Time Crossing/Medium Crossing

by Maria Amélia Bulhões, PhD*

At her first individual exhibition, Marta Penter showed several sets of antique suitcases. A will to travel in time now to be continued on her second show. With a certain intuition that past remais far more alive in present times than it us usually observed, the artist leads her work into paths miles away from an utopic ideal, therefore stating the utter complexity of all times.

Most authors agree with the principle of a colletive memory existence which records successive phenomena, whereas by means of communication, institutions dedicated to that aim, such as the museums or even oral transmission. They all agree with the fact that each person builds up his own individual memory from personal experience. It is rather interesting to notice how Penter entwines both collective and individual memory. She works with great intimacy over memories which are not actually hers. The photos she uses as a visual draft for her creation are not part of a personal past records but fragments of a social community collective past. However, she chooses the pictures which register provate moments from that group and thus rescues living experiences. The scenes are seen by the artist with an affectionate gaze which seeks to restart a time no longer to exist. According to her, \\\\\\\" memory is in black and white\\\\\\\", which led her to totally abandon the colors she subtly and rather monochromatically used in her last works. It is the use she does of such scarcity which reinforces the concept of medium transference and approaches her painting to traditional photography.

The subject of past remains, although it is in the resent time that her work fulfills itself. By reassuring the existence of painting, it is now that she aims to get her conceptual update. It photography, video and all new technologies may sometimes leave traditional fine art mediums aside, it is often to notice that they may be reborn in the work of some artists who bring a new vision to pictorial images.

Having an outstandingbrush skill at oil painting (utterly traditional means in fine arts History) and also keeping herself faithfulto image reproduction school, penter demonstrates that a renewal is always possible by enhancing her paintings through operational concepts such as medium transference, repetition and focus shift..

She plays an illusionist game with photography, where she starts with small watercolour and then moves on to large canvasses upon which she transfers images which slide from one medium to the other and thus acquire new meanings troughout this path. We consider that photography itself does contain the specificity of recording the passing of time, once each photo is material evidence of a moment that no longer exists. We also say that oil painting represents a permanency symbol in our culture. On transiting from one medium to the other she portrays the ambiguity of our time.

Repetition as an operational concept is not clearly evident in each one of her works but it isa present on the whole of the exhibition. It does not build itself by continuous or intentional duplicating the images but rather by the search of the several images used, some of which bear an inner rhythm from the body, from gestures or looks. The intrinsic repetition in each chosen photo is enhanced when the images are enlarged, cropped and displayed side by side.

The shift of focus happens as what is accessory in photography becomes the main subject in painting and sets a mobility in which the eyes are never safe enough: there is always a possibility of mistake. Dubieties point and enrich her purpose. What we see in the painting is not what the photo had once shown. The change of scale, for instance, works as a tool to address visibility to what was formerly insingnificant. The new focus of interest is what the artist can perceive in that image, the mistery that has been raised by her eye and to which she wants the viewers complicity. By doing so, ordinary legs, rhythmic self-conscious crossed arms, eyes that stare into ours and female figures detached from a predominantly male posse can be seen as enigmas to be deciphered.

* Art Critic and Researcher

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