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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. 

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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.” 

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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.”

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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

May Art Guide - Lisbon

May Art Guide - Lisbon

There's a lot happening in Lisbon this week, including the international art fair ARCO Lisboa. Our local insider Kasia breaks down the must see events and even shares where to grab a drink! Learn more about taking an Oh So Arty tour with Kasia in Lisbon here


ARCOLisboa 2018 | 17 - 20.05


ARCOlisboa art fair started this week for the third time in Cordoaria Nacional in Lisbon. During this year’s edition, more than seventy galleries from Europe and Americas will present artworks by invited artists in two main sections: 'Opening', which is dedicated to young galleries and 'General', which featurs established galleries. ARCOlisboa is a fair with friendly atmosphere and original surroundings, definitely not to be missed while visiting Lisbon these days.

The fair is developing from year to year, so besides doing a ritual walk around the booths, I recommend visiting the part dedicated to individual artistic projects and participating in the parallel program of talks with art professionals as well as FORUM with art collectors. More information about the program can be found here.

ARCO Lisboa

ARCO Lisboa


FEA Lisboa | 18 – 20.05


FEA Lisboa or Festival dos Espaços dos Artistas de Lisboa is a parallel event to the fair, created out of the need to introduce the international audience to artists in a more independent manner. The main idea is to give the opportunity for viewers to visit artists’ studios, artist run spaces and non-commercial art projects. It’s thought to be a spontaneous dialog between artists and the city, an occasion to rethink the artistic phenomena and the presence of contemporary art in our everyday life.

The 2018 edition is a pilot, where my company Contemporary Art Tours Lisbon is present as a technical partner of the event, offering tours around studios selected by the director of the festival. You can find more information about the festival here.

FEA Lisboa

FEA Lisboa

After all the artsy experience go and get a drink in one of those famous spots in the city center.


Galeria Zé de Bois is one of the ‘must places’ to visit during this week. It’s worth climbing up the steep stairs to get to the terrace, hidden in between the amazing rooftops of Bairro Alto.  

Galeria Zé de Bois

Galeria Zé de Bois


Rive Rouge is a spot located on the first floor of an old fish market, today know as Time Out Market, where during the day all the foodies will find delicious cousins from around the world, and at night, it’s a home for an excellent bar owned by the same owners as the famous Portuguese Lux Frágil club. 

Rive Rouge

Rive Rouge

February Art Guide - Lisbon

February Art Guide - Lisbon

Recommendations of what to see in the Lisbon art scene this month by our local guide, Kasia. Discover even more on a private tour.

I.

Exhibition: “Revisão da Matéria Dada II”
Artist: various artists
Venue: Galeria Graça Brandao 
Dates: Until February 24th, 2018


This group exhibition is a continuation of ‘Revisão da Matéria Dada I’, which reflects years of work on the part of the gallery owner - José Mário Brandão. It includes older and lesser known works of the presented artists. Together with the first edition of the exhibition, which was on display during December and January, it creates a general overview of the gallery’s collection of artworks and more than 30 years of activity in the Portuguese art scene. If you are looking for a good introduction to the Portuguese visual culture and contemporary art scene it is definitely worth visting.

Revisão da Matéria Dada II, Galeria Graça Brandão

Revisão da Matéria Dada II, Galeria Graça Brandão

II.

Exhibition: Partir a Louça
Artist: Vasco Araújo
Venue: Galeria João Esteves de Oliveira 
Dates: Until March 2nd, 2018


Galeria João Esteves de Oliveira is specialized in presenting artworks made on paper. It’s a unique strategy within Lisbon’s galleries. The exhibition ‘Partir a Louça’, which can be translated as ‘Break the dishes’ is a solo show by Vasco Araújo, who is one of the most know mid-career Portuguese artists.The exhibition refers to an archeologic project, which aimed to reconstruct objects from thr XVIII and XIX centuries. Each of the drawings are accompanied by extracts from Susan Sontag's book– ‘Regarding the Pain of Others’.

Vasco Araújo, Galeria João Esteves de Oliveira, Armorial Family, 2008

Vasco Araújo, Galeria João Esteves de Oliveira, Armorial Family, 2008

III.

Exhibition: Mazagran
Artist: Manuel Tainha
Venue: Galeria Belo-Galsterer
Dates: Until March 29th, 2018


Galeria Belo-Galsterer presents the first solo exhibition by young Portuguese painter, Manuel Tainha. His works are based on personal experiences and are characteristic for his use of bleach in the creation process. The mix of textile and chemical ingredients, combined with sewing and hand-made panels for canvases, makes an intens first impression, but after a while, a viewer can begin to observe all the details and gentle shapes, which gives us a clear opportunity to use our imagination.

Manuel Tainha, Mazagran, Galeria Belo-Galsterer

Manuel Tainha, Mazagran, Galeria Belo-Galsterer

Lisbon Art Guide - January

Lisbon Art Guide - January

Recommendations of what to see in the Lisbon art scene this month by local guide, Kasia. Discover even more on a private tour.

 

This month, I’ve decided to present a list of exhibition openings in Lisbon, as with new year, there are a few interesting ones. This way, if you are in the city, you can join easily and celebrate with the local art scene.

I.

