J. M. Bonet / B. P. de Almeida / N. Júdice Three Views on Manuel Amado’s Painting 2004

Transcription of the debate:
‘Three views on Manuel Amado’s painting’ – Library of Sociedade Nacional de Belas Artes, Lisbon, 2004

Presenter: Manuel Fontán del Junco / Host: Emília Nadal

Emília Nadal

Good afternoon to you all. I have the greatest pleasure in saluting our audience, who has come to listen to a most interesting group of speakers who will offer us three views on Manuel Amado’s painting. It will certainly be very stimulating to observe how a painting on mostly objective subjects can inspire so different or so similar readings, and it will be very interesting to follow those views and listen to the positions of art critics, and also a poet, who are all quite familiar with that work.  So, I will start by saluting the director of Instituto Cervantes, Manuel Fontán del Junco, who came to present Juan Manuel Bonet, an art critic well known to all of us. Bernardo Pinto de Almeida and poet Nuno Júdice will talk after him. I shall now give the floor to Manuel Fontán del Junco.

Manuel Fontán del Junco

Thank you very much. I will be very brief. I am here, disturbing the symmetry of the table, because it is very hard to refuse an invitation from Teresa Amado, and she asked me to introduce Juan Manuel Bonet. I accepted, and that is why I am here. 

Introducing Juan Manuel Bonet is not difficult, since he, like Nuno Júdice and Bernardo Pinto de Almeida, is quite well known in Spain and Portugal. On the other hand, to give Juan Manuel Bonet the introduction he deserves, listing all his merits, I would have to talk at great length to comprise all the areas in which Juan Manuel Bonet, like Nuno Júdice and Bernardo Pinto de Almeida, excels in the world of arts and letters. All three of them, for instance, write poetry. All three write art criticism. I would simply like to give you some information on Juan Manuel Bonet’s life and work, and then exchange places with him to join the audience and listen to this discussion on Manuel Amado’s painting.  

Juan Manuel Bonet is the son of eminent Spanish historian Belarte and a French citizen who, among other things, besides having given birth to Juan Manuel Bonet himself, translated Paul Morand’s Venises. I remember that book because it begins by stating that every existence is an anonymously sent letter; mine, Morand wrote, had three stamps: London, Paris and Venice. Juan Manuel Bonet’s ‘letter’ has a lot more stamps: London, Venice and Paris (where he was born, in 1953), but also Madrid, Seville, Lisbon, Porto and many other parts of Portugal, and Warsaw. Some three years ago, when I told him I was going to work in Lisbon, we went to a café, he took a paper napkin and wrote me a map showing certain areas in Lisbon where I could find used book shops and good places to eat, have some coffee and spend time with friends. This quirk of making maps out of napkins is a habit for which Juan Manuel Bonet is well known.  

Now, I will speak of him as an art critic, exhibition curator and as the director of two of Spain’s most important museological institutions: the Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, from 1995 to 2000, and the Museo Nacional Reina Sofia, from 2000 to 2004, which amply proves Juan Manuel’s intellectual excellence, capability and competence. 
As to his poetic, critical and historiographic work, I would like to simply mention the book that, to use a Borgesian phrase, would by itself justify his existence: the Dictionary of the Spanish Avant-Garde: 1907-1936. When I read it – this is the subjective opinion of a reader, not of an expert on the subject – I had the impression of having before me a kind of one-man Barbour Institute, since it contained nearly everything that had happened in Spain, America and many other places, such as Paris, Madrid, Lisbon and certain Latin American capitals, the most important of the time in question. Now that Juan Manuel Bonet has more time in his hands, he is writing the Dictionary of the South American Avant-Garde, which will probably offer us as much wisdom as can be found on the volume I mentioned previously. I yield the floor to him, and I thank you all for listening to me. He will now talk to you about the work of Manuel Amado.  

Juan Manuel Bonet

Good afternoon. I wish to thank Sociedade Nacional de Belas Artes for the invitation, Teresa and Manuel Amado for having entrusted me with writing the text for this catalogue, and Manuel Fontan for his friendly and pleasant introduction. 

