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

One of the most curious aspects about Fernando Brito’s work has to do with the fact that although he is a relevant
artist in the context of contemporary Portuguese art there is still no document that brings together all of his
individual work, which is recorded and held in many different publications. There are many reasons to explain
this absence, but here it is possibly important to focus upon that which in our view is the main one: the escapist
and withdrawn nature of his personality, characteristics which have been prolonged and materialised in a
multifaceted and extremely diversified artistic creation, making it practically impossible to catalogue and

One senses that we are dealing with an artist who shows some hesitation in adapting himself and placing himself
in relation to a system that is increasingly formatted on commercial and institutional logics, demanding of
creators a capacity to respond to request to produce and symbolically defend his work. These dimensions of the
art field are not easily compatible with a character that refuses to participate in exercises of representation and
self-promotion in favour of a permanent self-distrust towards his own work, often taken to the limits of self-
sabotage. This stance is accompanied by an irony that emerges from the feeling of being out of step, as befits
someone who imagines themselves to be placed within a context that follows incomprehensible rules,
characteristics that derive from a creative pulsing and, at the same time, very high levels of demand that are
always present, with it being possible to state that they are even inherent to Fernando Brito’s work. This integrity,
which is sometimes taken for a mythology of reclusion or for an iconography defending a marginal stance, is not
in this case a tactical question, the more so because we know that his work has never been so far removed from
the institutional circuits, but rather a pre-condition of artistic creation, something that arises from the deep
authenticity of his work, which allows the artist to hide an annul himself behind it and erase the visible traces of
his body and personality. Yet this apparent negating of himself as an artist turns out to be the best possible
defence strategy in relation to Fernando Brito’s work, and totally expresses the unusual potential of his sense of
the artistic, supported on a sharp survival instinct that allows him to overcome his difficulties and failings.

Thus a long, careful look at Fernando Brito’s career allows us to see an intrinsic desire for permanent movement,
leading to an unpredictability that makes his work, as we stated above, unclassifiable. His creative attitude is like
that of a gambler playing against the odds, someone who is trying to manage the unstable switch between
presence and absence in the outside world, the visible being and the invisible world. Domination over these
processes is fundamental in the context of creation, although it is always fragile and subject to the imponderable
factors of the surrounding structure. In the case of Fernando Brito its management is carried out essentially
through his intuition, through the survival instinct we have mentioned, functioning as a radar that allows him to
have degrees of perception of reality and of the factors that may interfere with his space of intervention,
something that he considers non-negotiable and susceptible to be submitted to random events and to the lack of
determination of relationships with the Other. This withdrawn and malleable character, which is also the fruit of
a certain inoperativeness, is the inevitable consequence of the game in which he participates. Fernando Brito’s
“committed isolation”, hurriedly interpreted as an attitude of denying the system, is a defence process, one which
presupposes distance and removal in relation to the dizzying breadth of the possibilities of the game and to its
intrinsic lack of definition, an exercise of self-restraint aware of the difficulties imposed by its rules but at the
same time available to the kaleidoscopic mobility among multiple points of view that the game allows him, a
necessary circumstance for free creation.

The organization of an exhibition around the work of an artist with these characteristics presupposes, and
demands of us, the granting of a broad space of intervention to the artist, considering it as an integral part and
active agent in the process of conception and defining of the exhibition contents. Through this strategy, which is
exactly the opposite of the hierarchical-functional and management logics of the system of curating as it is
usually practised, it is possible to maintain the artist’s independence and freedom intact, allowing him to fully
express his artistic vision and thus achieve a degree of commitment that safeguards the work at the same time as
projecting it and showing it in a manner preserving its original authenticity. Any different approach to Fernando
Brito’s work would go against our understanding of its many artistic and human dimensions and would
jeopardize the intention to establish a direct relationship with the author, the presenting of something we can see
as the face of the artist, the natural extension of his individual work and his unique sensitivity. In this manner the
nature of this concession becomes clear, an open stance supported on a specific configuration of the work of the
curator as a mediator which cannot be interpreted as the institution giving way to the artist, but rather as a way
of perfecting the relationship, of shaping the parameters of conceiving the exhibition bearing in mind the
construction of a common, shared space for interaction, the recreation of the natural habitat for the work’s
existence and breathing. This effort to erase the visible traces of the institution’s imposing itself over the artist’s
work is something that gives us a pleasure that comes from the fact that we feel we are fulfilling our role in our
intransigent defence of the work.

In this sense, the unique function of this exhibition will be that of acknowledging Fernando Brito’s importance in
the context of contemporary Portuguese art as a solo artist and as the major actor in a body of work which has
not received due institutional recognition. The intention is to document a body of work, making it possible to
publish a catalogue, without having any anthological concerns or about retrospective readings, nor even about
the exclusive showing of something in his current phase of production. This exhibition is an overview of an artist
of whom one has only seen partial and fragmentary glimpses, in an attempt to achieve a point of synthesis that
might express an almost multidimensional understanding of his work, something only possible through a
relationship and comparison between works, on a fleeting and escapist body of work, based on a permanent
exercise of recollecting influences and in which we always glimpse a (self) ironic gaze and the playful intuition of
an artist who tries out many paths without ever worrying about where exactly he is going.