Untiled (It’s a Hard Rain’s a-gonna Fall), 2017
Pen, Indian Ink, Solvent-Transfer on Paper
59 cm x 42 cm
André Catarino's thematic concerns, exploring subjects such as human-inflected landscapes and late capitalist ruins, and appropriation of other media composition techniques and reproduction systems (especially past photographic and cinematographic techniques) puts André Catarino in a central vein of Western thought and art-related concerns, which connect him to diverse names and oeuvres such as Atget's, Walter Benjamin's and the Bechers's.
“Landscape," as of course, is always already a human category, a section and separative bloc acted upon the natural biosphere, one that reveals cultural conditions. The portability, as it were, of landscape creates, paradoxically, a distance from, and a classification of, nature. Catarino's particular choice of represented scenes – trainways, mining structures, abandoned civilian buildings or military installations, monumental ruins, or vestiges of abandoned industrial and capitalist goods – reinforce the coherence of the artist's research. Point in fact, André Catarino's insistence on the theme of ruins and destruction, frequently through fire (which allies itself neatly and pertinently with his choice of materials and chromatic outlook), links him in many other ways to the work of German philosopher Walter Benjamin.
This is especially true where Benjamin's “mortification of the object” is concerned, through which the task of the critic (or, in this case, the artist as a cultural and historical critic) is to, following Benjamin's alchemical metaphor, sift through the ashes in search of the fire. Or, under the auspices of Baudelaire's influence on Benjamin, how a close yet destructive attention on the surface, the skin, the ephemeral beauty, that is to say, its “historical content,” opens up the way to its “truth content," its eternal qualities. Looking at Catarino's drawing, one must go beyond the representation of these derelict landscapes, a sort of fleeting fetishism or enthusiasm for catastrophe, and rather realize the limit of human endeavor, in a sort of postponed sublime.
According to Jean-Luc Nancy, a landscape is the opposite of a background, it is a pure surface, in a positive sense. Catarino explores such surfaces, in pristine shapes, in order to demand the reader-spectator's own task of sifting through the drawing and gaze upon the weighty timelessness beyond whatever human traces seem to impose themselves.
Lecturer at ESAD, Caldas da Rainha, Ar.Co, Lisbon
and critic of graphic novels and artist books