This is a Bar... ou Praia de Banhos - Joaquim Bravo, Turismo e o Algarve

Works by Joaquim Bravo, Álvaro Lapa, António da Cunha Telles, António Palolo, BRANA, Cristina Motta, João Cutileiro, Jorge Mealha, José Miranda Justo, Maria Altina Martins, Patrícia Almeida, Peter Jones, Rosa Jones, Vera Gonçalves, XANA and Zé Ventura

“MARINAS”, an exhibition of works by BRANA, opened to the public on the 10th of September 2020 at Ascensor, Associação Goela, in Lisbon. BRANA is Joaquim Bravo’s (1935-1990) pseudonym, a name used by the artist to sign the six colourful works, showcased in the exhibition (made somewhere between the ‘70s and the ‘80s). They were, allegedly, made to sell to tourists at the beach.

That same day, Portugal would once again be removed from the UK’s list of safe air corridors, rekindling nationwide dismay over the economy’s dependence on tourism. Algarve has been specially affected — it’s the only continental region where unemployment continues to rise, even after two years since the pandemic first hit.

Joaquim Bravo, born in Évora in 1935, was an artist and teacher living in Lagos (Algarve) for most of his life. His work and career reveal an inordinate capacity for enthusiasm, surprise and communication regarding art and life, drawing and painting. When Bravo moved to Lagos in 1966, one of his jobs was as Caddie Master at Hotel do Golfe da Penina (one of the many jobs created by the recently inaugurated Five-Star Hotel, the first in the region). At the time, due to the state’s efforts to encourage tourism (inseparable from the reaportuguesamento project, carried out since 1933 by the consecutive Secretariats of National Propaganda, in order to program the Regime’s ideology), a new image of the Algarve was established, promoting the paradise-like landscape as a place of tradition, authenticity, History and peace; set for international tourism. From the 1960’s onwards, Lagos became a touristic centre of the country and the site of a gathering for artists whose works and trajectories reflect the social, economic, political and urban development of the region.

Building on the intention of “Marinas” and heavily guided by Bravo’s archive, This is a Bar... ou Praia de Banhos – Joaquim Bravo, Turismo e o Algarve unfolds an artistic and social (rather than historical) perspective over the last fifty years of a vivid art scene, revealing associations in Bravo’s path that extend beyond the reciprocal exchange with (and lasting influence on) other artists, colleagues, friends and acquaintances and their surroundings in Lagos. By bringing together works and documents intrinsically linked to the region, this exhibition seeks to entangle the subtle relationships between art and tourism in Portugal, highlighting several artistic strategies and reactions to the changes brought about by touristic mechanisms in the Algarve since the 1960s.

Each of the four rooms of the Pavillhão Branco correspond to an environment resulting of several months of research, collection and exchange with artists and their representatives in Lagos, Salema, Sagres, Alvor, Monchique, Évora and Lisbon:

1. Padrão

In 1973, João Cutileiro (1937-2021, Lisbon) completed Lagos’ most iconic public artwork for Praça Gil Eanes. Once a roundabout, the Gil Eanes square is located in the historical town enter, a short distance away from Avenida dos Descobrimentos (inaugurated by the regime during the Henriquinas celebrations in 1960, aligned with the Algarve’s reformulation as a tourist centre) and a few meters away from the statue of Infante D. Henrique (by Leopoldo de Almeida), and the one of Lacobrigense navigator Gil Eanes. Curiously, the icon sculpted by Cutileiro for the heart of Lagos is Estátua a El-Rei Dom Sebastião (transl. Statue to King Dom Sebastião), following proper traditions of “roundabout public art” conduct, and fortunately dethroning all other proper traditional standards associated with public statuary practices in Portugal. Lagos rose to the status of city and was named the capital of the Kingdom of Algarve in 1573 by Dom Sebastião’s decree. It is said that, when he set out on the disastrous journey to Alcácer-Quibir in 1578 (causing a monarchical succession crisis), he departed from Lagos.
The town holds a special place in the so-called Portuguese Discoveries an in the country’s colonial history, which can be felt in the public space. On a promenade through Avenida dos Descobrimentos, the celebration of this heritage is palpable; one finds examples of statist statuary and modern monuments to old national and regional “heroes” — a stubborn, reoccurring thematic persisting to this day, in spite of the disruption caused by Cutileiro’s Dom Sebastião in 1973. Lagos is a case in point of how the historical link between nationalistic myths and tourism endures to this day.
Cutileiro’s work has been the subject of vastly documented controversy, and its difficult reception by the public has, over time, become a semi-joke. The clumsy figure that portrays Dom Sebastião, stripped from symbolic references to heroic myths, and looking frail-bodied next to his disproportionately large helmet, marked an aesthetic and political change that, a few months before the Carnation Revolution, already lingered in the air.

