João Penalva

João Penalva

2017-05-11 | 2017-09-23

João Penalva

The right arm



11.05 - 09.09.2017 (closed during August)

Opening 11.05.2017 - 21hr30



Galeria Filomena Soares is pleased to present an exhibition by João Penalva. The exhibition will feature a new series of works entitled Displays, as well as The right arm, a unique work in the artist's oeuvre due to its scenic dimensions. Both works introduce us to new characters.



In The right arm (2017), Penalva makes use of techniques similar to those used on the painted backdrops we often see as theatrical sets or street advertising. These backdrops combine a certain monumentality with a particular, expressive efficiency, that has allowed them to be used flexibly to announce shows for the general public, such as the theatre, the circus and the cinema, or for political propaganda and advertising.

Nonetheless, these backdrops take on a notable humility when compared to certain legitimate examples of monumental painting, such as Raphael's Stanze or the great canvases of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art, their graphical virtuosity often taking on an artisanal dimension, at times imperfect and falsely trivializing. Indeed, the anonymous talent of those who craft these backdrops, visible in their enlarged figures and letters, also erases the author from the very representation.


If a monumental painting is a moment in itself, the painted backdrop (like its anonymous author) conveys grandeur to the moment it heralds without imposing upon it or taking precedence.

On the other hand, unlike past characters created by Penalva who persist in our memory long after an exhibition - such as Violette Avéry, Mister or Sumiko - we do not know the stories of the characters in The Right arm, only that they are performers. Their names fit them so perfect that they can only be stage names, reminding us of the hyperbolic voice of a ringmaster introducing their grand acts.


In Displays, (2017) a series of canvases in which printing and painting are confused, João Penalva again latches onto the aesthetics of advertising, but without recourse to its monumentality. Here also the first name functions as a trigger to countless stories. Nevertheless, these names ambiguously identify both the object being advertised and the human model presenting it to us. But there these names can also be understood as a signature. The artist's signature? That wouldn't be so surprising a turn coming from an artist whose use of pseudonyms, pen-names and even impersonations has become part of a repertoire of deception, and who allows the ruse to be revealed only at the fall of the curtain.


João Penalva has always been interested in references to the ephemeral arts and in gathering and reinventing stories, and these new works find their place in his body of work with new ways to appropriate, copy and transliterate images and figures while leading the viewer-spectator's gaze through a spectacular labyrinth of (false) paths of interpretation, all the while under the watchful eye of an author who seems to have adopted an ironic anonymity."


Pavel Rodriguez, 2017


João Penalva will have solo exhibitions in 2018 at the MUDAM, Musée d'art Moderne, Luxembourg, Forum Eugénio de Almeida, Évora, and Govett-Brewster Art Gallery-Len Lye Centre , New Plymouth, New Zealand.



JOÃO PENALVA (b. 1949, Lisbon, Portugal) has been living and working in London since 1976. Penalva studied at Chelsea School of Art, London. He has been teaching at the Malmö Art Academy, University of Lund, since 2002. He was awarded the DAAD Berlin Artist's Residency (2003).

He represented Portugal at the XXIII Bienal Internacional de São Paulo (1996) and the XLIX Biennale di Venezia (2001). Select solo exhibitions include Camden Arts Centre, London (2000); Tramway, Glasgow (2000); Rooseum, Malmö (2002); The Power Plant, Toronto (2003); Serralves Museum, Porto (2005); Ludwig Museum Budapest (2005); Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2006); Lunds Konsthall, Lund (2010); Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon (2011); Kunsthallen Brandts, Odense (2012); and Trondheim Kunstmuseum, Trondheim (2014).



KIASMA, Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki; FRAC Bretagne, Châteaugiron; FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, Reims ; FRAC Languedoc-Roussillon, Montpellier ; Deutsche Bank, Frankfurt; Ludwig Museum-Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg; Banco Espírito Santo, Lisbon; Caixa Geral de Depósitos, Lisbon; Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon ; Fundação Carmona e Costa, Lisbon; Fundação EDP, Lisbon; Fundação Leal Rios, Lisbon; Fundação PLMJ, Lisbon; Fundação de Serralves , Porto; Ministry of Culture of Portugal, Lisbon; Museu Berardo, Lisbon; Museu da Cidade, Lisbon; Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea do Chiado, Lisbon ; ARTIUM Centro-Museo Vasco de Arte Contemporáneo, Vitoria-Gasteiz; Banco de España, Madrid; Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela; Centro de Artes Visuales Helga de Alvear, Cáceres; Colección Bergé, Madrid; Fundación ARCO, Madrid; Fundación Pedro Barrié de la Maza, Vigo; Fundación Coca Cola, Madrid; Fundación Centro Ordóñez-Falcón de Fotografía, San Sebastian; Arts Council England; South London Gallery, London; Towner Museum of Contemporary Art for the South East, Eastbourne; Western Bridge, The Bill and Ruth True Collection, Seattle.