Jubilation at the Fingertips by Ana Sousa Dias, 2014 (en)


I’ll steal from Sofia the sentence that ends her text - “Sharpening tools for jubilation” and begin anew:

Sofia Areal shows forty works from the past year thus sharpening tools for jubilation, a few older ones will be added so that she may feel accompanied. “Accompanied by myself,” she tells me in her studio while showing me the paintings.

Her need for this comfort clearly shows the anxious distress that a new exhibition causes her, particularly if a “new breath” is to be revealed, more “words” in the vocabulary that previously identified her. It is not disruptive, we will still recognize Sofia Areal but the balance is now different and quite intentionally so.

Sofia says that what she seeks today is not a matter of recognition but rather a question of character and cultural affinities. “As time passes I realize I no longer paint like a sort of therapy, but because there is a common thread, a history of art in which I belong. I have something to tell people with whom I have affinities using my vocabulary. As Bertolt Brecht said, people only love that which they recognize. Why speak of trees if they exist? Yes, it’s important to speak of trees because nature will outlast us.”

Balance and intent are two of the virtues that Sofia brings to the walls of Palácio do Egipto Cultural Center in a sequence to which the talent of scenographer José Manuel Reis gives a special meaning. Seven vital virtues conveyed through the seven colours, shapes, textures and materials she gathers here. Because an exhibition is “like a sculpture in which we build ourselves”.

There’s a problem when Sofia and I chat. Now and then we meet at her studio and will start talking about her painting but the conversation soon ends up shooting in all directions, the subject turns out to be life, our lives. It has almost always been like this except on two formal interviews and it’s as if she’s letting me feel the painter’s pulse.

I can clearly see how sure she is about this well thought exhibition anchored on the organised support of her son Martim Brion. She has moved her resting and living quarters to a small apartment and I can sense how she solved problems and cleared complications concentrating all her energy in her big Lisbon studio. Her resolve may waver with her radical haircut or the annoyance of not having her boxed clothes at hand, but then comes the fearless clear stroke with no concern for accidents or drops of paint that follow her movement, filling surfaces, defying voids.

In this new breath, so vital, Sofia makes the grave statement of a life that goes on questioning everything. The timidity with which she grew totally overcome, solitary in the act of painting. She observes herself constantly and tries to explain but it’s in her work that her spirit, at once so demanding and so free, is revealed.

And now, here are the works for us to contemplate, exposing the painter in happy transparency, better even, in transparent jubilation, for the joy she seeks is more than happiness.

Ana Sousa Dias | Lisbon, 2nd September 2014