art close to the public

Rui A. Pereira

The world, increasingly more massified and faceless, instead of valuing cultural identity, tends to consciously standardize all forms of production, basing its existence on consumer objects. It being an unequal fight, obviously, art in general has a decisive role in resistance as a phenomenon of creativity and freedom of creation.

By the hand of Teresa Cortez, we are escorted to a motif which we deem very special, a subject we address with great delight – the tile mural.

This is undoubtedly a peculiar form of expression, a form that differentiates itself even in its production process, which we consider as endlessly creative: piece by piece, tile by tile, the creation is invariably marked by difference, in a process genuinely averse to any attempt at normalization or mere reproduction; in short, no two pieces are exactly identical. The tile is subjected to a whole process of artistic production which is inevitably linked to the multiplicity of its variables: some of them more contingent on the author (her style, the modelling, the painted chromatic values and the firing times), others, more difficult to control (the reaction of materials to different temperatures and among themselves – some blend together, others overlap one another, some become more glazed, others more or less dull).

It is the author, with her sensibility and power of choice, who determines the lesser or greater expression of her future work: whether it will be livelier, formally and visually, or more restrained.

In fact, the ceramist models and paints describing the natural meaning of the creative act: that which pertains to the sensitivity of touch, with the definition of forms bestowed by the fingers to the terracotta, but also to the volume which gradually emerges on the flat surface; in a nutshell, all these details shape and characterize Teresa Cortez’s ceramic work.

Intersection between Rua Saraiva de Carvalho and Rua Azedo Gneco, Campo de Ourique, Lisbon

Polychrome and relief ceramic tile panel opens up before our eyes in the garden of Santo Condestável Church, at the intersection between Rua Saraiva de Carvalho and Rua Azedo Gneco. This is, in itself, a journey through a time punctuated by its people. It is a work that verbalizes, that narrates symbolically significant moments of its History, and substantiates a collective whole that marked and still marks the habitat of that place. Possessing the deepest roots, those roots that support the social essence of each place, it narrates religious and secular events. Here, one breathes in culture, society, politics and the commercial dynamics that nurtures an encouraging spatial existence. The entire upper half of the ceramic mural in question highlights the reason behind a name, that of the Freguesia (civil parish) de Santo Condestável. This is naturally implied in the revolution of 1383/85, with the dynastic crisis, and the glimmer of national independence. Santo Condestável wearing his military uniform signals his acknowledgement as commander of the Portuguese army that defeated the Castilian army in the Battle of Aljubarrota and resulted in the ascension to the throne of the future King of Portugal, D. João I. This narrative represents not only the Man in his political-military sphere, but also the profoundly religious D. Nuno Álvares Pereira, who retired to the Carmo Convent, in Lisbon, where he lived until the end of his days. Recently canonized, his reputation as a Saint was recognized by the Church. On the lower half of this panel, the artist represents the houses and buildings that stand as hallmarks of this neighborhood, with their integration as art in the public space. She highlights the geomonument, the mills, the industrial chimneys, the Parada garden, the military headquarters, the route of the 28 tram, the market, the church, the Europa cinema, the Casa Fernando Pessoa museum, and, as its crown of glory, its patron Fernando Pessoa, but also the presence of António Gedeão with his verse from the poem Pedra Filosofal (Philosopher’s Stone). This tile panel gathers an ensemble of representations that are more or less noticeable according to their size, to the shape they acquired with the ceramic painting and the emphasis granted by the high relief. This work indeed elicits great attention to its every detail, since it includes an immense diversity of iconic information. We may state that the visual impact of the work is attested by a whole formal play inherent in the narrative of the work itself and by a colourful staining that circumscribes its pictorial extent.

Rua Pascoal de Melo, no. 3, Lisbon (Street)

In the entrance hall of no. 3, at Rua Pascoal de Melo, we can find two ceramic panels, side by side, created by Teresa Cortez. In one of the ceramic panels we come across circular faces, curvy lines, rounded shapes, the sun, other suns, waving hair, sea waves, aqua-blue and a white dove. This encounter with this free and fluttery nature proclaims the sunniest season of the year. Lips smile and the eyes are dots that, in twos, summon us to that converging moment. This work combines the most intense ochre colour with the most soothing tone of blue.

The other panel exhibits a whole composed of distinct square shapes. Even though, in its global appearance, the final outcome of this work is the juxtaposed sum of all the tiles, actually, each tile possesses a configuration and a formal application that works according to the logic of a jigsaw puzzle. It is a profoundly organic work with abstracting outlines which, in its blue, yellow and white spotting takes on a tactile pictorial glazing, as the skin on a ceramic body. In the centre, Teresa Cortez circumscribes a blurred shape with rounded contours delimited in an apex. This piece is suggestive of the life of a bird, the petals on a flower, shapes of nature or simply round shapes and vertical lines that are disclosed and converge in this body without, however, establishing an identity of its own.