In fact, it is always a great joy to be in Lisbon, particularly to speak about the greatest contemporary painter of that city. I greatly enjoy watching the painters in their places – in their houses and studios – and I actually finish the text I wrote for the catalogue by describing the house in which Teresa and Manuel Amado live, which strikes me as one of the loveliest case della vita I have ever seen. Mario Praz’s concept of the ‘house of life’ as the place whose owner always finds whatever they need at hand, the place where a creator finds all the necessary conditions for creation and self-expression, applies especially well to that house by the bridge, from which you can actually see the bridge, situated on a square – a couple of days ago, we were leaving the house; it was night already, and we felt like we were inside one of Manuel Amado’s paintings.  

I believe that a city’s painters, those painters that know how to capture the essence of a city, make us look at it through their eyes. Ever since I came across Manuel’s painting, I have been made to see Lisbon through his eyes. There are other painters, film directors and photographers who depict Lisbon, but I truly believe that we will always look at the Lisbon of today, at the Lisbon of all times, through the eyes of this painter who feels so at home in it. I discovered Manuel Amado’s work in 1995, when Telefónica held an exhibition of his paintings in its gallery at Madrid’s Gran Via. Then I wrote an article for ABC, a Madrid daily paper, in which I wrote that – I think the article’s titled was ‘El hermano portugués’ or ‘El hermano mayor portugués’ – he was, in my opinion, exploring subjects quite close to the ones explored by Spanish painters from a later generation then his own. Two aspects in him drew my attention. First, there was his identification with the city; it is very interesting to see up to what point can one creator identify himself with a city, and then there was that aspect of a painter who follows an independent path, a path other than the one blazed by the avant-gardes, the avant-gardes I have studied so constantly, a painter who takes up the approach of Giorgio de Chirico and those other painters who situated themselves in opposition to the reductionist avant-garde revolution in painting, choosing to root themselves in tradition instead.  

The first aspect, being not just a painter but also a creator of the city, seems indeed very interesting to me. Since the mid-1800s, even though there have always been splendid landscape painters, art has become primarily urban-based. 

The poet commits himself to the city. Léon Paul Fargue, a very French poet, wrote a text entitled The Poet Takes Possession of the City. Since Baudelaire, France has seen many poets of that kind, and there were also quite a few in the Iberian Peninsula – poets that we consider fully synonymous with the place where they live. They could be poets of a great city, such as Lisbon, Barcelona or Madrid, or of a provincial city, and now I remember Luís Pimentel, who expressed the small life of his walled town. But not only poets, there are also photographers – I think of Praz, and then I remember Joseph Sudek, who stated he could only be a photographer of the city – and filmmakers, there are film directors who are only concerned with capturing the essence of a city, such as Walter Luthmann. And painters, of course. There are painters in Italy who only paint one city. A painter of Rome can convey to us such a vision that henceforth we can only look at that city through his eyes.  

The tradition in which Manuel Amado belongs is clearly a metaphysical one. ‘Metaphysical,’ here, comprises more than just the Italians (Chirico and his cohorts); this broader tradition includes the paintings Balthus created during his Parisian stay; and Hopper, the ‘Sunday painter.’ Some of Manuel Amado’s paintings also reference Sunday, that day that seems so suitable to be celebrated by painters and poets. 

With all this, Manuel Amado builds his Lisbon. It is a city which I, too, have always seen as my own. There is one painting, one of the three in the Pessoa triptych, in which night has fallen. And in that painting, the third one down there, in the Pessoan series, our attention is drawn by that lighted window that calls to passers-by. Often, when we stroll through a city, we wonder: what life exists behind that lighted window? But, apart from that painting, it is nearly always day here. It is a city on which the sun casts shadows, and these shadows are extremely metaphysical. He paints streets, sometimes very well known locations, like Praça do Município, Praça do Comércio, or the Tagus quays. At other times, the streets are unknown to us, probably memories of real streets combined into imaginary streets.

Two days ago, I was in his studio near Setúbal, looking at his new, yet unshown paintings on the theatrical world, and I suddenly realised how his explicitly theatrical paintings – which tell us of sceneries, performance locations or backgrounds – are closely related to the paintings displayed here, which tell of Setúbal or Lisbon. By this, I mean that the city itself somehow ends up becoming a stage set, a place from memory, an imaginary location in which the painter, or the viewer, moves around somewhat somnambulistically, without knowing exactly what location is that, or what those porticoes, streets, corners and mysterious shop windows are. More than being just anonymous or devoid of concrete identity, these sceneries have also lost their characters; they are practically empty of them. And now, when, in his theatrical series, those characters that are nearly absent from the rest of oeuvre reappear, they are not flesh-and-blood characters, they are just theatrical props, cardboard figures.  

