Inspired by Gritty Urban Landscapes, an Emerging Portuguese Artist Grapples with Decay

Apr 4, 2016 8:06PM

Though up-and-coming Portuguese artist Pedro Matos is still a few years shy of his 30th birthday, deterioration and decay have long been two of his favorite subjects.

His latest works may be abstract, but the darkness is still perceptible. Some works look faded, like remnants of a forgotten past. Praise for poets and other artists and Under a pile of winter (both 2016) recall overexposed photos, discarded or set aside. Other pieces, like Deeply Ordered Chaos or you can get it for the rest of your life (both 2016), exude a sense of foreboding. These spare and vaguely haunting works form the basis of “Less Than Objects,” Matos’ new solo show at Underdogs Gallery in Lisbon.

Matos was born in Santarém in 1989 and later attended the Fine Arts University of Lisbon. The urban landscape, often gritty and always in flux, has served as an ongoing source of inspiration. “Looking back to my early work,” Matos has said, “I see it’s much more simple and portrait-based, focusing on social problems I was trying to address. Today, I find my work has become more of a process to raise questions on cultural and social values rather than imposing one single statement.”

The social problems in question are hinted at in the titles of his newest work, such as Efforts to damage and deconstruct (2016). In I was waiting for a rail replacement bus in Hackney Wick (2016), the familiar pattern of a crumbling brick wall is faint but distinguishable. Though it’s not a portrait, like some of Matos’ earlier works, there’s something personal about the painting, as if it were a vignette from someone’s everyday life. This subtlety and emotionally charged yet understated mode of expression helps make Matos such an intriguing artist, one worth following into the future.

Bridget Gleeson

Pedro Matos: Less Than Objects” was on view at Underdogs Gallery, Lisbon, Feb. 19–Apr. 2, 2016.

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