Who is the artist who represented Portugal at the Venice Biennale?
José Pedro Croft he is one of the great figures of contemporary Portuguese sculpture. Its simple, practically minimalist structures develop a complex relationship with the viewer's perception. He has exhibited regularly since 1981, having held his first solo show in 1983 at the Diário de Notícias Gallery. The time he worked for João Cutileiro was a determining factor in the development of his artistic practice. He has represented Portugal several times at the Venice Biennale and his works can be found in the collections of the Center Georges Pompidou in France, Fundação de Serralves, Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Secretary of State for Culture, Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, among others.
José Pedro Croft was born in 1957 in Porto, however he currently lives and works in Lisbon. Between 1976 and 1981, he attended the painting course at the Escola Superior de Belas Artes in Lisbon. During the 1980s, he worked with João Cutileiro , thus being influenced to create sculptures, mainly in stone, which referred to the tradition of funerary sculpture. As the artist himself revealed:
“ João Cutileiro was like a master for me, he provided me with good technical training. So I had my first exhibition: a series of monkeys on stone pedestals, which were actually modeling exercises. Minimalism was something I came into contact with when I was already at school, but only in books. It was, for me, at the same time cryptic and fascinating.”
The glass and the mirror in the sculptures of José Pedro Croft
From 1980 onwards, he began to explore other elements such as plaster and bronze, representing basic everyday utensils. In the following decade, stone work was abandoned, increasingly incorporating the use of simple and geometric shapes and introducing the materials associated with his work to date, transparent glass, mirror and bronze. The Portuguese artist was thus known for his sculptures made with industrial materials, such as wood and metal, with glass and mirror surfaces, where vibrant strong paints are often applied that establish an intense play of light that creates tension between the work and the space in which it is located. is exposed. Through an economy of means, his sculptures combine the material nature of the object with its formal aspect, using the effect of light, shadow and reflection in order to create new volumes and change the perception of the surrounding space. This vision is strengthened through other means such as the use of industrial paint, thus giving the perception of relief painting. Architectural compositions, whether three-dimensional or flat on paper, are always built on delicately balanced forms and on the dichotomy of positive and negative space which, for the Portuguese artist, “reflects the transience of the universe”. In the words of José Pedro Croft himself, the interest of his practice: “ lies in its nuances and small differences, and not in the attempt to fit it into a specific line of work ”.
In drawing and painting, three-dimensionality is approached through a very simple form, the rectangle. As the artist himself stated in an interview with Rui Jorge Martins:
“In 2002, during a retrospective at Centro Cultural de Belém, in Lisbon, I began to look at all the work I had done over 20 years and realized that, whether it was drawing or sculpture, I had always been working in rectangles or boxes. Suddenly, everything was clear. It was like choosing a rectangle to talk about everything. I work with this geometric shape, but I may be talking about ethics.”
From the two-dimensional to the three-dimensional: sculpture, drawing and engraving
In José Pedro Croft's artistic path , sculpture, drawing and prints are languages that complement each other. In two-dimensional and three-dimensional works, the spatial issues are the same: repetition, points of tension and stability, weight, density, recombination of compositional solutions, additive processes, subtractive processes, migration from two-dimensional practices to three-dimensional practices (and vice versa), use of specific materials from the two-dimensional and three-dimensional fields. On this subject, the artist refers: “ When I work in two dimensions, I work in engraving or in drawing; and I work on exactly the same spatial issues as I work on sculpture ”.
Currently, the work of José Pedro Croft is widely known for his sculptures and reduced geometric paintings. We realized that the Portuguese artist is a sculptor par excellence and that all his work, whether in sculpture, engraving or drawing, is intrinsically interconnected. His works can be found at various institutions and at P55 .