Hugo Canoilas. Sculptured in Darkness

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This individual exhibition features an immersive and sensory installation that follows a research around the sea floor initiated by Hugo Canoilas in 2020.

Hugo Canoilas was invited by the Centro de Arte Moderna to develop a project for the temporary exhibitions gallery in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. The exhibition and installation Moldada na Escuridão (Sculptured in Darkness) proposes a sensory and immersive experience, pursuing a line of investigation that the artist began in 2020, relating to the ocean and life on the seabed, one of the most extensive yet unknown territories of Planet Earth. Canoilas uses this paradox to emphasise the limits of our knowledge and the complexity of western culture’s relationship with nature.

The installation by Hugo Canoilas stimulates a full body experience that also incorporates the entire space. The darkness of the gallery dramatises the seabed and its potential for wonder and the unknown, making our sight a secondary function whilst creating conditions for the emancipation of the other senses. On the gallery’s floor, sculptures of glass, acrylic resin and textile and tactile objects build layers that accumulate and superimpose, like sedimentary strata. It houses a series of ecosystems, in which each object-thing-creature acts on the other, losing its autonomy and unique identity.

The artist creates a fluid circulation between the objects, but also between the processes of making paintings and sculptures, using natural methods of fixation, without moulds, welcoming the unexpected and the effects inherent to the qualities of the matter and the materials he incorporates in his works, also mimicking the creative processes of nature.

The title of the exhibition – Sculptured in Darkness – alludes to the text ‘The Gray Beginnings,’ a chapter from the work The Sea Around Us (1950), by Rachel Carson, a writer, marine biologist and seminal figure in the environmental movement of the mid-20th century. This text is a scientific study that poetically narrates the formation of the ocean, the birthplace of life on Earth, and is published in Portuguese and English in the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition, along with a text by the curator and previously unpublished photographs of the works, taken by Daniel Malhão.

Curator: Rita Fabiana




Hugo Canoilas lives and works in Vienna and New York.

Recent individual presentations of his work include Buoyant, Galerie Martin Janda, Vienna; On the Extremes of Good and Evil, curated by Rainer Fuchs, mumok, Vienna; Cnidarian Polyps Repaired by the Eye of the Observer, curated by Ricardo Nicolau and Marta Almeida, Serralves Museum, Porto. Canoilas has been contributing with his work in institutional exhibitions at Kunstverein in Hamburg, De Appel in Amsterdam, Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna, Salzburguer Kunstverein in Salzburg, 30th São Paulo Biennial in São Paulo, the 4th Ural Industrial Biennial in Yekaterinburg, and Vienna Biennale For Change in Vienna.

His work has received critical reviews in the magazines Mousse, ArtReview, Observer, Frieze, Metropolis M, FlashArt, Kunstforum, Contemporanea and in the newspapers The Guardian, Público and Expresso. Canoilas was co-editor of OEI #80–81: The Zero Alternative: Ernesto de Sousa and some other aesthetic operators in Portuguese art and poetry from the 1960s onwards. He’s developing The Grotto, a collective project at Quadrado Azul Gallery in Lisbon. Canoilas was the 2020 recipient of Kapsch Contemporary Art Award.


Photo: Nikolai Nekh

Complementary Programs

Siblings of the sea and the forest
Projection of film ‘Theodora or the Progress’, by the collective Alpina Huus
Lecture with Chus Martínez and talk with Hugo Canoilas, Elise Lammer e Chus Martínez, moderated by Rita Fabiana
sex, 25 Mar 2022, 17:00

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