“In suggesting this, I am suggesting that Príncipe is a master of the understood and that perhaps what may at first read seem vainglorious, is to be understood and resolved by his humanity”
André Príncipe is an artist working in Lisbon, Portugal. His work could be conceived of by thinking through the tenets of the documentary tradition and also the personal diary. His images feel fast and often of a nighttime passing. I would suggest that there is a brilliance to his work that advocates a condition of ephemerality. It is to satisfy Príncipe’s experience through documentation, but it also feels universal as if he wants to suggest that our lives are lived in a frenetic and fast-paced world-it is not tectonic, but more like a carousel with images popping and flashing before our eyes licensing our desires and matter of fact daily routines. In suggesting this, I am suggesting that Príncipe is a master of the understood and that perhaps what may at first read seem vainglorious, is to be understood and resolved by his humanity.
When entering the Galeria Carlos Carvalho space, I am taken with the sparse hang of Príncipe’s work. I am familiar with his books. I would remind the reader of his book Elephant published by Pierre Von Kleist, a publishing collective that he also is part of. This work is beautifully compressed as is the case with many of Príncipe’s books. There are many images. The books feel like life journals, ways to see the artist as a young man through the moments of his adventures and through the eyes of his lovers and friends. He is also a gifted portraitist and many of his images of people feel as though they are wrenched from an open dream-they feel as though they are “real” and yet they are viewed through the veil of somnobulae-a ghostly film in between our awakened self and our nocturnal slumber. To see so few framed images on the walls presents an interesting proposition for Príncipe’s work.
The images that the artist and gallery have chosen are from various bodies of the artists work. Within, there are some key images such as his rhinoceros photograph-a portrait of the famous animal that Albrecht Dürer once drew without having ever laid eyes on the beast. Here in Príncipe’s image we are asked to view the prostrate animal as if from a drone over the zoo enclosure from where it rests. It asks us about perspective and history alike. Another important image is the images of the colorful, yet dreamy waterslide photograph with its imperfections, light leaks and gem-like palette that again emphasizes the unreal. Blown up to large scale, the image feels at once inhabitable and yet, illusive as if its existence can only be found in strange volumes dedicated to travel in faraway lands-something Príncipe knows much about.
“Blown up to large scale, the image feels at once inhabitable and yet, illusive as if its existence can only be found in strange volumes dedicated to travel in faraway lands-something Príncipe knows much about”
A further selection of images does not consider people or animals at all and the palette is drained of “life”. An image of the open sky with clouds forming a cool grey moment holds our attention as we look unsure if we are looking up or as if placed on the gallery wall we are being sucked into its vortex. Perhaps it is beneath us and we are caught like Icarus in flight to this inhospitable moment. To accompany this image, there are images of winter hinterlands as the Germans say. Areas behind buildings that ask us to consider temperature and expectations of what constitutes a photographic moment all together. These are the brilliant and soft images in which if you are not careful, you will let their significance pass you buy. They are the key images charging the ionosphere at work in Príncipe’s highly-charged world.
The exhibition though visited before lockdown and sadly now difficult to see, is a fine example of taking an artist whose book-making practice is often the first thought and removing them to the wall where less is more and where one can spend time falling into his images. In a sense, with André Príncipe you have an artist who is adept at measuring the success of the volume of images found in his book equally to that of their stripped back potential as seen in this exhibition. I highly suggest if possible, to come see this dazzling work of brilliance. André Príncipe is one of the foremost artists of his generation working in Portugal.
Exhibition Review by Jack Bartok