Pedro Chorão


Opening: 27 outubro, from 18h to 20h
Exhibition: October 28th to November 19th 2022
Monday to Saturday 2h30 pm to 7 pm
Rua Serpa Pinto, 19, 1200-443 Lisbon


by José Sousa Machado

The poet Yvette Centeno composed eight Koans for the paintings by Pedro Chorão from the series “Ventanias”, now on show at Galeria Sá da Costa; eight aphorisms of Zen inspiration whose aim is to enable practitioners of this spiritual discipline to reach “enlightenment”.

The purpose of these subtle poetic notes is not to provide any definitive truth, in the same way that the eight paintings by Chorão to which they refer only enclose in their material support the content of their own individual existence, as they are born and thrive in the course of time, engraving on the canvas the vibration of that unique sensitive experience; the restless and tense brushstroke spilt in contained spasms, echoing in the surrounding space in muted tones, sometimes revealing, sometimes concealing the multiplicity of overlapping shades… enquiries, accidents, memories.

Not even the flaming outlines that wind vertically over the throbbing magma of the painting’s surface reveal any intention of crystallising into immediately identifiable structures. Their power is rather that of a living, full energy “that unleashes

through a series of contemplative movements the determination of all forms… indistinctness without limits” (Maria Filomena Molder, “O pensamento da forma”).

Just as the Buddhist koans are instruments used to break away from the paradoxes and appearances of reality transmitted by our senses, favouring instead a continued meditative work for the correct apprehension of immanent reality, Pedro Chorão’s painting has also always manifested a unitive vocation, using an apophatic working method, evident in the stripping away of means and materials used and in the extreme simplification of the composition.

Sometimes we even get the feeling that the painter, throughout his long and very productive artistic career, always painted the same picture, or in other words, he was always, in each new painting, going back to the beginning, facing the same questions, with the same astonishment, without giving a decisive importance to the ballast of knowledge meanwhile accumulated by years and years of intense work… just like the koan that catapults us to enlightenment by confusing our minds with impossible ideas, counterposing to them intuitive qualities averse to rational thought:

A bee in the flower:
Does it seek the honey or the colour?

The branch that breaks

Under the strongest wind

A bare trunk
Firewood to another life

In the rainy autumn The glow of dawn

In black and white
The soft breath of form

You can’t kill the Wild Duck He flies with our soul

A branch:

an arm that bends over seeking your embrace

a shattered body

“8 Koans”, by Yvette Centeno (on Pedro Chorão’s “Ventanias”)

But if plastic stripping and simplicity, both in form and colour, are a recurrent characteristic in Pedro Chorão’s painting, the artist nevertheless claims for himself the “absolute need for concrete references”, because the world of pure forms is conceived by him in the image of the world of sensitive forms, stripping these of their accidental variations. This need to be rooted in concrete reality brings Pedro Chorão closer to the perspective that Mondrian expressed in “Natural reality and abstract reality” (1919-1920), when he imagined a conversation between a naturalist painter (x), a layman (y) and a realist abstract painter (z), on a moonlit night outdoors, in a vast field.

Exclaims Z – How peaceful…
Y – So nature still touches you?
Z – If it didn’t touch me, I wouldn’t be a painter.

Y – Since you haven’t drawn nature for a long time, I thought it meant nothing to you.

Z – On the contrary. Nature touches me deeply. I just paint it differently.

Pedro Chorão

Born in Coimbra in 1945. Between 1963 and 1967 lived in Liverpool, where he became interested in painting. He studied History of Art at the École du Louvre and at the École Pratique de Hautes Études, Sorbonne, Paris (1967-1968). Between 1968 and 1972 he did his compulsory military service, spending two years in Cape Verde. His passion for painting intensified after his return to Lisbon, seeking lessons from painters who were friends of his father, namely Luís Dourdil and António Dacosta. He graduated in Painting at the Escola Superior de Belas-Artes de Lisboa in 1976. He was awarded a grant by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Paris (1976-1978) and in Lisbon (1987-1989).

His artistic career would develop with great regularity over the years, with participation in numerous group exhibitions and a long list of solo exhibitions in galleries and institutional spaces, in Portugal and abroad, where the two complementary exhibitions curated by José Luís Porfírio, in 2016, where a selection of works from his over forty-year career was presented, stand out: at Torreão Nascente da Cordoaria (EGEAC, Galerias Municipais, Câmara Municipal de Lisboa) and at Fundação Carmona e Costa, Espaço de Arte Contemporânea, Lisbon. This initiative resulted in the publication of an extensive and meticulous catalogue, Pedro Chorão: o que diz a pintura – obra 1971-2016, which provides a comprehensive overview of his artistic path.

Heir to a multiplicity of references, Pedro Chorão’s painting is located on the border between abstraction and figuration. “By the time of his first solo exhibition, at the age of thirty, the artist already had a plastic discourse well structured in an apology of expressive elementarities, deve- loped with great coherence […]: the preference for poor materials, the austerity of the gestures of registration and even the choice of visual elements capable of giving visibility to the central core of his poetics – the abstract evocation of space through the geometries of the paint planes, the depths of the colour stains and the atmospheres of light. A retrospective look reveals a longsettled structure” 1. His working process “develops in thematic cycles, not so much through iconographic incidences but through the exploration of plastic themes that obviously lead to dif- ferent structures of meaning. In a simple way, but with maximum expressive capacity, the planes suggest approximations and distances, places inside and outside, earth and air, references that enhance an infinity of experienced situations but that are not attached to any description”2.

1 , 2 – in Paulo Henriques- Introdução ao catálogo da exposição retrospetiva “As Formas do Gesto”, Casa da Cerca, Almada, 2002.

Sem título da série Ventanias, 2021
Acrílico sobre tela / Acrylic on canvas
 130 x 162 cm
Sem título da série Ventanias, 2021
Acrílico sobre tela / Acrylic on canvas
 130 x 162 cm
Sem título da série Ventanias, 2021
Acrílico sobre tela / Acrylic on canvas
 130 x 162 cm
Sem título da série Ventanias, 2021
Acrílico sobre tela / Acrylic on canvas
 130 x 162 cm
Sem título da série Ventanias, 2021
Acrílico sobre tela / Acrylic on canvas
 130 x 162 cm