While writing about Manuel Amado’s Lisbon, Cardoso Pires tells us of the domestic serenity this city radiates. Indeed, this is a city where nothing special happens, where nothing takes place, where there are no historical facts, only the essence of the city as it is represented. I think that these depictions of the streets of Lisbon are just as Lisboan as Manuel’s interiors. These interior scenes, with their suitcases, trunks, armchairs, and sometimes even such common and present-day objects as a television set, also inevitably put us in mind of the city that now hosts us.

He also paints Portuguese gardens and Portuguese railway stations. The latter belong in a realm that is easily identifiable with the metaphysical tradition of Chirico, who painted many railway stations. His other subjects include houses by the sea, the neighbouring city of Setúbal, and – in what is perhaps the most surreal-flavoured of his series – the flood that ravaged Portugal some years ago.  Recent series, displayed here, feature still-lives, done in accordance with a thoroughly metaphysical approach to the objects, which make up very enigmatic groups, with each of the depicted objects becoming a kind of character. A theatrical character, in keeping with the vision he made his own, as displayed in his remarkable latest series on the theatre.    
To conclude my participation, I would like to mention that, as is the case with all great painters, Manuel Amado needs very few elements to make his statements. He is a painter of essentials, a painter who, as is frequently the case in modern figurative tradition, sometimes shows something of an abstract outlook, because when reality is reduced to very few elements you can attain that degree of essentiality found in abstract painting, be it Mondrian’s geometric tradition or the sublime tradition of Rothko. In Amado’s case, if we had to find the essence of his work, something to keep as a kind of memento of the whole, we would only need, in my opinion, a shadow falling across a building’s front, as in that 1999 painting entitled Sombras na Fachada, part of the ‘Mateus Palace’ / ‘Casa de Mateus’ series. To me, this picture is the essence of his painting, and in some way the essence of his vision of Lisbon and Portugal. The same could be said of a work like They Are Probably Already Here, from the ‘Setúbal’ series. Also in this painting, which was chosen for the catalogue’s cover, some shadows lightly fall on the door of a house, and these two pictures bring to my mind certain fleeting shadows of certain beloved poets. More specifically, in my text in the catalogue I referenced some verses by Paul-Jean Toulet, a poet for whom I and Nuno Júdice share the same affection, a poet whose work was also greatly appreciated by Borges and Octavio Paz, a poet who also strove for essentials. 

To conclude, I believe that Manuel Amado’s Lisbon was already there before he started painting it but, since he started painting it, his indispensable pictures have been teaching us to see it, through his eyes, in a different way. 

Bernardo Pinto de Almeida

First of all, I am very thankful to Sociedade Nacional de Belas Artes for their invitation, and certainly to Teresa and Manuel, because they are very good friends of mine; on the other hand, it is obviously a pleasure for me to sit at this table with two persons I greatly respect and admire, and whom I have long known: my old friend Juan Manuel Bonet and the poet Nuno Júdice. So, to be here is, on many levels, a great source of pleasure and honour. I found it very interesting that Juan Manuel has just confirmed a hypothesis I have often considered over the years: that Portuguese art can only achieve international relevance when it is seen from the outside, for apparently it is traditional for us to neglect our artists, just as we neglect our poets. It is very interesting, indeed, that it should be a Spanish (in this case) art historian and critic, whose learned and important position in the world of European art is well illustrated by the many posts he has held, to present here a reappraisal of Manuel Amado’s painting through an approach that is, shall we say, disengaged from the one we usually have here. That validation from outside seems to me, then, essential, and I find very interesting the fact that Juan Manuel can offer us such an enriching reading of Manuel’s work, because I believe that work has been unfairly judged here, in Portugal. By this I mean that, even though it certainly enjoys public acclaim, being very appealing in itself, with a huge power of attraction, it has not received, as is indeed the case with other very important Portuguese artists, the internal attention it deserves. Thus, I have every reason to rejoice in the fact that a historian as celebrated as Juan Manuel is presenting this exhibition by Manuel, and I believe that this must be emphasised.   

Now, I would like to refer directly to his statements to say that I think that this notion of turning Lisbon (and Setúbal, too) into a central subject in Manuel’s oeuvre is part of a tendency that has never really gone away in 20th-century Portuguese art. I will briefly mention two or three examples of that – only to give some context to this short assertion, which I would like to set aside for later conversation – such as Carlos Botelho, or, from the 1950s to the mid-1960s, Nikias Skapinakis’ paintings, or also the pictorial production of Maria Keil, which is interesting on every level. All of them are artists who, within the context of 20th-century Portuguese painting, opted to cultivate the urban landscape genre.

