ARCO Madrid 2018: Hugo Canoilas

21 - 25 February 2018


 Hugo Canoilas

 Fossil gaze-missile gaze




Future Section curated by

Chus Martínez, Elise Lammer, and Rosa Lleó


This painting results from the enlargement - and its implied translation, of an image from a book of illustrations by Zdnek Burian - famous Czech painter and illustrator who has gained prominence in the paleontological reconstruction of our world.


To paint this today must be understood as an opening to time as a power for a heterogeneity of possibilities, with the work of Gilbert Simondon in thought – the idea of time as potency that is much wider than the linear time of history.


To paint an already existing image allows me to suspend the historical problems of painting. The given image works as a network from which the painting cannot "fall". Painting in this fashion has ties with the sign painting, which made possible a zero degree or a new beginning, most visible in American artists in the 60’s such as Andy Warhol and Ed Ruscha).

Within this structured image, I imprint and organize my interior impulses in small gestures within an intense repetition over time, in a cadence that refers to the existentialism, like the people portrayed in "The Plague" by Albert Camus.


The passage from the small scale of the existing image to a painting of this dimension (600x760 cm) summons all abstract thinking inherent to the practice of painting. The action of painting is a mode of translation into gesture and intended form that confers a performative quality (acting after thinking, performing a predetermined gesture or a sensation). The technical means of this painting – fluid ink on un-primed canvas, stresses the performative quality of these paintings and imply that all moments of the painting are visible – from the first gesture or brushstroke, since errors cannot be veiled.


The painting thus gains Etruscan qualities - following to DH Lawrence's description of Etruscan tomb murals, where one can perceive the first drawings, the marks of the sharp metal tip that marks the wall, and the final paint applied. With these paintings one unfolds the movement of correction or approach towards an idealised form, allowing us to see every failure. In this sense, these paintings have a non-Apollonian character because they do not seek the perfect form, painting gains the quality of measurer of the human - of my mistakes, or as Nietzsche explained measuring the human in sickness and weakness.


The first dinosaur paintings I made placed these animals in dialogue with speech balloons that were a clear allusion to the International Situationist collages. The speech was poetic and open to receive the projections of the viewer. The texts were collages of parts of poems that I was reading during the period of the making of each work, which territorialize the meaning of the painting. These animals, already extinct, seemed thus "more human than humans" for their discursive quality.


Painting in this format and with these technical resources compels me to accept all the implications of that image. Due to the technical impossibility of covering, overseeing or overlapping a form or value that could make the painting work – following something cool or contemporary quality, I accept the contingencies of this painting process. This tangibility and incorporation of the Other is also a mode of learning, or of Cannibalism, of enlargement of possibilities external to me-  in the sense of the Anthropophagic Movement of Oswald de Andrade, which is a way of being in art, diametric to quotation or copy paste.


These paintings started in a period in which ideas about future, the Anthropocene, the interest in science fiction and the explosion of micro narratives (gender, race, social condition?) are possibilities to escape from the oppression of the great narratives inscribed in the real. Illustrations made for Palaeontology, have the same "realistic quality" of science fiction. But in the sense of science fiction, they seem to be like the man with furs, who struggles with a club or a bone, in any science fiction movie. They represent the force that brings us back to ourselves, to our core, and therefore to the small narratives or affirmative forces, which are organized within an already given structure.


These images carry a statement, bringing together an artistic ethos with a social and political one that is performed. The small differences between these paintings and their original motifs result from a thought about painting, and carry a psychological load that it’s organized during the long endurance of its execution. My performance (painting with the body) translates these two forces, offering resistance to the hand or arm-machine, thought-machine and painting-machine that have wills and forces of their own.


Hugo Canoilas 2018


Hugo Canoilas (*1977 in Lisbon, lives and works in Vienna) works in the light of popular aesthetics channelled through politics and ideas from philosophy and poetry. Drawing upon the thought of 20th century philosophers and writers including Derrida, Heidegger and Fernando Pessoa, his work maintains a nuanced dialogue between abstraction and social realism. The work of Hugo Canoilas has been featured at group exhibitions such as the 30th Săo Paulo Biennial (2012); When elephants come marching in at De Appel (2014); the 4th Industrial Ural Biennial, Ekaterinburg (2017) and Publishing as an artistic toolbox: 1989-2017 at Kunsthalle Wien (2018). Solo presentations of his work include Vota Otávio Pato at the Franfurter Kunstverein (2007); Endless Killing at Huarte Contemporary Art Center (2008); Spirit of the air, Wiener Art Foundation, Vienna (2013); Someone a long time ago now, Cooper Gallery, Dundee (2015) and Under the volcano, MNAC, Lisbon (2016).