The Difference of the Same

by Paulo Gomes

What is so irresistible to our look in the work of Marta Penter? It is work of high value: outstanding quality, carried out by the artist with precise hand and shrewd eyes and the very current theme of lines, in which the young, always the young, wait.

    From the establishment point of view, the work has its basis in the logic of observation, i.e., two views and two practices: photography and painting. Once possessing the photographs, the artist cuts the most expressive moments: the bodies in standby, full of meaningful postures and gestures. Facial masks, in which the expressions can be read so obviously and straightforwardly, are eliminated, for the intention is to emphasize the expressive whole. The vision of the figures in cinemascope, over a wide background, requires the same sliding look we have with respect to queues, which are their subject. The large formats demand this panoramic look and, at the same time, allow the display of virtually life-size figures and require the approximation as a pre-requisite to make us realize the tiny gestures of the establishment of the form. This strategy of building images is strengthened with the economy of black over white, punctuated, here and there, by small additions of blue, fast optical highlights that enhance these innocuous images, so close to newspaper photographs.

            If economy of resources obliges us to the accuracy of observation, emphasizing the theme more than the making of the work,  from the thematic point of view we become even more intrigued: what do these young people wait for in lines? An event, a celebration, a commemoration? The lines, more than waiting places, are places for exposure: by standing there they see and are seen. The queues have a role that is above any considerations of common sense: the wait is the time in which the emphasis is given on individualities, in the pursuit of objectives, in the contemporary expectation of observing and being observed.

            Watching intently the paintings of Marta Penter, I perceived a special affinity: they speak about what Yeats so beautifully wrote in some verses of  Sailing to Byzantium:

            That is no country for old men. The young

            In one another’s arms, […]commend all summer long

            Whatever in begotten, born, and dies.

            Caught in that sensual music all neglect

            Monuments of unageing intellect.

            (W.B.Yeats. Sailing to Byzantium)


            W. B. Yeats was inevitably imbued with the spirit of his times: an embittered time without illusions, now remote to us. Time, however, which figures up with a      frightening actuality, in the relation between the present time of the images and in the representation of the everyday space of Marta Penter. All the powerful contemporary work the artist reveals, in her gangs of teenagers, youngsters of any place in the world who, in the affinity of their objectives, worship a logic that is away from the world (ours and that of Yeats): the difference of the same.



 Paulo Gomes

 Fall 2013


Translation: Cristina Macedo, writer, poet and translator.

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