The Sebastianist myth lives on in seaside Lagos. The profiles by Cristina Motta (1963, Lisbon), outlined against an immense blue, recall the expectation inherent to maritime perils that has so deeply shaped the western Algarve over the centuries. It is said that after the disappearance of Dom Sebastião in 1578, the people who dreamed of his return would often gather at Alto de Santa Catarina and anxiously gaze out to the sea. But the King did not return by sea, or in the fog - possibly giving rise to the Portuguese equivalent of “watching ships go by”. Artistically shaped by exchanging with other artists in Lagos (through Miranda Justo, Xana and Bravo among others), Motta has worked intermittently as an artist since 1987, the year she became a regular visitor of Lagos.

The sense of waiting is echoed in the work of Maria Altina Martins (1953, Luanda), who incorporates historical references as an act of transmission and contemporary renewal of mythologies. The representation of the Avis flag through tapestry refers us to other epics in which the slow process of weaving alludes to notions of resilience and hope, equally present in the propagated Sebastianist myth.

As opposed to the heavy tradition of verticality and elevation in statuary, the suspension of the hollow, fluid and colourful verticality of Zé Ventura’s (1956, Lagos) woven columns replaces the pedestal with the lightness of emptiness — taking on particular importance in response to the obelisks that insist on being erected throughout Portugal.

Vera Gonçalves (1955, Lisbon) moved to Lagos in 1978 after being a par of Útil Pedra cooperative, Cutileiro’s workshop-based initiative in Lagos, and established herself as a sculptor. Like much of her work, As Pedras, as Madeiras, e as Flores stems, in her own words, from “hours alone in the deserts of empty tides, searching for that shape, or that colour, what the sea brought me or what came out of the earth’s bowels”. In a circular arrangement, the polished and balanced overlays – results from millennia of wear and tear from the sea, - are brought together, supported by organic pedestals over a bed of bougainvillea petals (a South America native, brought through the sea, named after French colonizer Louis de Bougainville). Between altar and offering, the piece’s shape is reminiscent of Vera’s intervention at a roundabout on Avenida da República (Lagos), inaugurated in 1999 as part of the 25th of April celebrations (Monumento Diálogo, Liberdade e Democracia).

If, since 1973, public sculpture in Lagos shows little inheritance from Cutileiro’s aesthetic and symbolic disruption, Vera’s Monument is the exception to the rule. Also Bravo, in the context of the urban rehabilitation program of the Lagos waterfront in 1980 (and certainly inspired by the preponderance of roundabouts in public art projects), proposed the construction of Círculo da Paz - a circle on the ground, delimited by black stone paving, within which no aggression could ever take place; a utopian and “anti-fascist par excellence” place. The proposal was never carried-out.

