Carla Filipe’s solo exhibition features new drawings from the series RESSACA / HANGOVER + Be Part of Chaos (2016 – 2019), which looks into such notions as instability and loss of control, a state she considers akin to being pulled out to sea by a powerful undercurrent. In recent years, the artist has been developing drawings on large banners that combine silkscreens, images, words and graffiti. In her compositions the artist has been applying urban pavement patterns to photographs from the history of Porto to create vibrant, potent paintings with a graphic language. The images are repeated, juxtaposed and displayed, sometimes beside each other, or underneath letters or paint, to build up layers of imagery and abstraction.
Filipe plays with different black textures, spraying over them with industrial colours to compose abstract works, which rhythmically blend throbbing lettering and lines. The composition develops between presence and absence, density and light, unfolding across the front surface of the banners, but also extending beneath that surface to generate partly visible imagery on the back. The longer you look the more there is to see.
The artist started to explore silkscreen on canvas during her 2015 residency at the Rauschenberg Foundation on Captiva Island. Filipe shares with Rauschenberg the sourcing of archival street and press photographs. The imagery in the work helps to generate a narrative possibility which is then undermined by the addition of painterly gestures. Filipe began working with black on white canvas to build a visual language recording the textures of the streets of Porto. The series Be Part Of Chaos was produced and shown during a 2017 residency in Vienna. The banners graft together the different ‘skins’ of that city’s streets to represent the strata of its history. In Vienna, the artist experimented with impressions transferred directly to the canvas from the urban pavement, peeling off its dirt and scars as she tried to capture the essence of the city. The composition incorporates colour images in basic fluorescent industrial paint – blue, green, orange and yellow – with large scale titles of works that spread across the canvas: We Will Never Be Safe (2017) and Identity Is Not Inherited, It Is Voted (2017). These are direct references to sociologist Zygmunt Bauman’s concept of ‘liquid modernity’, in which insecurity, uncertainty and individualism are dominant elements.
In the current postmodern world individuals do not take responsibility, instead developing their identities with the tools of the new digital era. However, with the vanishing of solid social structures, the conflict is now between individuals and society itself.
Filipe has always based her works on the historical, biographical and social aspects of her native Porto (and Portugal), bringing to light the political developments and movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her studio has been the street. The new series RESSACA / HANGOVER is made of imprints taken directly from the urban pavement of Porto, which are then combined with imagery of the political history of the city and graphic language appropriated from the streets. She draws lines to create chaos and confusion, but also uses letters to express the emptiness of speech. The language is direct, fractured, intense and repetitive.
Suspended from the ceiling to the floor, these banners form an urban landscape of billboard-like buildings in the gallery. Their monumental size proposes an archaeology of the present and launches an horizon of questions about the future by exposing the causes and the effects of an urban society disconnected from reality. Filipe breaks away from political optimism, building awareness without mapping out a future.
Carolina Grau, January 2020