The exhibition Looking at Seeing and (Not) Reading by Fernanda Fragateiro at East Central Gallery (October 1st to November 05th, 2010) was the artist's first solo show in the UK.
Throughout her career, Fragateiro has been engaged in examining the relationship
between space and object through the means of architectural structures and
interventions. True to this notion, the exhibition included a few site-specific works,
in which the artist reacts and relates to the gallery's different spaces.
Additionally, as part of an on-going major current investigation, Fragateiro utilises
books in many of the shown works. Used for their physical volume, as well as symbolic
containers of ideas and knowledge, the books are a selection of titles, which are
meaningful to the artist either in their context, or in their specific ownership history
(many of them come from libraries of certain deceased individuals, some of them being
Visually, she uses the books as objects with sheer presence as 3-dimentional structures. According to the artist,
"the first view of the works installed in the gallery space challenges our perception of
objects as lines, plans, colours, and creates a relationship which facilitates a purely
visual and mental engagement with the objects. As in Frank Stella's saying 'what you
see is what you see'"
But, clearly, the artist is also interested in the intellectual impact of the works and their
symbolic meaning, in what she calls "presence in absence", challenging our perspectives
of different subject matters-by-association, such as minimalism and conceptual art,
abstract painting and colour field painting, architecture and urbanism, access to
knowledge and the place of art history in the way contemporary art is practiced and
"Ironically minimalism, as an act of negation towards both aesthetics and social values,
was also the negation of meaning. I use meaning as a working material. In this
exhibition, when getting closer to the works, it is possible to recognise them as found
objects: the abstract colour plan which, from a distance, looks like a suspended, flat
colour painting is, in reality, a collection of hard book covers...books as volumes, like
boxes carrying special contents: meaning, history and time", refers Fernanda.
In some of her book pieces, the artist cuts the edges of the books, giving the outer
dimension a graphic texture. She calls this newly-added effect 'a found, readymade
secret drawing: "the drawing was there, I have just turned it visible", explains Fernanda, as famously
defined by Art and Language's Mel Ramsden: "The content of this painting is invisible;
the character and dimension of the content are to be kept permanently secret, known
only to the artist". The artist is yet again calling to attention what is remained when
looking at the intellectual aspect of the work: "suddenly, I forget about form".
In her choice of name for the exhibition, Fragateiro marries two different existing titles
and refers to a title of another show.
(Not) Reading is the first portion of the title given to many of Fragateiro's recent book
pieces, while the second half is taken from John Berger's seminal 1972 critical
publication "Ways of Seeing". Not only does the artist declare the book as one of the
first art books she has ever possessed, but also has used her own copy of the book to
create (Not) Reading Ways of Seeing, a 8-pieces wall installation, which is part of the
The title is indeed a direct reference to the 1993 exhibition "Looking At Seeing And
Reading", curated in Sidney, Australia, by the late artist and theoretician Ian Burn,
another member of the Art and Language group.
(...)Not so the series of works whose titles define, only with gentle irony, the stance of
subtraction and refusal that is so central to the work of Fernanda Fragateiro: not to see,
not to think, not to touch, not to link. These determine a programme of privation that
cannot be taken entirely seriously: of course we look and see, we think and touch and
make links. Yet the works oblige us to slow down in our experience of them, and are
inspiring precisely in escaping the dogmatic and formulaic. They invite us, finally, to
engage with them in ways that mobilise new sensory expectations, and new forms of
Ruth Rosengarten. (2009). The Art of Relating: Fernanda Fragateiro in Context.