Eduardo Prado Coelho1985

Written for the exhibition
Óleos de Manuel Amado / Oil Paintngs by Manuel Amado - Galeria de S. Mamede, Lisbon, 1985
As you walk slowly through these paintings, what do you see?

Places enclosing other places enclosing other places, in an endless sequence of empty frames. And yet, this emptiness so silently passed from canvas to canvas still cannot avoid being a murmur, a curve, a presentiment.  

Lack of references is something Manuel Amado’s painting cannot be accused of. Everything is there, monotonously indicated, either in the forms or in the humble worlds of each title: houses, windows, towels, abandoned objects, trees, corners. We cannot even say that the author has erased himself. Though changed into an attentive craftsman, he is there too, committed to reproducing, with the most obstinate fidelity, these same forms and words.    

Perhaps it is something else that worries and disturbs us here. It is as if Manuel Amado had managed to paint, not exactly the things in their captivating nudity, but the fact that we are their receiver, without there being no giver for them. Here the triadic relationship of an object that passes from a first hand to another hand is suspended. Manuel Amado is able to convey to us that there is no first hand here – only the serene harmony it has bequeathed us. This knowledge is hard to learn: it is better to let it come to us through painting.     

When the space moves us and we let ourselves become entangled in it, that happens because we are aware that someone has preceded us in constructing our vision of it. We learn that in the cinema: we enter a room and feel afraid, because someone is looking at us from the emptiness of that room. The Other is the instance in which that space organises itself, the light that thrills it. We always arrive later. Our feeling (fear, desire, anger, joy) is the modulation of that lateness, the emotive acknowledgement that nothing can erase it.  

Manuel Amado’s painting does not follow that path. We may suspect that a small part of childhood has passed through those places, but not enough for nostalgia to incarnate. It is certain that the course of the day declines itself in terms of light and shadows, but that is not enough to define a respiration or a life cycle. And we cannot even say, as the medieval people would, that here the visible is a passage to the invisible, or a means to access the invisibility of the invisible. Because everything is visible, absolutely visible, and there is no harmony apart from that. Manuel Amado’s painting confronts us with this irreducible unbalance: nobody has preceded us in what we see, and yet we cannot arrive at seeing without the support of the notion that someone has seen before us. It is the emptiness of the Other and the demand of the Other, but that emptiness is without drama and that demand without emphasis. All that is left of those battle stances is the craft of painting. And repeating, from picture to picture, that strange, erased unbalance. 

Obviously, Manuel Amado paints not space, but the silence of space; he paints time or, more precisely, the time outside of time. When Cézanne, while painting his wife, disconnects the line of the carpet form the line of the body, what he does, according to Merleau-Ponty, is paint the genesis in time of the painting itself. Manuel Amado’s painting is not simply a painting without a giver; it is also a painting without a genesis in time: an accumulation of gestures that have become forgotten in time. Or, in other words: a time that accumulates itself on the shores of time. The only time is of the painting itself, as it guides in that perplexed itinerary of the gaze: a blind demand, in the end. Or, if you prefer, a suspended duration, a peaceful, reclining depth.  
I suspect, however, that this approach to painting, with all its modesty and conventual decorum, contains a somewhat polemic gesture. In a time when every image comes to us via energy and speed, when every space is influenced by that which some call, to transcribe the effects of the most sophisticated technology, the depth of time, Manuel Amado is able to escape that vertigo, responding to the cracklings of desire with a return to the pleasure of a primordial materiality that returns us to a serene contiguity with things. As theorists have written, to each advance in high technology corresponds a tendency to high sensitivity. Everything rests, everything reposes, everything becomes pause and joy in contemplation. This painting neither indicates a path nor delivers a message: it teaches us, by showing the emptiness of masters or givers, how to take a rest from all messages.   Simply re-read Ricardo Reis: ‘I don’t want to remember or know myself. / We become too much if we look into who we are. / To ignore that we live / Fulfils life sufficiently.’