Finding the balance between tranquility and violence: A studio visit with Lisbon’s Manuel Tainha

Finding the balance between tranquility and violence: A studio visit with Lisbon’s Manuel Tainha

*To learn more about Lisbon’s contemporary art scene and to visit Manuel Tainha’s studio, book a tour with our local art insider Kasia.

Article written by art writer and contributor Joy Bernard 

Up-and-coming Portugese artist Manuel Tainha’s studio is nestled in the heart of Portugal’s capital. When the painter greets us at the entrance to the small, sun-dappled room, it is hard to believe that the close quarters tucked away in a typical Lisbonian residential building are the environs where he creates his luminous and colorful oeuvres. 

But for Tainha, who recently returned to his country after a ten-month study period in the German port city of Hamburg, this modest space is just right. The artist, whose main mediums are bleach-manipulated paintings and stitch work, gestures around him at several finished works leaning casually against the walls. “All of this has been made possible,” he explains, “because I have this.” The painter points at an endearing but somewhat infantile figure with outstretched arms reaching toward the sun. “This is my first-ever work that I produced as a child. I could never make something as authentic again,” he exclaims with a laugh. 

The creation, which hangs alongside several brushes and adjacent to a wall that features some of his newest experiments with thread and needle, is a modest reference to his roots. More obvious nods to his Portugese cultural heritage can be found in unconventional crafts such as small, traditional soap bars he has imbued with streaks of blue. Tainha explains that the idea of incorporating the soap in his artworks emerged when he was studying at the HFBK Fine Arts University in Hamburg under the auspices of the esteemed artist Anslem Reyele. “People use it in Portugal to clean their clothes and even shower. I like the idea that if you sell this work and it disintegrates, the collector has the recipe to make more soap,” he reveals. 

No second chances

Another locally-produced and surprising material that is dominant in the artist’s work is bottled bleach. Yes, the same kind that can be found at cleaning supplies stores – except whereas the average person would use it as a disinfectant, Tainha has been using it to create tantalizing canvases. Those display fabrics in vibrant hues that are marked by amorphous, cloudy shapes he forms by tainting them with the bleach. “I use this specific type of bleach that people buy here to clean their floors because of the cultural value I try to convey in my works,” the artist says. 


The substance may be more commonplace in crime scenes than in the art world, but it is exactly this stark quality which drew Tainha to it. “It started for me because I wanted to work with this idea of subtraction of color. I began doing that with sun exposure to better understand the undertones of the industrial colors I was working with, and I turned to bleach in order to accelerate that process,” he recalls. 

The attraction to bleach, the artist admits, stems from its “fatal quality.” After his studies at the Faculty of Fine Arts in the University of Lisbon, he abandoned oil paintings and adopted this material “because once you stain [the work] with it you cannot change it. With oil you have the ability to come back to the same painting and amend it, and I like the idea that you don’t have second chances with your paintings.” 


Tainha says that movement is a significant element that affects his process. As an example, he brings up a memory of his past as a rugby player. Showing us an image hanging by the door of an empty field where he once played, the painter says: “It look like a violent sport but it’s also subtle. The duality between tranquility and violence is something I like to explore. Think about 30 guys playing a violent sport in the middle of this peaceful field. I draw from that in my work, the aspect of movement – the memory of the movement is imprinted in it.”


Another source of inspiration that impacts the artist’s work is light. He credits Lisbon’s natural, soft light for being one of the incentives to go back to working in his homeland, where the local art scene is fast evolving. “Some of my works are really influenced by what my eyes can catch, the light falling on the pastel colors of the buildings of Lisbon. Being here has both an emotional and aesthetic value.” 

Joy Bernard is a senior news editor at Israel’s leading English-language daily Haaretz. Based in Tel Aviv, she writes about politics, arts and culture in the Middle East for various publications.

*To learn more about Lisbon’s contemporary art scene and to visit Manuel Tainha’s studio, book a tour with our local art insider Kasia.