Avenida da Liberdade, no. 144/146,

Lisbon (Avenue)

Two high relief calla lily with long stems, sprouting spontaneously in the free air that can be breathed in the avenue with long gardens running its entire length, but also in this bulky and seductive plant with its luxurious leaves of many colours, on both its sides, so that they look like a couple smugly showing off! The dark and light greens alternate with teal blue but are followed by orange and pink… with still others in sequence, because this is really a chromatic scale presenting many luminous variables in the glazing.

The crevices on the ceramic plaques give it a skin-like appearance, looking like the pores, like cracked dried ground, merging in the overall plasticity which is unique. Although seemingly restrained is most assuredly accomplished with high technical mastery. We can also observe that, although each ceramic plaque exhibits its own irregular outline, everything has a homogenous appearance: the various details, especially, enhance the peculiar romantic charm of this ornamental representation of nature. We might say that the whole piece was conceived as a scenic space where the two actors, the calla lilyperform the leading roles.

Hospital Privado de Braga (Private Hospital)

These are unmistakable representations of the expressiveness of a flaming love! The artist composes according to a formal play, unexpected, all of it: she adds ceramic plates with different bodies and sizes, creates full painted planes and other more linear ones – some of the hearts appear to be the positive/negative of other hearts, that is, some are composed of roses, while in other instances it is the roses that limit the borders of the heart, a heart devoid of floral elements. We also find in her work ceramic plaques brimming with shapes and colour and others populated with smaller shapes scattered across the marble white background. The general effect the author generates, in this feast of life, is lulled by an asymmetric formal cadence; as such, there is no unified structuring basis, and this is precisely why it is possible for Teresa Cortez to express the diversity of representations of what is most intimate to the human being: the heart, the same heart that is also exposed within this hospital and that pumps the blood of many lives that have passed and will pass through these walls! The heart is life… Full joy!

Hospital Privado da Boa Nova, Alfena

(Private Hospital)

A tile mural panel, each measuring 14x14cm, a repeated work of detail, a work that shows us a few differences in shape and colour treatment.

The formal lines defined by the hand of the one who painted them are spontaneous – the gesture and the expressive spatter of her style can be easily apprehended.

The small overlapping spherical shapes, with the also minute rounded disks, remind us of candy: sweets, lollipops, biscuits and cookies, but, in the midst of all this, we also have the small hearts, the floral shapes and many other elements such as stars, petals, leaves and flowers belonging to a world of magnificent forests. The author’s fragmentation of the work is a sorting of some kind but, at the same time, she binds it together in the diversity of the sketched, the modelled and the chromatic values. This semblance of disorder, however, stirs all the senses: liberates sight, touch, smell and the desire to listen to the sounds of nature.

Hospital São Francisco Xavier, Lisboa

(Public Hospital)

Four essential elements that make up nature; four individual ceramic panels presented by Teresa Cortez: water, earth, fire and air. These natural elements are the basic foundation of human life in the planet, therefore, the fact that are expressed in a place that has as its purpose the constant struggle to keep, prolong and improve human life and health is, we must admit, a more than suited artistic intervention.

Beginning with earth, the author represents the sphere with the water in blue and the land in earthy browns; and the earth watches as, from her womb, a giant tree trunk emerges. The author depicts its branches, roots and leaves arising from the bowels of the earth itself. But this is a place also fit for births; in another ceramic panel, the sun rises to represent fire, with a figure in profile, eyes fixed on the horizon. In the representation of the air we have the presence of a man and a woman breathing it in, and doves flying high near the clouds. Lastly, water and the depiction of currents, sea waves, waterfalls, salty water and freshwater; and a translucent aquatic being bathes in seemingly limpid waters. Four scenes, four moments which Teresa Cortez succeeded in marking with great aesthetic and human sensibility.

Hospital Privado da Trofa (Private Hospital)

A tile mural panel representing the light blue sky unravelling a glimmering dawn and the dimming prelude of late afternoon that lingers until dusk. In the garden, we may uncover many of the colours of the rainbow, yet the petals of flowers in this place are all red, and therefore these flowers are exquisitely suited to accompany us along the life’s blood-tinged journey.

In general, the colours employed are vibrant, contrasting, warm and cool, because they are an expression of life in the universe. This panel no doubt exudes optimism – strength of living, strength of will and good-will, the power of values such as close friendship: the encouragement, the necessary breath so that hope may live on… while life takes its course around here.

