warm the desire to create welcoming
and comforting environments that might survive within an atmosphere capable of conciliating instead of
dividing, including instead of rejecting, and pacifying instead of confronting. In this sense the work should be the
expression of a reconciliation with its most utilitarian function, a testimony-message of the importance of
people’s emotional experiences, thus participating in the solving of contemporary man’s existential problems.
Painting can no longer be a hymn to constructivist or mechanicist rationality; to the contrary, it has to take on an
integrated knowledge in the sensitive satisfaction of the individuals who, being dependent on their most human
needs, acquire new degrees of survival and are actively implicated in the creating of a reality with a human face,
one that is more appropriable and thus more inhabitable.