“Is there really anything sillier than a man behind a glass window? Glass seems to let everything through. It stops only one thing: the meaning of his gestures. It is transparent to things and opaque to meanings.” Jean-Paul SARTRE
In football slang, to refer to a player as a “matreco” (a table soccer figurine) is the same as to call him a flop, a dead weight or a loser: it refers to someone who does not know what he is doing on the field. There is a hint of tragedy in these figures. They can be described as simple pieces in a game. But they could also be described as little lead men, attached to an iron spike, condemned to repeat the same gestures over and over again. They are, therefore, tragic, absurd figures. On their humble scale, echoes of Sisyphus or Prometheus in chains. A “matreco” has no metaphysics. I had never thought of this. He is defined by what he does and not by some essence that confers meaning on him. A foosball game is a playful activity. I believe there are great affinities between play and art. They are both voluntary activities, which take place in a limited, pure space and time, subject to their own rules. Their outcome is both uncertain and inconclusive: what happens in the area of play should have no consequences in real life. They are therefore, at their genesis, fundamentally non-productive activities. In short: a game of table football is essentially an unproductive and inconsequential activity. The same could be said of the act of painting.
Maia Horta's exhibition consists of three painting installations: large canvases with portraits of foosball players; monotypes on paper with portraits of players, on walls and in drawers. The monotypes are the result of paintings made on glass. Some of the matrices still survive, others not. We can find one of these paintings under the entrance glass, facing outwards. There is in the dented faces of the foosball players the dignity of an old photograph: some seem to smile at us; others seem almost surprised by such unusual attention. Their wear and tear become distinguishing marks within their anonymity. In the monotypes we witness the inversion of this logic. These are images originally taken from collections of cult football players as stickers; the player as football god, hero, and otherworldly. Here, however, the figures lose their iconic value and what remains is only the sticker image. Painting is a physically, emotionally and economically exhausting task, most of the time an ungrateful effort. It demands a constant confrontation with one's own limits and always walking on the edge of the terrifying shadow of ineptitude, meaninglessness and failure. I believe that for Maia Horta - consciously or unconsciously - these portraits acquire the weight of an existential ordeal. We see in them an effort to make sense of the very act of painting, which for a painter is compulsive, and for that very reason senseless. Painting: why, for what and for whom?
Albert Camus said that everything he learned about morality he learned from the football field. I wouldn't go that far, but I recognize that there is a lot of wisdom in his quotation. "Predictions can only be made at the end of the game". "Football is eleven against eleven, in the end Germany wins". "We played like never before, and lost like always." Most of these expressions offer us a sweet, sympathetic fatalism at the pointlessness of it all. All we can do is hold our heads up high and think about the next game. What else can we do. Only then can we imagine something resembling meaning. I like football jargon. Of all of the jargon, my favorite expression is: "Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that.” The same could be said of Painting. Jorge André Catarino
1. Jean-Paul SARTRE, introduction to The Stranger, Albert CAMUS, Livros do Brasil, Lisbon, s/d, p.31
Above: Dream team, 2020/ 2021 monotypes (unique prints) oil on Fabriano Rosaspina paper, each 50 cm x 70cm