To draw is to lend the world a hand, to allow it to measure itself and to merit itself, to self-correct and to self-accrue. The line born of such a hand marks it, constrains it, frees it, concentrates it, expands it, stretches it, disperses it, sidetracks it, blasts it, multiplies it. At times, perhaps at best, it simplifies it, purifies it, sublimates it, reveals it. Without the act of drawing, the world would be disfigured by the absence of an alternative to itself. 

As Proust states, with reasoning that is as clear and as warm as the sudden dawning of summer over a sea still hoarse from nightfall: “Through art alone are we able to emerge from ourselves, to know what another person sees of a universe which is not the same as our own and of which, without art, the landscapes would remain as unknown to us as those that may exist in the moon. Thanks to art, instead of seeing one world only, our own, we see the world multiply itself and we have at our disposal as many worlds as there are original artists, worlds more different one from the other than those which revolve in infinite space, worlds which, centuries after the extinction of the fire from which their light first emanated, whether it is called Rembrandt ou Vermeer, send us still each one its special radiance.” (In Search of Lost TimeTime Regained, translated by Andreas Mayor and Terence Kilmartin).

Art is aware, as was Byron, that the tree of knowledge is not the tree of life. Every work of art is a monstrous miracle (etymologically, “monster” means ‘that which reveals a portent’, and “miracle” originally meant ‘that which is an object of wonder’) that turns this dissension into a multiplication, a proliferation, a creation of that which is diversedifferentdistant,opposite,unlikelyunexpected,impossible

Art is diction and contradiction, covenant and confrontation, creation and destruction, incandescence and embers, cold fire and burning ice. It is therefore risk and adventure, misadventure and peril. It is made of vision, memory and action; of sequence, series and variation; of restitution, seizure and destitution; of consciousness, science and imagination; of doctrine, rule, and schism; of violence, vehemence and lightness – a work of art is an escape which escapes so as not to escape from itself. 

But it is an escape which escapes thisin order to surrender to thatwhich, oftentimes is the otherside, the unknown side, of that which it is escaping. Therefore, art does not escape from Janus, the double-faced Roman god who presides over beginnings and transitions, entrances and exits, choices and decisions, whose double-sided visage surveys both the past and the future, and who, with a twin gesture, opens and closes gateways to worlds where the dead live and the living die.

The art of Teresa Gonçalves Lobo is attentive and it abides. It pursues patience and is patient in its pursuit. There is music and method in it, modulation and meticulousness. In discussing her work, words must undergo a twofold denial – that of excess and of defect. Neither more, nor less. They must gaze, clear-eyed, and devoid of the ambition of syrupy and showy accumulation. They must gaze, wide-eyed, and devoid of the resignation of hollow and opaque stringency.

This work is subtle and not simple. It is fluent and not facile. It is light and not slight. It is dense and not ductile. It is sophisticated and not solemn. It is serene and not soft. It is anchored, not weighed down. 

Its author instinctively mistrusts anything that overlays nudity with vestments, hurls noises over silence, brings debris into life. If, for her, art is time, toil, trial and task; if it is adjuration, judgement, justification and at times, a yoke – it is also, for her, oftentimes recreation and rejoicing.  

The artist speaks of her art as of a river that flows without bounds. She speaks of it as of a castle with no moat. She speaks of it as of a rock with no weight. She speaks of attractions and affiliations, of influences and affinities, of kinship and closeness, of convergences and, above all, of coincidences with other artists, as a telepathy of sorts that we cannot deny without denying ourselves. 

She speaks of Michaux, Motherwell, Hartung, Louise Bourgeois, Vieira da Silva, Ana Hatherly, Helena Almeida, as if speaking of rows of portraits lined up on a hallway wall. And she speaks of Bach, Pessoa, Eugénio O’Neill, Ramos Rosa, Herberto Helder, Luiza Neto Jorge, or of the Chinese characters she has traced without realising that this was what she was tracing, as if she were speaking of words on a mental manuscript.

To draw is to provide the body with a second nervous system, it is to supply the brain with a new electric frequency, it is to add the tracing of a brief furrow to the brow. When she draws, Teresa Gonçalves Lobo becomes what she is. Not part of a why or a what for, of a reason or a motive, of a cause or a goal. She arrives at all of these only at the end. 