João Cutileiro, “D. Sebastião (sculpture model)”, 1972, Marble, 55 x 17 x 17 cm, col. Tiago Cutileiro

Vera Gonçalves, “As Pedras, as Madeiras e as Flores”, 2005, stones, wood and bougainvillea flowers, dimensions variable

Cristina Motta, untitled, 2018, acrylic on canvas and collage, 60 x 50 cm

Zé Ventura, “Transformação, Mar II and Night Lights I” 2014, 2009 and 2008, textiles and fibres, 240 x 20 Ø cm

2. The Magic Places

The opening of the grand and expeditious development of Faro’s International Airport in July 1965 is a critical moment in the Algarve’s history. Three years after Salazar decided to clear a smooth, undisturbed way for its construction (encouraging major investment early on), the Algarve was now an international, connected destination. Still an ‘unknown paradise’, but ready to be explored.

Milu (Maria de Lourdes Cunha, 1940, Angra do Heroísmo) and Joaquim Bravo met in 1959 during his compulsory military service at Terceira Island. Marrying the following year, they move to Lagos in 1966 due to the growing touristic economy. Hotel do Golfe da Penina, the first five-star hotel in the Algarve where Bravo would later work, opens that same year in Monte de Alvor, founded by John Stilwell, a British businessman and frequent visitor of the region. The golf course — the first 18-hole course in the Algarve — was designed by Sir Henry Cotton (leading golfer of his generation), who also brought the iconic Pacific Donkey, Penina’s resident caddie - a marketing strategy that sought to accentuate newly introduced modern practices. The nomination of the Algarve as an international luxury destination was mainly seized upon by British tour operators; favourite destinations included Monte Gordo, Praia da Luz and Lagos. In December 1968, Paul McCartney went to Hotel Penina at 1h30 in the morning to exchange some money. The members of, “Jotta Herre”, the resident band, immediately recognized him and invited him to join them on the bar’s stage. The result of this impromptu session was Penina, a song written and offered to the band by McCartney.

Penina, one night
Drinking liquids, drinking music
Time has come, fill my heart 
Beat the drums, take me home
Help me, friends, free my sou

Penina by Paul McCartney, 1968

The hypnotic mirror ball, the neon lights, the collective drunkenness, the empty dance floor at the end of the night – all of this is part of a typical artificiality of seasonal nightlife environments, particularly characteristic to Mediterranean seaside resorts. One wishes for an endless summer, sings and dances, and when morning comes, the spoils of the previous night are brought to light, and with it a faint decadence — inherent to holiday time and to lazy days in the sun. In the Portobello series, Patrícia Almeida (1970-2017, Lisbon) recorded the environments evoking these experiences; love letters to the offsprings of mass tourism, at the mercy of the comings and goings of heterogeneous crowds, and to the places and locals that stay behind.

Jorge Mealha’s (1934-2021, Mozambique) Curves, like sleeping bodies resisting to external conditions, appear to be continuous without beginning or end; like a Moebius strip or an ouroboros, they occupy the floor space like monuments to an eternal summer night.

Over the counter, the drawings by Margarida Rosa Jones (1942, Lagos) compose a masked ball - the various facets of strangers at the bar counter, or the individual experiences of fiction induced by a desire to become another. It reads, on the back of each: “Along your path you will meet every day millions of masks and very few faces”. During the ‘70s, Rosa worked in the tourism sector in relation to golf; first at the Lagos Tourist Office, in front of snack bar Abrigo (meeting point for several artists in Lagos), and later for Henry Cotton and at golf clubs in Austria or Switzerland, where she drew during sleepy hours. José Miranda Justo (1951, Lisbon) was also part of Bravo’s inner circle, after meeting in 1973 as teaching colleagues in Lagos and with whom he regularly discussed arts and literature. Their great friendship and exchange stayed strong until Bravo’s passing. His painting JB X 4 consists of 4 bottles of whisky, 4 bottles of JB, 4 bottles of Joaquim Bravo.

