João Penalva

November 19, 2011 − January 14, 2012

On Friday, 18th of November 2011, from 7 to 9 pm, Galerie Thomas Schulte will present its second solo exhibition with João Penalva.

Text, fiction and narrativity are important elements in João Penalva’s art. That was not always the case. During his 20 years working as a painter, his art was strictly non-narrative. When he started exploring installation and using time-based media he turned to fiction, working with photography, projection, and installation, combining light, sound, spoken word and text as subtitles, and sculptural elements.

In the center of his second exhibition at Galerie Thomas Schulte, stands a shadow-theater on whose stage an empty wire picture frame slowly turns. Accompanied by a short melody, we watch as the shadows move through changing light and color, subtly leading us to fantasize. This sculpture, entitled Petit Verre (2007), sets the theme of his exhibition in the broadest sense, prompting the apparatus of display to become the main focus. And so it is not about the photograph itself but the stand that holds it, and the enlarger that makes the photograph reality. The prop suddenly is in the spotlight and becomes the main character in this “play,” and the text that accompanies it will actually lead the viewer to believe that a dialogue could be started.

With the sculpture, Petit Verre, the slide-projection, Monument (2011), as well as through a series of photographic works, the artist makes his interests clear: Everything revolves around the unseen and what’s behind it, about what lies beyond that which is visible, about the possibility that everything could be different. To Penalva, visible reality represents a reservoir of poetic reinterpretation. Recent works from found originals are composed of both their own positive and negative versions, revealing other, hidden traces of their lives as objects of memory.

By combining image and text, for instance, and thereby juxtaposing reality and fiction, he creates works that fuse together what is concrete, what is envisioned, and what is unconscious. João Penalva becomes a storyteller, inventing feigned realities, feeding off the idea that things could be different than they are, or as we perceive them to be.

Through these vehicles of expression he circles the question of the logic of the dream as described by art historian and curator Anders Kreuger, who relates Penalva’s work to the ideas of the French philosopher Henri Bergson, in that the dreamer who tries to analyse the images of his dream for a meaning or message becomes too logical as he is not taking the surrounding world into account. In Penalva’s exhibition catalogue from Lunds Konsthall in 2010, Kreuger concludes: “And perhaps I am not so wrong if I understand his art as a kind of inverted dream-work, a constant effort to not interpret the images that are being unrolled. In the end neither he nor we will want to know if we are dreaming or not dreaming.”