15.01.22 - 26.03.22
Proffered as they are with the utter simplicity of the materials that go into them, the works of João Freitas expose/exhibit themselves without any pretence or ornament. They allow us to see the spectacle of materials that have lived an uncompromising life, and unveil themselves just as they are, as inert presences into which the artist has breathed a new life.
He draws his inspiration from the very fragility of everyday objects which carry in them the violence of the external world, not unlike those covers of jettisoned books or magazines, dried in the sun and worn threadbare by the wind (2,3,4,6,7), or those advertising posters pasted over, torn, washed out by bad weather (5). All that jetsam discarded by society has been retrieved and chosen by the artist to become the support of a practice that is both careful and sharp, involving ripping, cutting-up, scraping or also sandpapering, all to discover the intimacy of those objects. Their transcended appearance then reveals unheard-of power and beauty.
In addition, he also recovers rough materials straight out of the factory, such as those boards of plywood (1), those grey blankets (10), or those large sheets of Tetra Pak (11, 12, 13), turned into trivial protection for building sites but out of which he was able to extract the very substance. An unforeseeable life then emerges in the lethargy of their condition.
He will even go so far as to make use of the abrasive sheets which he normally uses to fashion other works, but which are here forcefully reprocessed, removing all granular particles one after the other with a metal tip in order to let the backcloth appear: greyish, moiré, woven, as it has oddly enough become textile again (8,9).
After their protective layer has been removed, those manufactured elements then reveal their creative process as well as that of their possible deterioration. They lose their functional purpose and become abstract works, colour fields on which one’s gaze gets lost among the various strata, but also comes in fits and starts against the resistance of a material marked by the gestures through which it has been altered. A constant back-and-forth movement which poetically unites our thinking with the material which generates it, for as Bachelard says, Il semble que la matière ait deux êtres: son être de repos et son être de résistance . We latch on to the one, the artist on to the other…
He shows us what is there right in front of our eyes; what we mix with and what shows itself to our gaze without embellishments or excesses, as soon as we probe appearances and remove the veneer of reality. The idea is not to add yet more things to a society which extols excess, in which the multiplicity of superabundant images discourages us from really looking. The artist invites us to become aware of the perceptual potential buried away in the world round us, without beating about the bush, and he always does this consciously, or even meditatively.
Through those discarded elements, reprocessed to be exhibited, João Freitas talks to us about our way of life and our consumption habits, but also about the subtle relationship we entertain with the materials which make up our existence and which also turn out to be marked by sundry (hi)stories in which kindness and violence are shared, and by a tactile surface which reveals itself to the touch or to a sharp glance.
All in all, a work whose sober aesthetics sublimates the ordinary and mark out the passage of time over all things, where obsolescence is no longer a mere finality, but a hint of a possible revival.
Curator and AICA art critic
Translated by Philippe Hunt
 Gaston Bachelard, « La terre et les rêveries de la volonté. Essai sur l’imagination de la matière », Paris, Librairie José Corti, 1947, p. 44.