*Cover picture by Fabio Cunha for the Collectors Agenda

*All other pictures by Carl Holck and courtesy of Last Resort Gallery

72 Hours in Venice

72 Hours in Venice

The 58th International Venice Biennale opens May eleventh and with it comes a host of cultural events happening throughout Venice. While the Biennale is not to be missed (and can be seen on an Oh So Arty tour) there are lots of other things to do in Venice that are worth checking out. Keep reading for a breakdown of how to spend 72 hours in Venice curated by local Oh So Arty insider Sasha Zagrebèlnaia.

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One can find something inspiring in every corner of Venice and the best neighborhood to experience all the city has to offer is the Dorsoduro art district. Dorsoduro is the southern district of Venice, starting from Punta della Dogana running almost until Piazzale Roma. It’s normally less crowded and is considered one of the best Venetian walking areas. For a luxurious experience Sasha recommends staying at the Hotel Belle Arti in the heart of the Dorsoduro district so you can easily walk to some of the best art viewing in the world!

If you’re staying in Dorsoduro you absolutely must visit the famous Punta della Dogana, an art museum that opened in 2009 in one of Venice’s old customs buildings. This impressive space was renovated by Japanese architect Tadao Ando and it presents personal and collective exhibitions formed mostly by the Pinault Collection. Just across the Academia bridge is the Palazzo Grassi another museum owned by the Pinault collection which often co-hosts major exhibitions such as Damien Hirst in 2017.

Sol LeWitt at Punta della Dogana

Sol LeWitt at Punta della Dogana

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is also located in the Dorsoduro arts district. This institution is not only famous for its enviable modern art collection but also because of the outstanding personality of Peggy Guggenheim, who lived in the palazzo Venier dei Leoni. Now the museum presents Peggy’s personal collection, including masterpieces by Picasso, Miro, Magritte, Calder, Kandinsky and many others. While visiting don't miss out on the Schulhof and Nasher Sculpture Garden which features a recently renovated cafe that provides the ideal place for an afternoon coffee or Spritz.

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Venice is essentially a huge museum under the open sky, where you see a real masterpiece at every turn. Renaissance, Baroque and Contemporary Art exist here in the same historical space. The whole city of Venice is imbued with art and masterpieces can be found in museums, churches, cathedrals, modern installations and historical monuments. Sasha has included recommendations of some of her favorite galleries to visit within the city. She suggests Marignana Arte opened in 2013 by Emanuela Fadalti and Matilde Cadenti because they represent the new generations of artists, as well as the well-established ones. In addition Sasha recommends the international gallery Bel-Air Fine Art and the Italian outpost of Parisian gallery, Galleria Alberta Pane.

Libreria Aqua Alta

Libreria Aqua Alta

If you’re looking for a respite from the bustling art scene there are many other cultural offerings in Venice. The Libreria Aqua Alta is a famous bookshop in the city center that presents a great collection of vintage and contemporary books chaotically placed in old gondola boats, antique shelves and even on the floor. After getting your literary fix head to the Fondaco dei Tedeschi for some retail therapy. This brand department store opened in 2013 and is housed in the former headquarters of the German merchants in Venice. While you’re there it’s an absolute must to head up to the rooftop terrace for one of the best views of Venice!

Fondaco dei Tedeschi

Fondaco dei Tedeschi

A trip to Italy is never complete without indulging in the country’s amazing cuisine. Cichetti are small snacks or side dishes traditional to Venice and Sasha prefers Osteria Al Squero or Cantine del Vino Già Schiavi to get her fix of delicious crostinis, cured meats and more. For a delicious lunch you will find both locals and tourist alike are fans of Trattoria da Fiore. The fresh and local Venetian cuisine is the perfect way to satiate your appetite after long days of walking and visiting museums. For more options you can’t go wrong with either Trattoria San Trovaso or Ristorante Terrazza del Casin dei Nobili. Finally, you can’t visit Italy without treating yourself to some gelato. Sasha’s favorite is Gelateria Da Nico for the famous Gianduiotto ice cream. Complete your trip to Venice by booking a private art tour with Oh So Arty for an insider perspective of the city!