Rosa Jones, from the series “Máscaras”, 2009-10, 10 drawings, pastel on paper, dimensions variable

Joaquim Bravo, “THIS IS A BAR”, n.d. felt pen on paper, 21 x 30 cm, col. Maria de Lurdes Cunha

José Miranda Justo, “JB x 4”, n.d. oil on wood, 125 x 240 cm

3. To Continue Living...

Between 1960 and 1980, the urban and territorial development of the Algarve coastline was almost unstoppable. The hotel and real estate industry paid
little attention to what already existed, with the exception of certain areas of historical and cultural importance such as Lagos or Tavira. The construction of new large hotel and housing developments grew uncontrollably in areas such as Armação de Pêra and Quarteira, getting as close as possible to the sea (on cliffs or sand) and creating serious environmental problems. Through lack of foresight or lack of interest, the unsustainable and expansive building for the sake of tourism (guided by advertising and aggressive economic strategies) became anthropophagic, resulting in the “destruction of tourism by tourism”.

The operations of Serviço de Apoio Ambulatório Local (SAAL) — a state project to build affordable housing created after the 25th April Revolution — allowed for the construction of Bairro 25 de Abril and Bairro 1o de Maio, both located in Meia-Praia in Lagos. This State-funded project predicted a cooperation between inhabitants, volunteers and architects to rehouse people from fishing communities — who participated in the self-construction of their houses — allowing for further expansion of the housing spaces, if needed be. The residents to be re-housed in the Algarve received the SAAL project with special urgency and great optimism. However, Bairro 25 de Abril remains the only neighbourhood of the SAAL project that continues without land allocation, deeds or proper infrastructures; it is part of an endlessly drawn- out process over land ownership and legal permits. A cement wall separates the neighbourhood’s boundaries from the Palmares Resort golf courses, which stretch from several miles inland to reach the dunes of Meia-Praia — accentuating the consequent social and spatial inequalities of unbridled hunt for territory and commodification of public space.

Bravo photographed part of SAAL’s construction processes. António da Cunha Telles (1935, Funchal) also records the events in Continuar a viver... ou os Índios da Meia-Praia, from 1976, an ethnographic documentary for which Zeca Afonso wrote the song of the same title. In the shadow of the same canopy, a second moment of Patrícia Almeida’s Portobello projects onto the wall - 80 slides of abandoned lands; territory which is either embargoed or under construction; golf courses; or the detritus of tourist activity.

Each individual piece of Ventanias, by Vera Gonçalves, is named after a collateral point of the Wind Rose. Steel and pieces of driftwood, of unknown origin, are collected by Vera in a ceaseless search for materials to build with; as Bravo cut out his photographs, Vera records material processes of building and negotiation.

Areia para os olhos by XANA (1959, Lisbon), an edification of red plastic buckets forming a translucent barrier, was presented for the first time in several Algarve beaches as part of the ALLGARVE’08 program. Created in 2007 by the Ministry of Economy and financed by Turismo de Portugal, Entidade Regional do Turismo do Algarve, the local authorities and privateentities, ALLGARVE sought to respond to the cyclical instability caused by the seasonal nature of beach areas. This strategy, aiming to supplement the region’s well-known offer (sun and sea), presented a set of cultural initiatives (concerts, gastronomic events and contemporary art exhibitions) spread across several municipalities. In retrospect, the memory of the project, which ended in 2011, is not a peaceful one. This foreboding flop might’ve been due to the misguided efforts of rebranding the area, which brought the aggressiveness of touristic expansion back in the spotlight.

Vera Gonçalves, “Ventania SO, Ventania NE, Acalmia and Ventania SE”, 2008, 2007 and 2006, steel, paper, driftwood, whiteand blue paint, dimensions variable

Joaquim Bravo, untitled (SAAL drawings), 1977, graphite and collage on paper, 21,5 x 30,5 cm each, col. Maria de Lurdes Cunha

4. Souvenir

The souvenir is a witness of past journeys. The more touristy an area becomes, the easier it is to translate it into a portable object, or a recurring image, or a logo. That’s why postcards (or any type of landscape framing) persist as the ultimate souvenir. Due to its sheer scale, the souvenir industry disseminates clichés and visual strategies meant to bottle travelling and spatial nostalgia and pack it into symbols.

