Julião Sarmento combines fragments of photographs and texts with his graphic images executed in graphite. Human silhouettes, architectural images and words are subjected to the same process of obliteration, effected by means of a cinematographic approach to framing the subjects, an unfinished gesture or a thick layer of acrylic paint that swallows them up. The artist tells us that the subject is “that which is not there.”
An open window on possible narratives and relationships, his painting invites the viewer to give free reign to her or his imagination and the voyeuristic pleasures of the partial glimpse.
Julião Sarmento's careful focus on texture and materials also turns his works into an act of materiality.
The artist exploits a huge variety of combinations to create a series of works with recurring motifs: an archetypal woman with no face, modernist architectural images, plant-like lines and references to literature and the cinema.
Bataille's eroticism, Raymond Carver's American stories and Fernando Pessoa's “disquiet” all provide signposts to the dramas bubbling beneath the surface of Julião Sarmento's art.
“It's all about setting the tangible sensuality of skin against the domesticity of home, the fetishist power of a word against the propriety of an explication. Against the peacefulness of a finished image, promoting the interminable procession of image upon image,” writes art critic Alexandre Melo.
Born in Lisbon in 1948, Julião Sarmento studied painting and architecture at the Lisbon School of Fine Arts. In the 1970s, he began to develop a method combining painting, video and sound and modelled installations. He has taken part in over a hundred exhibitions throughout the world. Julião Sarmento represented Portugal at the Venice Biennial in 1997. More recently, his work has featured at London's Tate Modern, with a dedicated Artist Room, the Malaga Centro de Arte Contemporaneo in Spain (2010) and the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati (2011). The Fundaçao Serralves in Porto has scheduled a major retrospective on the artist for spring 2012.