May Art Guide - Venice

May Art Guide - Venice

May is a very busy month in Venice. Starting from the Art Biennale vernissage week, the most exciting exhibitions of the year pop-up all around the city. The concentration of art events is so high this month, that it’s actually really difficult to choose. Collateral Events of the Biennale, as well as the main exhibitions in Arsenale and Giardini deserve a separate mention. But here are the main exhibitions in the museums, that should’t be missed!

Learn more about Oh So Arty in Venice here!


Exhibition: Luogo e Segni (Place and Signs)

Artists: Etel Adnan, Berenice Abbott, Giovanni Anselmo, Lucas Arruda, Hicham Berrada, Louise Bourgeois, Charbel-joseph H. Boutros, Constantin Brancusi, Nina Canell, Vija Celmins, Tacita Dean, Edith Dekyndt, Liz Deschenes, Trisha Donnelly, Simone Fattal, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Roni Horn, Ann Veronica Janssens, Lee Lozano, Agnes Martin, Julie Mehretu, Ari Benjamin Meyers, Philippe Parreno, Alessandro Piangiamore, R. H. Quaytman, Carol Rama, Lala Rukh, Stéphanie Saadé, Anri Sala, Rudolf Stingel, Sturtevant, Tatiana Trouvé, Wu Tsang, Robert Wilson and Cerith Wyn Evans

Venue: Punta della Dogana

Dates: March, 24th until December, 15th, 2019

The show brings together over one hundred works, by thirty-six artists, that establish a particular relationship with their urban, social, political, historical, and intellectual settings. These works are set up in relation to pieces that have marked the history of exhibitions at Punta della Dogana since its opening in 2009. The works perfectly fit in the big and unusual exhibition space of the museum and keeps the visitor curious till the end of the exhibition.

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Exhibition: Jannis Kounellis

Artist: Jannis Kounellis

Venue: Fondazione Prada – Venice

Dates: May, 11th until November, 24th, 2019

'Jannis Kounellis', curated by the legendary Germano Celant, is a major retrospective dedicated to the artist following his death in 2017. This project brings together more 70 works from 1958 to 2016, from both Italian and international museums, as well as from important private collections. The show explores the artistic and exhibition history of Jannis Kounellis, establishing a dialogue between his works and the eighteenth-century spaces of Ca’ Corner della Regina.

exhibition 2 - Jannis Kounellis, Centro Arti Visive Pescheria, Pesaro 2016. Foto Michele Alberto Sereni.jpg


Exhibition: Time, Forward!

Artists: Rosa Barba, Aleksandra Domanović, Valentin Fetisov, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Daria Irincheeva, Alexandra Sukhareva, Christopher Kulendran Thomas, Adam Linder, Haroon Mirza, Trevor Paglen, Walid Raad, James Richards, Kirill Savchenkov, Where Dogs Run.

Venue: V-A-C Zattere

Dates: May, 11th until October, 20th, 2019

'Time, Forward!', a new project by Omar Kholeif, Maria Kramar and V-A-C Foundation, seeks to question the notion and function of time and how it relates to new forms of consciousness, action and sight in the twenty-first century. With artistic production at its very core, V-A-C Foundation has commissioned 13 new works, some site-specific, by emerging and internationally acclaimed artists for 'Time, Forward!'. The artists all met in Venice in May 2018 to activate a collaborative dialogue intertwining their ideas and they were asked to imagine and suggest strategies to cope with the accelerated digital time.

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Click here to book an Oh So Arty tour in Venice!

March Art Guide - Jerusalem

March Art Guide - Jerusalem

Visiting Jerusalem in March? You will find no lack of thought-provoking and diverse exhibitions to choose from among the local galleries and museums as we get ready for Spring in the holy city. Continue reading to discover three shows not be missed in Jerusalem and click here to learn more about our experiences in the Jerusalem art scene!

Exhibition: Manifesto

Artist: Julian Rosefelt

Venue:The Israel Museum, Ruppin Blvd.13.