Now, would that be enough to justify speaking of a ‘School of Lisbon,’ in the same sense that we can speak of a School of Paris? It would be a fun hypothesis, just something I would like to leave hanging around. But what I would really like to do, and thus avoid repeating the subjects treated by my colleagues, is to deal briefly with two or three topics. I am certain that the references of Manuel Amado’s painting surely include the names already mentioned by Juan Manuel (Morandi, Hopper and other), as well as certain contemporary Spanish painters, like Antonio López García, whom I believe are part of the same spiritual family, painters who admit that painting was concerned with conveying certain moods, certain ways of looking at reality from a different perspective – Chirico certainly, probably before all the others, and I would add Marguerite Duras to that list... It may seem as if I am trying deliberately to sound offbeat, but it is not so.

Duras made a motion picture called Son nom d'un Calcutta désert, in which, over the exact same soundtrack used in India Song, perhaps that writer and filmmaker’s most famous film, completely deserted sceneries are visited and revisited. It is quite interesting to look at the cinematic quality of Manuel’s painting in connection with, for instance, Duras’ films; not only with the abovementioned movie, though we should start with it, but also with other stances Duras has explored in her cinema, namely the attempt to understand or, if you prefer, to move this into a much more contemporary sphere, the installation that currently occupies the rooms of Tate Britain, a work by Bruce Naumann, who decided, as a tribute to John Cage, to not show any pieces on the walls or the floor, but rather let voices be heard by the visitors, as they walk through the exhibition. And, if you wish to afterwards visit Manuel’s exhibition in that frame of mind, you will probably experience a similar sensation, that is to say: you can hear voices when looking at Manuel’s painting.  Due to its very lack of inhabitants – and I find that to be one of its enigmas, one of its most surprising features – it generates at once a kind of clamour around itself, while being profoundly silent in itself. It is, indeed, precisely because of this being a painting that inspires such a deep silence that we in some way are led – imaginatively led, of course, because the imagination roams free in a room full of paintings –, to hear voices. Voices that, in the end, could also be the exhibition’s visitors talking and coughing, or even our own inner voices, talking inside of us. And there, I think, is where the poetic importance of Manuel Amado’s painting resides, I mean that which in it is able to awaken, in each of us, the ability to hear voices that would normally be outside our range. This is one of the topics I would like to leave to your consideration. From the outset, there is a ‘trick’ (something that occurs on the level of style) in Manuel’s painting that leads to a second enigma. I would like to explore these enigmas, because I already had the opportunity to write on his painting, and even before I wrote about it, it kept raising questions in my mind. So, following the fact that it raises questions in me, I notice that this set of questions – which has been growing over the years, as I follow his work, which I have always done very closely – takes in my mind the shape of what we would call an enigma. Since I never manage to find answers to these questions raised in me, I bring you more questions than answers. Then, we have a second question – I have an hypothetical answer for this one, maybe Manuel will be able to enlighten us later – in Manuel’s painting there is a kind of trick, which occurs, as I have said, on the stylistic level, and which consists in the following: Manuel is indeed a painter, and there the Hopper connection becomes extremely clear, and the Morandi one too, in a way. In spite of possessing a remarkable technical skill, which is sometimes evident in what he does, I mean, of course he is a painter who knows what painting is, and knows full well the art he practices, in some way he always leaves his paintings in a state that precedes (and that always comes across very powerfully), a state that immediately precedes what would be the finished painting, that is to say, he explores a certain amateurish look, letting himself be taken for – and that, I believe, is why the critics have failed to understand him as well as they should, because it is somewhat ironic at the same time – he lets himself be taken for an amateur, a Sunday painter, who seems to be telling us: ‘that is the best I can do…’ And that apparent ingenuity, this kind of seeming detachment towards painting, creates in the viewer, the viewer who is going to look at his paintings, a kind of perplexity, for that painting seems to stop one moment before it is finished. Now, in a long-course painter like Manuel, who has already provided sufficient evidence that he is in full control of his art, this is indeed an element of style, clearly separating his pictorial universe from those of other painters. And then, even though his painting is apparently naturalist, it immediately stops being so because it generates a kind of naiveté that is actually a completely calculated effect, being caused, not by incapacity, but by the suspension of the act of painting right at the moment before it could become, for instance, the source of amazement before so much skill. And that ability to hold refrain, freeze, interrupt his work before it becomes a reason for, say, applause, shows that there is something in his painting that resists a smooth finish. In that, he is deeply modern, bringing in a modern quality with his very refusal to give in to his own talent and ability, holding himself back, doing a ‘retard’ instead of a ‘regard’ as Duchamp would say, to quote a 20th century source, and thus generating an effect that somehow makes an impression on the viewers, leaving them perplexed. Just another topic I would like to leave you with.   
Now, on the subject of Juan Manuel’s description of Hopper as a ‘Sunday painter’ – Manuel Amado’s work is a little like an uninhabited Hopper. Take Hopper’s pictures, erase the figures – it is easy to do now on Photoshop, and you get something similar to what Manuel intends to do, and to what he often does. In his best work, on those moments he reaches the highest level in his painting, he enters that dimension. That is quite visible in his Pessoa triptych: Pessoa’s room, when vacant, is probably the room of Pessoa’s heteronyms. It is interesting, indeed, that he chose to paint three pictures – probably one for each one of the best-known heteronyms – because the Pessoa absent from the room is, in a certain way, the Pessoa of heteronymy.

