Bernardo Pinto de Almeida The Light That Draws a Secret Garden 2000

Written for the exhibition
The Mateus Palace and My Garden / A Casa de Mateus e O Meu Jardim Galeria dos Coimbras, Braga (2000)

All painting is memory. Not a memory of this or that – memory, once fixed upon something, is nothing more than remembering, with the precision in detail that characterises, for instance, photography – but an expression, perhaps the highest, of memory’s very form.   

That is why painting is always interpretation. 

Memory, in itself, is not precise. It is like a diffuse, vast, varied continent. It superimposes, cuts out, erases, induces, refines, highlights, inscribes and re-inscribes.

Memory is not a part of nature; its realm is that of reality or culture. Reality, that is to say, that which is already part of the construction of the human, an interpretation or, in other words, a way of understanding nature. 

I will now rephrase this: all painting is memory, of itself, of its history, of its gestures, of its gestures, of its visions, of the recurring forms it has taken, all of this at the same time, and combined, in each true painter, with a new memory, the result of its criss-crossing with the whole memory of painting. Because of this, the work of painting is never done.

But it is also because of this that, in painting – or in literature, too –, nothing is ever really invented: it is all a matter of adding, erasing or correcting, in order to reorganise the essential data of perception. Precisely because it is memory, painting conjointly mobilises its three founding orders: sensation, perception and affection.  

What Manuel Amado paints, then, is memory. Not so much, I repeat, the memory of some thing in particular as its more intimate and fertile relationship with memory. But memory is the territory of transfiguration and, consequently, what we see in his paintings is the vision of a transfigured reality. It is for that reason that, in discussions of his paintings, Hopper, metaphysical painting and Magritte tend to be mentioned. All three, indeed, can fit in there, and why not, along with many other possible threads, drawn from his memory and the memory of painting, which converge as invisible lines into his secret garden. 
In these paintings, as is the case with nearly all of Manuel’s oeuvre, time seems to become suspended, or frozen – it is always a sunny season, always morning, always daylight –, while interiors and outdoor scenes share similar luminosity values. 

Manuel’s memory is, before anything else, a memory of light. 

I do not know if someone has already said this, but here is what I think: Manuel Amado’s painting is, at its roots, at its heart of hearts, abstract. Even at the height of its representational intensity, and especially when it is most vehement in its representation, it remains abstract. That is to say, mathematics able, reducible to lines of light that signify nothing but the capricious diagram drawn by their vivid contrasts. Just as abstract as to us are, we know it well from intimate, lived knowledge, certain afternoons of very intense sunlight, which seems to dissolve outlines and raise above them a diffuse aura of suffocation.    

This is, perhaps, its chief enigma, the deepest cause of its attractiveness. The painter’s completely personal space, which, precisely by reason of that personal nature, one cannot identify precisely – look, I was here once – and onto which, on the contrary, one can only project a single desire: if only I could belong there for one moment.   

Be it garden or interior, open portal or wide yard, gate or window, wall or table, each space or object in Manuel Amado’s painting serves the concrete purpose of conveying this: that all reality is enigmatic and spectral, and that to penetrate the core of that enigma does not imply dissolving its mystery by bringing it back to the threshold of reason; rather, it must always preserve that indescribable, indefinable quality by simply accepting that it is the enigma’s prerogative to perpetuate itself as such, never once giving in to the temptation of revealing its most secret dimension. 

It is also for that reason that, even though it remains close to the architectural values of the painter’s education, this painting never gives any space or form to a naturalistic, or even realistic, approach.  

On the contrary, it always promotes unreality and surprise, regardless of how figurative its motifs and places may seem to us.   

It is precisely that becoming-unreal of places and motifs, that subtle passage from a figurative order to, using Lyotard’s term, a figural one, that gliding from the recognisable of the landscape to the unrecognisable of the garden, just as time, as it freezes, is slowly replaced by pure spatiality, or that progressive movement of transfiguration that contains the secret of Manuel Amado’s painting, the element that makes it abstract.

And, by making it abstract, I mean, secret, that interior movement that runs through it allows it to explore its most fertile theme: childhood.

The time Manuel Amado suspends is, by nature, the historic time of succeeding presents. What projects itself onto his solar painting, full of transfiguring light, is the secret, mythical garden of childhood.  

Not only of his childhood – the childhood of the painter of these gardens and houses, of these whitewashed walls on which trees cast their serene shadows, of these luminous yards that open themselves to exteriors bathed in an ineffable morning light –, but of all childhoods.     

Childhood seen as a mythical space forever lost, a deeply implanted motive that acts upon all the work of memory and, through it, upon reality.   

For all memory is always, from its very depths, a solemn tribute to childhood, its primal source and origin. That is also the reason why this painting, sunny and luminous as it is in every space it reveals, nonetheless unavoidably displays some traces of melancholy.  

This, I think, is the most invisible, and yet most present as an internal strength, motif in Manuel Amado’s painting. Slowly, it disengages itself out of those solid architectures, which would appear to have never bore any traces of human presence, in spite of being so impeccable, as if carefully groomed by invisible servants or gardeners.

Everything is permanently bathed in that spotless light of childhood memories. 

As for adults, if once there were any here, they were briefly the instruments of that fertile understanding of the world. They inhabited its fringes, for the great inquisitive gaze of childhood was not cast upon them, but rather saved for the careful observation of the endless plays of light and shade, of the mysterious architectures, of the white walls on which intense sunlight drew figures that remained forever still.   

On that transcendental screen, which every childhood sets up, untouched, static and silent places were set, places as cinematic but at the same time as suspended as Alain Resnais’ Marienbad, interiors as dense as the ones in Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander, or walls as irreproachably whitewashed as the ones in Fellini’s Amarcord

Manuel Amado’s cinema, with its endless decoupage of memory and childhood, contains a light that draws with precision every contour, every corner, every box hedge, every line, every window frame and every shadow. Then, that same capricious light moves serenely from the window to the floor, where it causes the waxed boards to gleam and generates new luminous patches that diaphanously light up the surrounding objects, rescuing them from darkness.  

It falls to that light to draw, over the interconnecting whole, the invisible architecture that organises, with meticulous care, the inner contours of his secret garden.