Dates: Until November 2nd, 2019

About the exhibition: What is a Manifesto? It can defined as a declaration of a belief, usually combined with a call for action. In Julian Rosenfeld’s multi-screen installation, the artist revisits some of the most important artistic manifestos of the 20th century using a contemporary lense and a superstar performer, Cate Blanchett. Blanchett recites monologues which are based on the foundational texts of various art movements like Dada, Surrealism, etc., embodying different characters in a diversity of settings.

Manifesto Israel Museum Image by Elie Posner

Manifesto Israel Museum
Image by Elie Posner

Exhibition: B-Side A Heroine

Artist: Various, curated by Cornelia Renz.

Venue: New Gallery Teddy Stadium, Gate 22

Dates: Until March 18

The charged group exhibition B-Side A Heroine features the works of twelve Israeli and German female artists who reshape the feminist narrative in their art works. The female figures depicted in these works are powerful, complex and aggressive women, embodying the ‘B-Side’ to the idealistic heroine that we are used to seeing in our ideas of the ‘real women’. Spanning video, performance, painting and site-specific installations,the exhibition offers a moving alternative point of view.

Bside A Heroine, Nezaket Ekici, “Short But Painful”, video performance 2017-2018.  Image by Shai Halevi

Bside A Heroine, Nezaket Ekici, “Short But Painful”, video performance 2017-2018.
Image by Shai Halevi

Exhibition: Legitimacy of Landscape

Artist: Yaakov Israel

Venue: Museum for Islamic Art, HaPalmach St. 2

Dates: Until April 27

Culminating 16 years of the artist’s work, Yaakov Israel presents The Legitimacy of Landscape, a photography exhibition that presents socio-political landscapes of Israel and its territories. Yaakov Israel’s large scale photographs are striking, focused and hyper-realistic, opening windows towards a view that is often forgotten in Israel and providing visitors with an experience that can be likened to standing in the place of the photographer himself. Israel used a technique similar to that used by landscape photography in the 19th century, simultaneously paying homage to the history of photography. Not only politically important, The Legitimacy of Landscape is breathtaking and literally opens one eyes to new points of view and the vitality of the camera.

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Learn more about Oh So Arty in Jerusalem here or book a tour here!

72 Hours in Tel Aviv

72 Hours in Tel Aviv

Oh So Arty was founded in Tel Aviv and so it will always have a special place in our hearts. This coastal metropolis boasts the best of both worlds offering a bustling city life balanced with the calm beauty of the Mediterranean seaside. Founded in just 1909, Tel Aviv is still a young city that has carved out a space for itself as the country’s bohemian center offering the best in technology and culture. This Spring Tel Aviv has become a destination for people from all over the world as it hosts the Eurovision song contest in May and celebrates 100 years of the Bauhaus school. There is no better way to experience the diverse art scene in Tel Aviv than on one of our gallery or street art tours which explore the evolving identity of the city. Keep reading for the best ways to spend 72 hours in Tel Aviv or book an art tour here.

An Oh So Arty tour at Miriam Cabess’a Tel Aviv studio.  Photo by Pavlina Schultz.

An Oh So Arty tour at Miriam Cabess’a Tel Aviv studio.

Photo by Pavlina Schultz.

When it comes to finding suitable lodgings in Tel Aviv there are a bevy of expertly designed boutique hotels that offer luxurious amenities and comforts. The Hotel Montefiore and Hotel Nordoy make our list for unique boutique hotels options. The renowned brunch at the Hotel Montefiore is a must for all travellers to the city whether staying there or not. Innovative takes on culinary staples such as toasted challah bread are not to be missed. While The Hotel Nordoy centrally located near the Nachlat Binyamin weekly craft market offers a first rate spa experience. Treat yourself to a luxurious massage on the hotel’s panoramic rooftop! If you prefer to stay in Jaffa we cannot recommend The Setai enough. This luxurious new complex offers rooftop pool and unbeatable views of the sea.

Hotel Montefiore. Photo by Sivan Askayo.