Consequently, in that sense, the picture is evocative of what the Surrealists – and here the Magritte reference becomes quite evident – termed ‘imaginary portraits.’ In fact, Manuel’s painting has much in common with that kind of portraits. Now, the imaginary portrait, by its very nature, as we know it at least since Dalí painted Isidore Ducasse, the Comte de Lautréamont, is precisely the one that cannot display the face, because it is the absence of that face that allows us to imagine possibilities. And it is quite amusing to take another Portuguese artist who somehow is constantly dealing with similar subjects as Amado’s, Nikias Skapinakis, whose latest series focuses precisely on the rooms of several artists (Morandi’s room, Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso’s room, Egon Schiele’s room), which also are depicted as completely unoccupied. It is, indeed, quite amusing to see how much, at certain moments, certain constellations are revealed between Manuel’s and Nikias’ paintings and the work of other artists, waving at each other from afar.  What I want from an artist, in the end, is just that common ground, in the poetic sphere, in the cultural realm, that more or less expanded common ground on which they can wave at each other, acknowledging that we are all here together. This becomes very interesting when, for instance, Manuel brings in – as he did in his flood series, which strikes me particularly – the presence of water. The usual spaces of his painting suddenly appear flooded, I mean: these are not spaces unknown to us or to him, he continues to paint precisely the same locations he had painted before, but in a somehow Magrittean way, he brings a new dimension to them, which cannot be fortuitous, the dimension of water. And that form of flood allows me, I think, to address the final subject of my communication: how much of Manuel’s painting is connected to memory. We all know, at least since the Greek myths, how all representations of water are also representations of memory. Consequently, whenever water appears as a visible element, it somehow systematically evokes, from Greek myths to Jungian archetypes, the dimension of memory. It is rather interesting that water, in these paintings, while it may at first perplex the viewer, it does not shock at once, because there is a kind of upheaval operated by the image, emphasising how everything in Manuel’s pictorial space displays a deep, extremely powerful reflection on the subject of memory and, of course, since we are dealing with memory, on the subject of time. This will be, then, my last topic. Manuel is a painter of space, that much is obvious on a first reading: Manuel paints spaces. Now, while that is evident at first sight, the fact is that what Manuel actually paints is not space – because these spaces either do not exist or, if they do exist, they are not sufficient subjects in themselves for the paintings; for, I think, time is what Manuel actually paints, and therein lies the greatest enigma of his painting, the one that has troubled me most ever since I became acquainted with his painting and began thinking about it. Manuel is one of the few Portuguese painters who have dared to tackle the subject of time. Indeed, through these vacant spaces Manuel suggests a possibility of representing time, for time is something we do not know how to precisely represent, time being in a certain way irrepresentable. Now, through this way, this form, this intelligent take on the representation of spaces, especially using this kind of diaphanous, attractive lighting, we find ourselves at a certain moment as if we were being sucked in, and that is what a picture must do, it must suck us in, it must generate a space to suck us in; we are sucked into that space and find ourselves confronted – like what I was saying to you at the beginning, about those voices we start hearing within ourselves – we find ourselves fundamentally confronted with the question of time. It is this skill of Manuel’s, which allows him to convey time through space, or to spatialise time, that makes him in fact everything but the naïf painter he would like to appear as, or whose mask he employs to disguise himself, being an extremely discreet man, who does not like to parade himself about, who has a kind of genuine modesty – this is, then, one of the masks he uses to ease us in, because his painting possesses such deeply meditative and intelligent features that we need to slowly let ourselves be drawn in by its intimations in order to be able to face the manifold dimensions onto which it opens. 

