That Awkward Moment Between Birth and Death

Solo Exhibition at Underdogs Gallery, in Lisboa, Portugal.
13th of November 2020 – 19th of December 2020

“Ah, if only I were who I am… What a triumph that would be!”
– Mário de Sá-Carneiro, 1908

This was the year when everything was interrupted. The year when we were forced to stop, to turn towards the interior (of our homes, of ourselves), to leave outside the echoes of the world and face what we really carry within us, what really makes us, what we really are. The year when, being so used to constructing and projecting our image, especially in its online dimension, through a meticulous curatorship – embellishing, aggrandising, hyperbolising, sublimating –, we were forced to embrace reality, to look at our emotional baggage, to confront our fears, to learn how to deal with uncertainty, to accept the limits and shortcomings which, in spite of everything, make us more, and not less, human.







The reflection that Mário Belém brings to his second solo exhibition at Underdogs Gallery, in the form of an entirely new body of works, takes stock precisely of these two extremes that consume us daily in the relationship we have with our own identity – of a raw reality and an enlarged reality, of truth and fiction. Above all, of the need that impels us to create new, and simulated, realities for our public persona, of the act of hiding ourselves behind multiple layers, of, as the artist himself highlights, “always wanting to be more fantastic than we really are.”





Playing with the very stratification that gives shape to these actions – a gesture that also extends to the poetic imbrication present in the titles –, Mário Belém materialises here a set of visual narratives with a universal scope in pieces with various formats that blend the mediums of painting and sculpture in wood, visual representation and the written word.





A profusion of allegorical and symbolic details – spread in a dissimulated way throughout the intricate layers that give shape to the more sculptural pieces (such as the series of fake hunting trophies which, in a mordant and ironic form, speak of defects projected as virtues), or in a more evident way in the pantings (each of which weaving a small story that, in a more serious or more playful form, speaks of emotional or aspirational contexts, of the construction of personality or of the baggage we carry) – supplies a set of clues that indicate the veiled construction of a whole, of a composition where a message prevails, a manifest truth with echoes of our own reality that should resonate, in a more or less admissible way, with each of us.




The result is an honest observation which, in the context of this new reality, invites us to accept and embrace life – that strange and awkward moment between birth and death – simply as it is. To be – just like the modernist writer Mário de Sá- Carneiro aspired to in the sentence that inspired Mário Belém for this show – simply who we are, free of constructions or artifices… What a triumph that would be!
Miguel Moore














Artwork Photos: Rui Aguiar
Exhibition Photos: Ana Pierce