x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Gil Heitor Cortesao investigates into the modern

The exhibition Coming Home by the Portugese artist Gil Heitor Cortesao explores the decline of dreams from the modernist era.

Gil Heitor Cortesao's Platform. Courtesy the artist/ Carbon 12 Gallery
Gil Heitor Cortesao's Platform. Courtesy the artist/ Carbon 12 Gallery

At some point, even our dreams begin to show their age. That's the line of inquiry in the Portuguese artist Gil Heitor Cortesão's seemingly photorealist paintings.

Don't be deceived by the cleanness and apparent accuracy as they appear here: viewed up close, we see the blemishes and crow's feet of dilapidation emerge as high-design interiors give way to corruption.

Coming Home, Cortesão's solo show at Carbon 12 in Dubai, continues until November 1. The works expand upon previous collections exhibited in the emirate - a fascination with a modernist aesthetic of design that prevailed in the 1960s and 1970s. It's a world of exposed wood, clean and airy spaces, globulous furniture and hard, bright plastics. Perhaps we can see the misty, pine-filled forests of Bern beyond their windows, or an immaculate Californian sky.

Yet the artist's previous body of work depicted the dimensions of these staid, hard-lined environments subtly warping. A mildewy wash of paint brought a sense of ruin to these once futuristic then retro now ruined environments. The decline of the dreams of the modernist era is epitomised by the abandonment of its clean, unfettered interiors.

Cortesão takes the viewer outside to clairvoyant locations in the woods, where mere foundations show what could have been and nature itself is intruding into the artist's spaces.

"I always find that in photographs of houses from the 1960s that I collect, there is a place reserved for nature - like a tree, or a small house plant - and it always functions as part of the decoration," says Cortesão. He explains that these images explore what the scene might look like if this greenery started to dominate its environment. Indeed, in perhaps the most evocative image here, a triptych shows a wood panelled room slowly erupting with greenery. A plant seems to soar into the high rafters, outgrowing its perimeters and towering over the space.

Another work shows even the most basic of intrusions being returned to the Earth: Platform is a wooden foundation nestled in a grove of trees. It's a stark, plywood monument and, like archaeologists, we're left to speculate on what could have been.

The process of creating these images is particularly curious. Cortesão paints layer after layer of the image on to Plexiglas, yet presents the reverse side of the work when he exhibits. "I want to get the viewer to feel that they're at a distance," he says, "to enter these spaces as if they're in hypnosis."

Until November 1 at Carbon 12, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai. Visit www.carbon12dubai.com