In Bravo’s words, his “(...) works are not friendly, not wink-wink, not well seasoned”. Over decades of artistic work, Bravo never sought to ease the reception of his works - on the contrary, it’s understandable that he didn’t care for what’s attractive, or anything remotely approaching souvenir-style images. Bravo’s most well seasoned works are not even his. The six “Marinas”, signed BRANA, depict the coastal Algarve: the dawn at the beach, light gently reflecting on the ocean underneath, turning the blue waters purple; rock formations emerging from the still sand are quickly sketched through layers of Indian ink and oil pastel. They excel precisely due to their decontextualized misplacement in Bravo’s vast oeuvre and, in dichotomy, because of their backstory and their commercial intent. BRANA is therefore a compromise between Bravo’s aesthetic quest and his projection of what would be attractive products for holidaymakers, beachgoers and other casual buyers.

Facing the precariousness of the Portuguese art market, many artists based in the Algarve resisted institutional indifference by relying on tourism. Opening their ateliers, establishing galleries and shops, these artists came across new mechanisms of financial and artistic emancipation. Although “lonely”, this path provided a particular independence, common to the collectives of artists who inhabited (and inhabit) the touristic space.

As it happens, BRANA or Bananata’s (pseudonym of XANA) search for anonymity is quite contrasting to Vera Gonçalves, Zé Ventura and JorgeMealha’s pursuit for a horizontal trade of their work. In their paths, the crystallizing hierarchies of artistic mediation have been blurred, and intermediary agents dismissed.

In 1980, Vera and Bravo were involved with the rehabilitation project of two Army spaces (supported by Major Mendonça da Luz, Manager of the Lagos Military Mess). Integral to the social and historical contextualization of Lagos, the former Slave Market and the Regimental Warehouse were thus reformulated; the first as Slave Market Gallery, the second as a multi-usecultural space, reacting to the total lack of exhibition and cultural venues around Lagos. Both spaces became important meeting points, regularlyexhibiting regional and national artists (some of them exhibiting solo for the first time, like Vera and Zé Ventura); the Slave Market Gallery project would culminate in the creation of the Lagos Biennale (1982, 1984, 1986 and 1988), a meaningful cultural landmark.

In 1988, Vera opens her studio to the public for the first time, designed with a solid identity. VER, with its logo, posters and pamphlets, is advertisedsimultaneously as a space for work, exhibition and sale. In 1994, Vera went on to open Terra à Vista — a gallery in the Marina of Lagos — where for the following thirteen years she presented her works and those of other contemporary artists. The logo, shared by both spaces, is allusive to thePhoenician eye – commonly used as a good omen by the small fishing boats of the Portuguese coast. In the same spirit, Jorge and Janet Mealha had also founded Casa dos Oleiros in 1981 (Lagos), where they dedicated themselves not only to the creation of unique pieces and ceramic sculptures, but also to the education and training of national and international artists. In 1998, they open JJ Mealha Galeria in the centre of Lagos. Not far from JJ, one finds Jorge’s striking tile panel at the entrance to the Marina Bridge from 1994 — one of his numerous interventions integrated into public urbanism. The eight flower drawings (studies for possible panels) evoke visual trends of the 1970s, from the times Jorge Mealha travelled through Europe and settled in Lagos. The two panels, set between the two glass-brick windows of Pavilhão Branco, present themselves as public art on a domestic scale, moving along with the recurrent fascination with azulejo, its glazed quality and the way it was incorporated into 20th century Portuguese architecture.