She begins with an absence that must be turned into presence. She knows that it is necessary to give nothe yesthat belies it. She speaks as if everything was as natural as nature itself, whose meaning she tirelessly peers into, pursues, premeditates with the senses. In this she shares in that innocence of which Almada Negreiros often spoke and which he much admired. But this innocence is, in the end, the visual and astute, counterfeit and painful innocence of Alberto Caeiro. 

To enter the ordered and meticulous territory of the trim studio at Rua da Trindade is to look upon replete walls, brimming drawers, and floors strewn with drawings upon drawings. And yet, the studio seems more like a patio, exposed to the ever-changing winds.

This breath of air and of light runs across the drawings, which lift its axis of flight and the curve of its descent. They display dimensions that make them diverse (diversity shapes us, as the poet Francis Ponge would say). They are made in Indian ink, pastel, charcoal – and in this making there is rigour, resonance and rhythm. They generate one another other; they multiply, pluralize, proliferate, challenge and reveal one another. 

With a hand that seeks, pursues and experiments, she transforms the contingent into the necessary, the arbitrary into the vital, the conditional into the imperative. This obsession and this immersion, this impulse and this interrogation, this inquiry and this fibrillation are signs of a vocation, a compulsion, of a damnation which is redeeming. Without these, art is the opposite of art.

From the studio windows, one can see, on the walls of the building opposite, romantically traced under the dormers, the following line: I THINK THEREFORE I AM NOT. I looked at the letters joining together to spell these anti-Cartesian words and found that it was the raised voice of Fernando Pessoa I was hearing. Perhaps it is this inscription that leads Teresa’s hand to draw the great voids that lend our time its dark inclination.    

The exhibition “On the Lightness of Dreams” (“Why made I dreams/My only life?”, Pessoa wonders) presents fifteen drawings from different periods: one from 2010, two from 2013, two (the larger pieces) from 2015, and ten from 2018. These are all are in black, blue and red Indian ink, except for the larger pieces, which are in hard pastel. 

These drawings are the dried blood of time. They display the acid firmness of engravings, the traced identity of fingerprints, the spelled velocity of visual Morse, the deaf secret of codes, life’s changing scales. 

They are drawings that assert an apology of shadows and the joy of light. They are made with the art and the technique (teknéis art and technique) of the Zen archer, who stretches his bow and aims his arrow towards the target, in full knowledge that he is the target – and that he takes aim at himself (Zen in the Art of Archery, Eugen Herrigel).

In the Purgatorio of the Divine Comedy, Dante seems to speak of these drawings when he states: “And then in manner of the little flame,/ Which followeth the fire where’er it shifts,/ After the spirit followeth its new form.// Since afterwards it takes from this its semblance,/ It is called shade; and thence it organizes/Thereafter every sense, even to the sight.”. (Canto XXV, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Teresa Gonçalves Lobo’s drawings think without the mediation of ideas, as we might breathe underwater while opening our eyes, suspended, to its quick and blue wonderment. They are an inspired meditation – a visual yoga with its own pranayama. It is as if they were part of a whole that was already in existence and that will continue to exist afterwards.

With their astute construction, eloquent technique, mineral materiality, winged agility and visual wisdom, these drawings are as optical aphorisms (and I believe Spinoza would have appreciated them). They assert that we look at the world that looks upon us. And they remind us that art is an ethics of sorts: that of knowing how to be equal to the point of intersection between these two viewpoints.

In Degas Dance Drawing(1948), Paul Valéry reminisces on what Ingres once told Degas: “Draw lines … Many lines, either from memory or from nature.” And Degas would often quote Ingres: “Drawing does not lie outside the line, but within it.”

Teresa Gonçalves Lobo’s drawings are always within its surface, in the inwardnessof its outwardaspect. And they bring with them the memory of what Edgar Degas, that great drawer of movements and markings, of instabilities and instants, of mimesis and mimicry, geometries and gestures, once said to Paul Valéry: 

Drawing is not the shape; it is the way of seeing the shape.”  

Let what is thus, thus remain.

September 2018

José Manuel dos Santos