Exhibition: Land and Purpose
Artist: Sérgio Carronha
Venue: Monitor Lisbon
Opening: 19.01.2018 | 18.30
Dates: January 20th until March 3rd, 2018


‘(…) The artist, working mostly with earth-based materials - some more permanent and others more perennial - is currently based in Alentejo, where he is developing a long-term project in a piece of land; where he inhabits, collects his materials, produces his works, being the land a work of art itself. (…)’ I’m thrilled to visit this gallery, as it’s one of the newest in the city, with a fresh perspective and international background. Theirs ‘mother’ space is located in Rome, Italy.

Sérgio Carronha, Monitor Rome Lisbon, January 2018

Sérgio Carronha, Monitor Rome Lisbon, January 2018

II.

Exhibition: Atrás do pensamento
Artist: Tiago Baptista
Venue: 3+1 Arte Contemporânea
Opening: 19.01.2018 | 19h
Dates: January 20th until March 3rd, 2018


In the text, which accompanies the exhibition of Tiago Baptista, we can read: ‘The title of the exhibition was ransomed from a sentence by writer Clarice Lispector, in the
book “Água Viva (Stream of life)”, which says the following: “I am after what´s behind
thought”. This sentence introduces another type of bond in the artist’s work. A bond beyond cinematography, consisting of literature and the images gleaned from reading it. (…)’. Baptista has been collaborating with the gallery almost from the beginning of its establishment in Lisbon. I’m really looking forward to seeing his new paintings, created for the occasion of this show. 

Tiago Baptista at 3+1 Contemporary Art

Tiago Baptista at 3+1 Contemporary Art

III.

Exhibition: Now it is Light
Artists: various artists
Venue: Galeria Boavista
Opening: 25.01.2018 | 18h30
Dates: January 27th to March 10th, 20182


‘(…) This exhibition presents works of moving image, drawing and installation as well as archival contributions that investigate light as it recoils, reflects, refracts, diffracts and pierces through seemingly unaffected in a vertical scheme of geocosmic time. From the longwinded time of the astronomical plenum to the accelerated cadence of resource extraction, Now, it is Light is a space of inanimate worldings, of metals, minerals and stars whose magnitude is only relatively perceived. (…)’ The exhibition is a result of an open call for young curators, organized by Municipal Galleries in Lisbon in 2016. It will present a selection of artist, with the majority of them exhibiting their works for the first time in Portugal. A perfect possibility to experience both Portuguese and international influences. 


IV.

Exhibition: Mirror Plant
Artist: José Pedro Cortes
Venue: Galeria Francisco Fino
Opening: 26.01.2018 | 22h
Dates: January 27th to March 1st, 2018


‘(…) "Mirror Plant" brings together 25 recent photographs of such different territories as Dubai, Tokyo, Algarve or the artist’s studio in Lisbon – an essay on an unstable and beautiful world in constant mutation that enunciates the need to always keep learning how to take a fresh look at the known. (…) ‘ At the same time, there will be an opening of a new exhibition at Belo Campo, which is an original project of the artist Adrien Missika and is located in the basement of Galeria Francisco Fino. It will be great evening!

from the materials of Galeria Francisco Fino, Lisbon, 2018

from the materials of Galeria Francisco Fino, Lisbon, 2018

Lisbon Art Guide - December

Lisbon Art Guide - December

In December, Lisbon as well as other cities, is preparing itself for Christmas celebrations. In the galleries, there is not much movement and the majority of them are preparing their season sales or other special offers before the New Year will arrive. Although, it’s beautiful moment of the year to visit the city, there are only two exhibitions I would like to recommend this month. Trust me, 2018 will be fresh and exciting again, I already know it!

I.

Exhibition: Revisão da Matéria Dada
Artists: Albano Afonso / Sandra Cinto, Albano Silva Pereira, Albuquerque Mendes, Ana Vieira, Efrain Almeida, Eliane Duarte, Gonçalo Pena, João Galrão, Jorge Vieira, Joaquim Rodrigo, Lygia Pape, Miguel Soares, Nelson Leirner, Noronha da Costa, Nuno Ramalho, Nuno Sousa Vieira, Pedro Tudela, Rita McBride, Rui Chafes
Venue: Galeria Graça Brandão
Dates: Until January 13th, 2018


This exhibition is a perfect possibility to learn more about Portuguese contemporary art between 1980 and 2015. It’s built as a memory book of its curator and the owner of the gallery - José Mário Brandão. By visiting ‘Revisão da Matéria Dada’ we can try to understand his personal taste and approach to art. To me, it’s like a catalogue of art, presented in the gallery space and a lesson about variable and constant trends in local art. 

Nelson Leirner, Yes, nos temos bananas, 2005, Galeria Graça Brandao

Nelson Leirner, Yes, nos temos bananas, 2005, Galeria Graça Brandao


II.

Exhibition: Tracção e Compressão simples entre limit
Artist: Pedro Calapez
Venue: Galeria Belo-Galsterer
Dates: Until January 20th, 2018


For the occasion of 5th Anniversary of the gallery Belo-Galsterer, visitors can see a solo exhibition of one of the most well-known Portuguese painters - Pedro Calapez. His practice is related with colors and abstract shapes, which usually cover aluminum elements in various dimensions. This time, artworks were specially prepared for the gallery space. All the details are precisely measured and planned in rooms. The artist takes us for a journey through the limits of form and approaches towards painting.

Pedro Calapez, Hit the road, 2017, Galeria Belo-Galsterer

Pedro Calapez, Hit the road, 2017, Galeria Belo-Galsterer

Wish you all Merry Christmas and a happy new year!
Hope to see you in Lisbon in the artsy year of 2018. 

Take a tour with Katarzyna in Lisbon to discover more!