Speaking of ateliers that are shops and dispensable hierarchies, Zé Ventura began weaving in 1981, developing an organic practice merging painting,drawing and fabric. Once a month, Zé opens her studio in Monchique (in a former bank building); the ground floor functions as a reception and gallery where the paintings, wearable works and other useful art pieces are shown. Her coats are woven like paintings, in a happy limbo that quiets some of the apprehensive attitude that artists working with weaving or fabric often encounter. On some of his “textured paintings”, as she calls them, there are labels on the collar: the logo is her signature, and her labels function as a direct translation of her authorship as a brand.

If Bravo had a logo, it would be a Duck; or Pato-Bravo (transl. Pato = duck, Bravo = wild,) — an expression used, according to Priberam Dictionary to designate a duck other than a domestic duck, or a person who does construction work of dubious quality, or even a wise guy or a swindler, — a “nickname” that would stick to his life and work. One of his best-known and better-seasoned works is O Pato, from the Gulbenkian Collection, and other ducks were found in random objects from his archive. For the postcards, printed in series (the ideal souvenir), Bravo synthetizes the duck’s head turning to the horizon.

On one of his frequent visits to Lagos, António Palolo (b. 1946-2000, Évora) filmed O Pato de Joaquim Bravo (transl. Joaquim Bravo’s Duck), a short improvised testimony to Bravo’s transformation into a duck, or Bravo’s birth through a duck. In the same vein, it was also Palolo who photographed an experimental happening of Bravo with his son on the beach (a mixture of waves, sand and paper rolls), explaining the intimate and generous approach to experimental artistic practices by which the two understood each other. Álvaro Lapa (b. 1939-2006), also from Évora, paints Morada in the Algarve. The landscape, somewhat desolate, comes to us as a record of his time in Lagos, punctuated by plans for future projects with Bravo and Palolo that never came to fruition. And Palolo, Lapa, Espanca, Bravo and Rosa are featured in “Yellow House in the Algarve” another studio of the South, by Peter Jones (b. 1943, Hawarden, Wales) alongside himself (and his dog) in a group portrait, displayed on an easel as seen at the entrance of studios, pottery shops, street painters’ stalls, or souvenir sellers.

Peter and Bravo met at the Penina Hotel in 1969, becoming close due to a shared interest in books, which eventually expanded to painting; Instigate by Bravo, Peter started to paint. A professional golfer, he travelled most of the year (with Rosa) to Austria and Switzerland, returning to Lagos to paint whenever possible. Since his retirement and permanent move to Lagos in2010, he has devoted himself mostly to portraying his long-time friends, in a lengthy and detailed process of representation; Peter seeks to recreate or pay homage to his memory of figures, re-purposing photographs from different origins, in what can be interpreted as a souvenir for himself, or of his own life.

The documents and ephemera gathered in the tent are examples of interventions that challenge the notion of what the souvenir is and how it plays with nostalgia. Additionally, they are in themselves trophies of adaptation and resourcefulness facing these very issues, raised firstly by the institutional independence and great self-initiative of some artists.

Zé Ventura, “Movimento de instantes coloridos, Oceano Pacífico, Mil folhas, Oceano Atlântico and Desenrolar dos dias”, 2000, 1998, 1993, 1998 and 2001, textiles, dimensions variable

Jorge Mealha, untitled (studies for tile panels), n.d. 8 drawings, ink on paper, 15 x 21 cm each, col. Janet Brown Mealha

Peter Jones, “Yellow house in the Algarve, another Studio of the South”, 2018-21, oil on canvas, 130 x 130 cm

Joaquim Bravo, untitled, n.d. collar on canvas with frame by the artist, 41,5 x 41,5 x 13 cm, col. Maria de Lurdes Cunha

Jorge Mealha, untitled, n.d. tiles mounted on wood, 91 x 60 cm, col. Beatriz Gomes

curated by Diogo Pinto

Text by Diogo Pinto and Mariana Tilly

Photos by João Neves

Galerias Municipais

Pavilhão Branco, Lisbon, 2022

Exhibition Catalogue