‘In the corner of the room the shadow playedher little flute.’Sophia de Mello Breyner
Other painters have cultivated ambiguity as the basis for the system of rapports between space, representation and the canvas. Certain realistic approaches, Manuel Amado’s among them, seem today intent on breaking the rules of that Magrittean game, and surprise us with the rehabilitation of that traditional relationship between those terms, showing that perspective continues to be a symbolic form, as Panofsky would say, even when, or mostly when, space is treated in still-life terms, the English appellation of that genre being especially eloquent here. Closed in its peaceful transparency, this painting distances itself from literary allusions and metaphysical or surrealistic speculations. And yet, it contains a call for the production of the unexpected, and also a moral resonance, a subtly developed human ethics. On the one hand, it brings to us a certain mode of representing intimate places by reducing them to such a bare-bones essence that it is pure geometry; on the other, that nakedness is spiritualised with a halo of complacent loneliness, that is to say, which delights in its fidelity to an entwining of melancholy, dusk and stern joy, filtered (or surmised?) from the explosion of a hot afternoon outside. As if, in that way, the sun became ours inside, or became the sun of our repose.
And as if what mattered most, out of everything, were the feeling of passage and the direction of the fragmentary gaze that frames and reorders it. In that contemplative quietness of transited light and stern enunciation, the metaphor of passage seems, in fact, the one that best fits the soberly harmonised modulations of a seemingly discontinuous reality.
This staged passage between our sphere and the outside articulates these dimensions as pieces in a consequent discourse of spaces and volumes, proportions and intervals, and degrees of light and shade, bringing a musical formulation, an indecisiveness of the instant, a feeling of time into the representation.
Out of the secluded corners of that (literal) chamber music and the geometric twists and turns of the visual discourse a tension between the ephemeral and permanence emerges, a tension that helps the gaze hold the detail of some lines and allows us to contemplate the transition, the furtive suspension, between before and after, of the moment captured in its nakedness of brick and mortar, stucco and plaster, iron and glass, wood and cornerstones. And light: a precise light, free of atrocities, clinging close to the texture of each surface, meticulously lining the flow of each atmosphere. Here, a poetics of the present via the sharing and gathering of space(s) intertwines with a scenographic gaze that revives and incorporates such disparate things as the blocking-outs employed by certain Italians of the Quattrocento and an irradiation of presences/absences evocative of Straub’s films. From the basement to the attic, to use a Bachelardian phrase, but also from the floorboards to the trunk and chest of drawers, from the door to the patio, from the window to the landscape, from dusk to light, space becomes a conch in which the day’s murmur resonates; the outline of a balcony, the stridence of a portal, of a blind, of a hanging, sunshine-saturated towel, invites us to experience, inside them, a serene, minimal, almost conventual echo of the simplicities generated by the spirit of the place.
Thus this painting of meditative withdrawal turns the very core of urban space, the house’s interior, into an area ready for expansive evocations and spiritual ventures, for our parsimonious enjoyment of the skilful, precise way in which hand and mind collaborate. In Manuel Amado’s oeuvre, we are constantly confronted with the exact expression of this paramount human and cultural value: the dignity of inhabiting.