Nuno Júdice

Thank you for having invited me to speak about this painting; we have already had the opportunity to hear it described as a relationship with space, a relationship with the past and a relationship with time – three dimensions that are essential in Manuel Amado’s painting – and Bernardo Pinto de Almeida has added to these another dimension: the enigma. 
I would begin by asking a question: 
In what world are we, in Manuel Amado’s painting? 

I remember that some, many, years ago I really enjoyed reading science fiction; and what attracted me most in those books was, perhaps, the post-apocalyptic universe: depopulated of humans, after some cataclysm or war, Earth had been reduced to a scenery in which extraterrestrial beings, travellers from other galaxies, would discover surprisingly beautiful images.

As I look at these paintings by Manuel Amado – streets, squares, façades, windows, house interiors – I return to that post-something world for some moments, before entering the true core of this painting: representation. What is represented here, then? First of all, the tradition of painting itself. There is a thoroughness in the reproduction of reality that comes across as ‘provocative’ in these times dominated by ‘bad painting’ and ‘arte povera’, which are often no more than cultural artifices used to disguise dishonesty and incompetence in technique and aesthetics; and there is also the championing of a tradition that begins with the Primitives and the Renaissance, focusing now not so much on the foregrounds, which featured allegorical human figures drawn from religion and mythology, but rather on those background windows, which open onto empty architectures, indulging in the simple pleasure of drawing, from nature or otherwise; then, it proceeds through the discovery of still-life, from Mannerism and Baroque times to the Flemish masters, transferring to the object the subjective quality invested in it by the viewer’s eye; and continues into modernity, from an ironic revival of the 19th-century pompiers to the finest Surrealist painting (from Chirico to Magritte and Delvaux), finishing with a reference to the highest instances of realist art, such as Hopper.

Manuel Amado offers us, indeed, a learned painting, aware of its past; but his inventiveness comes through in his choice of the cycles that organise this depiction of contemporary emptiness. Sceneries, in fact, are what he shows to us: but in this staging of the world, things become Ionesco-esque protagonists, conveying the absurdity not of the image in the paintings, but of the reality that probably lies at its source. Thus we have these streets, free of people, cars and pollution; or these houses, empty of their inhabitants’ daily lives; or the water, that, when the floods come, cleanses and purges the inhabited space; or even Pessoa’s room, in its phantasmatic nakedness, where the only life is the one transmitted by the change in lighting, from morning to night – here, we can also find a (perhaps unconscious) allusion to Andy Warhol, who filmed New York in a day-long, single shot, focusing only on the changes generated by the passing of the day: they give us the visual richness of an inexhaustible painting, in spite of the simplicity of the process, in its musical, baroque repetition.  

In fact, Manuel Amado uses time as the basic material for his painting. That time comes from the gaze – a gaze that, like the gaze of the Impressionists, thrives on natural chronology, in which the seasons and hours dictate the world’s form; but it is also a time which the individual can subvert via the artificiality of the lights or shadows that move through the interiors, lending to the object a phantasmatic personality that touches and questions us with its unexpected and ever-surprising presence.   

Curiously, therein lies, in my opinion, the subversion in Manuel Amado’s painting. That presence of the gaze, in its absolute evidence, frees us from the second intentions that dominate all the contemporary art market. The questioning of the world does not come from the social, aesthetic, commercial concerns which shape that universe; it comes instead from within painting itself, and from the gesture of the hand that grasps that gaze to project it onto the canvas, that gesture that, in the end, is the very essence of the act of painting. What Manuel Amado brings us, then, is a return to the solitary contact of the viewer with the painting, in its most immediate simplicity; and in that solitude I return to that sphere of science fiction, in which a visitor from somewhere else lands on Earth to confront, alone, the architecture and nature of a vacant planet.   

The world that Manuel Amado gives us is, then, a post-apocalyptic one; and we, in the end, are the extra-terrestrials who walk among these images, afraid of violating their absolute beauty and perfection – and, after that, we walk into the streets, where the real apocalypse awaits us.