Testimonials – Álvaro Costa de Matos

The work of an artist is, as we know, inseparable from his/her personality, worldliness, prejudices, culture and idiosyncrasy, in a word, from his/herself.

This is, in our view, all too evident in Manuela Soitu’s artwork, which is evident in the series “Ghosts and Spirits”. In this way, as is evident from its public presentation, a certain “spiritism”, embodied in the following presupposition: after separation, rupture, departure, whether definitive or not, physical or symbolic, always remains something, which the artist has difficulty in naming: an impression, energy, a ghost that haunts us throughout life, identifiable sometimes, imperceptible others, just intuited.

But along with this “spiritism,” which I would call creative act, and not knowing the artist personally, I also see in her paintings (and this text only those ones) what I would call “anthropological pessimism.” If in politics it can be one of the masterpieces of conservatism, in art it’s a concept associated with the idea of ​​decadence, of frustration with the direction of things, of civitas, of discrediting institutions, politics and its protagonists. I think that this anthropological pessimism is easily detectable in the paintings “Bitterness”, “Breathless”, “I need silence”, “They follow me” and “Whispers”, among others.

It is true that the spirits, the ghosts are there, on the canvases, but what strikes us and disturbs us is the sadness, the bitterness, the disenchantment, the nightmare and even the revolt that runs through them. See, for example, the paradoxical painting “Golden-Era”. The golden age is anything but golden, rather a “burntland” where darkness reigns!

And by disturbing us, by provoking us, the works of Manuela Soitu exerts a strong aesthetic attraction upon us. Its undeniable beauty lies precisely in the anthropological pessimism that conceived, defined and characterized them in an abstract, rectilinear, “modern” trait that the artist mastered with mastery, in a game and in a fascinating, versatile, and not less disturbing panoply of colors.

Yes, I think we understand what Manuela Soitu meant …


Álvaro Costa de Matos

Historian, university teacher and cultural advisor at the Lisbon City Hall (Portugal)

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