Hotel Montefiore. Photo by Sivan Askayo.

Having settled on your ideal home base it’s time to explore the city by foot or by cycle! One of the best ways to spend an afternoon in Tel Aviv is by leisurely strolling its verdant boulevards, stopping by the cute kiosks for a coffee and taking in the fabulous Bauhaus architecture. Often referred to as The White City Tel Aviv has the largest number of Bauhaus buildings in the world making a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For architecture aficionados we recommend a visit to the Bauhaus Center Tel Aviv to explore their permanent collection dedicated to the subject.

The Hotel Nordoy. Photo by Assaf Pinchuk.

The Hotel Nordoy. Photo by Assaf Pinchuk.

Take advantage of the local designers available in the city. One of our favorite boutiques is Aviva Zilberman located in a chic storefront in central Tel Aviv. Also be sure to check out Hibino for interior options, Maria Berman for timeless fashion looks, and Greek Sandals Official for the best shoes around.

There are many fantastic culinary offerings in Tel Aviv. For Thursday nights we recommend dinner at famed Israeli chef Eyal Shani’s restaurant North Abraxas. Known for his unique twists on vegetables, Shani’s restaurants are favorites among locals. Make sure to order the cauliflower to experience one of Shani’s most revered dishes! Close out the night with drinks at Nilus. This stylish bar is located in an old hotel and radiates a timeless energy.

Aviva Zilberman boutique located at 23 Meltchet street.

Aviva Zilberman boutique located at 23 Meltchet street.

Friday mornings are best spent grabbing hummus and soaking up the Middle Eastern vibes offered at the Carmel Market. Start your morning with some classic Israeli cuisine and great coffee at Yom Tov Cafe and get ready to explore the city’s art scene. The Tel Aviv Museum of Art is the best place to discover Israeli art history. The new building designed by Preston Scott Cohen is a real gem and offers a strong overview of art from Israel. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the city’s contemporary art scene you have to head to the southern areas of Tel Aviv where most of the galleries have relocated in past years. The South of Tel Aviv has many industrial spaces and where most galleries are located today, due to relatively cheap rents, proximity to the artists’ studios and suitable spaces. We love to frequent Dvir Gallery, Alon Segev Gallery and Rosenfeld Contemporary Art for their unique roster of artists and intriguing exhibition programming. You’ll probably find yourself totally enamored of the Israeli art scene and it’s never been easier to collect artwork by contemporary artists from Israel! Art Source is an online platform (founded by two local art professionals- Michal Freedman and Oh So Arty founder Sarah Peguine) for discovering the best Israeli artists and collecting their work. Visit the Art Source website, read the online magazine and follow their Instagram page to learn more!

Rosenfeld Contemporary Art. Photo by Sophie Weinstein.

Rosenfeld Contemporary Art. Photo by Sophie Weinstein.

Teder is an awesome bar and online radio station that also serves up generously sized pizzas. If you’re looking for more food just head upstairs to Romano, another Eyal Shani restaurant. On Friday nights they push the tables back and local DJ’s spin until the early hours of Saturday morning.

Romano. Photo by Ariel Efron.

Romano. Photo by Ariel Efron.

In Tel Aviv Saturdays are all about the beach. Tel Avivians love living along the sea and on weekends they flock to the long coastline to recharge before the week ahead! Start your Saturday morning slowly with a stroll through Neve Tzedek, a quaint neighborhood with French influence boasting charming cafes and boutiques. Then make your way to Old Jaffa for one our favorite beaches and a fresh juice at one of the many juice stalls located in the Shuk Hapishpeshim. The Jaffa art scene also has a lot to offer in terms of contemporary art with the newly opened Magasin III and creative hub Beit Kandinoff. Complete your trip to Tel Aviv by booking a private art tour with Oh So Arty for an insider perspective on the White City.

Sarah Peguine leading an art tour at Dvir Gallery.

Sarah Peguine leading an art tour at Dvir Gallery.

To book a private art tour in Tel Aviv please click here.