Mercado do Lumiar, Lisbon (Market)

Eight alcoves sheltered in its façade, eight tile panels perfectly adjusted to each of these nooks. Before our eyes we have the representation of a market, but the expression of rural nature stands out: the sky, the water, the mustard yellow tones, the shades of orange, the heat of the sun and the crops of wheat and barley, the cattle, the oxen, the roosters and the mother hens, begetters. But the flowers also make their appearance in more than one panel, as well as the rainbow’s bursts of light and colour, present in every ceramic crevice, doing justice to the origin of the name Lumiar: light admittance, sunny! In fact, all the background figures populating these panels appear to be wishing to cross from one side to the other, traversing the whole length of the market; but other houses are further implicit in this story, all of them opening their doors to the great number of friends, the fish that appear to swim in schools, unceasingly, and the flowers that fulfil the role of banners of life, blooming in every home, adding to the enrichment of our last enduring sight, along with all the other animals: that of great and indescribable conviviality.

Mercado do Chão do Loureiro, Lisbon (Former Market)

Located in another part of Lisbon, near São Jorge Castle, still one more work of public art by the artist, a ceramic panel created with the same painstaking framing, both respecting the work’s space and its aesthetic time: a place where we can feel the fragrances of cloves and jasmine. Here we come across the traditional working-class quarters of the narrow streets and alleys, of the fado, and also of the smell and taste of charcoal-grilled fish. This is a figurative work which, from the top of this building/market, towers over all that takes place right there by the Tagus river, at the Mouraria pier.

Mercado de Queluz (Market)

Of the market’s outer panel, the impression that lingers is that of moving hyperactive white spots – some of them merely lines, others large colour blotches and, lastly, on the upper section, specks of colour seem to multiply continuously. On the other hand, on the inside of the market, we find a still nature with fruits and vegetables, from which blooms the green tones of the foliage that stands out across the whole ceramic field. In keeping with what occurs on the outside, something of a magnetic nature stimulates the filaments, in this case the leaves overflowing their frame, seemingly wishing to envelope the whole market and its visitors.

Avenida Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro, no. 85, Lisbon (Avenue)

The scene undoubtedly represents the creation of a remarkably volatile universe: something in it evokes alchemy and the manipulation of chemical substances with the purpose of obtaining new substances. This panel somehow represents the enjoyment of a chimera that turns the dream into a possible reality… In this sense, Teresa Cortez falls back on the man here depicted to unleash the fantasy that lies within her… apparently in harmonious fashion.

Escola Secundária Josefa de Óbidos, Lisbon

(Public High School)

A white vertical tapestry with two blue bands occupying the whole length of its sides, with three illustrated squares equitably distributed across its ceramic centre: earth, fire, air and water. Given these elements, the following question arises: why three squares instead of four for each of the elements that make up nature? However, upon closer observation of the narrative of each square, a plausible answer is readily made plain.

Rua dos Douradores, no. 11, Lisbon (Street)

A ceramic tapestry or patchwork quilt that occupies the entire height and width of a ground-floor store in the centre of Lisbon. This mural represents the summation of an ensemble of geometric shapes, mainly colourful squares and triangles, which abound and overlap according to a special dynamic emanating from this joyful and bright city. It is a work that conveys the scent of Lisbon!

Rua da Trindade, inside no. 18, Lisbon (Street)

Formally, the work is structured according to oblique lines subject to waving movements which cross and mix, becoming undistinguishable from the background itself, also in tones of blue. Yellow, cream, ochre and pink contribute to highlight some kind of linear formal organic, which is dynamic in nature. Although it stands as one more work by the artist based on linear drawing, its whole scope stands out for its visual strength, especially as far as the handling of light, colour and chromatic variations is concerned. (the panel was withdrawn from this place and its whereabouts is currently unknown)

Rua Castilho, no. 24, Lisbon (Street)

One year before the 25th of April (1974), Teresa Cortez is invited to create a tile mural for Banco Português do Atlântico (a private bank), a building currently housing the premises of the Ministry of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security. Surprisingly, the undertones of this work seem to foreshadow the most ardent yearning for a new and fairer society: peace, food, health, solidarity… Suddenly, the sun became the dawn of hope, and the red carnations wanted to open to a new day. The ear of wheat may be the symbol of bread, but from a woman’s womb a new life seems to be born – it is the simple ambition of flying in a more fraternal and peaceful world. This panel, made at Fábrica Viúva Lamego, has a special meaning for the author, since it heralds an immense desire for Freedom… Particularly in the feminine.

© 2020 - 2021, Teresa Cortez