Sculptures Garden

entry: General Conditions

Painting rarefied the spirit

Curatorship: Hilda Frias
After an artistic residency at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, what you see here is the fruit of persistent work and research by Nelson Ferreira. The artist decided to pay homage to the academic artists and their deep knowledge of the art of drawing and painting.
Nelson painted watercolour studies using a challenging technique of alla prima - painted directly looking at the statues, without pencil, just with paints and a brush.

Being watercolours on absorbent paper, the artist has to paint everything without hesitation, without being able to correct any mistakes.
For the larger format canvases painted with acrylic paint, photography was used to create a dialogue between the sculptures and human beings.

The depurated space of the Sculpture Garden takes us back to Islamic or Moorish gardens or even to an ancient Lisbon but, more implicitly, to a medieval Hortus Conclusus, the earthly paradise of the Song of Songs.
The symbolism refers to Mary, virginal, without sin, in a walled garden, the representation of her body, forever without stain.

The artistic residence, without parallel in the history of the Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea, led him to create pictorial works based on the sculptures that populate a unique space where, in the twilight, the shadows create ghostly and diffuse images.
Blue was the chosen hue for these lightfast and water resistant paintings, which may last for millennia and be contemplated by different gazes.

Making his own paints, using modern and also ancient pigments such as lapis lazuli, extracted from the mines of Badakhshan (visited by Marco Polo), in the mountains of Afghanistan, an endless number of hues are achieved in which the hundreds of shades of blue lead to the illusion of multicoloured paintings.
It is therefore a contained, restricted palette, linked to the alchemical symbolism of the use of lapis lazuli. The artist imposes on himself the use of Blue.

A high-quality lapis lazuli stone contains blue veins (lazurite), white veins (calcite) and yellow points (pyrite), which immediately carries us to the symbolism of the sky, clouds and stars.
The "celestial" substance, which was used to paint the Virgin Mary's mantle and which was believed to be a piece of heaven that had reached the earth, was of such high commercial and symbolic value that in Portugal, only Lourenço de Salzedo used it in one painting on the altarpiece of the Jerónimos Monastery.

600 years ago, Cennino Cennini wrote in his treatise on painting that lapis lazuli was the most important of the pigments "noble and beautiful colour, the most perfect of all colours, of which nothing can be said or done that its quality does not surpass" 1

In this cycle of contemporary works Nelson's reverence for the great classical masters and academic tradition is attested.

Hilda Frias
July 2022

1 Cennini, Cennino,1 Libro dell’Arte, edição de F. Frezzato, Vicenza, NeriPozza Editore, 2003