< TextsThe look-in-presence as presence: on the singular, on its mystery

The look-in-presence as presence: on the singular, on its mystery


The singular flourishes, luminescent but vulnerable, in the female figure that emerges from an absorptive aqueous environment, lugubrious. From the riverbank the observer looks and photographs a woman’s face framed by the oval outline of a shadow, but is halfway hidden by tree branches. Submerged almost up to her shoulders, she returns his gaze with a loving look. This look has its double in the water’s reflection and, when appearing in it, becomes viscous and fearful: the beautiful woman sees the observer looking at her; and from her point of view, he is also partly hidden by the vegetation. The veil comes between them. The perspective of this intricate game of seduction, which has seized these two observed observers, gives way to the anxiety of this blend of fear and falling in love that is founded on the awareness that the look will become four-fold: the observer who photographs also has his reflection, his double – that of the spectator who will see the scene already consummated through the image. Fascinated, the observer who photographs both discovers and builds, completely immersed in this tortuous interrogation on the nature of what is seen, overburdened by the miracle of an image that speaks as a mirror-of-itself. In a rushed move, these considerations seem to feed themselves exclusively on the evocation of the condition of the photographic; but in the procession of subsequent images, this gesture effortlessly thickens to weigh on the terrain that exceeds it, following the broader and more fertile path that transcends the specificity of the discipline. In other words this is to surpass by indicating the way of a life lived in art, an art that becomes, which grows into renewed presence.

The first image in the Fluvial series is given to us as a genuine prelude. However, it does not limit itself to that role – that is, the magisterial announcement of the gifts that determine the singularity of the images. It also summarizes what has come to be Tito Mouraz’s pursuit and, by being so iconic, is most likely the sign of a new stage in his work. In earlier series, Tito Mouraz’s attentiveness to the human and the animal revealed concerns about identity in light of the cosmic mystery – notice how in Casa das Sete Senhoras (TheHouse of the Seven Women), the people, the animals, are the (and in the) territory, both on the physical plane and the ineffable plane. But in Fluvial, the geographical location and an appeal to anthropology lose their subject matter and aesthetic relevance in the interests of the magnitude of a relation: the relation between human and animal and the idea of a specific natural element – the watercourse. The inclination toward a broad and significant gesture, something we could already sense in earlier series by Mouraz, fully achieves its maturity in this series.

These images find their voice in symbolic osteosynthesis, which charges them with the power to drive the imagination to uncertain places: the watercourse is everywhere. One could say – especially considering the obvious similarity between this subject matter and other concrete examples in the history of art – that art is the place where this water flows to in order to swell the river that, since Heraclitus, constitutes the metaphor of the irreversibility of time and causes the metamorphosis of creatures and things. It is in the direct way that the one who turns or bends their body to look that many of these images show not only this metamorphosis, but also the fusion of creatures with each other, and between creatures and the elements, by dissolution. Metamorphosis and dissolution add up to the capacity for reaction. And, however, as assets to adaptability, reveal the disenchantment the human being feels, as a functional and expectable creature, to fulfill itself while contending with the physical and social environment. There is a disturbing beauty in the vision of the dynamic between these bodies; it presents itself as a formal reduction (molded in this way, the bodies are also the rock) in this antagonism between tension and freedom, when only freedom should reign in this habitat of leisure, in this pleasing possibility to forget what constrains. No less disturbing is how, in a few images, this world appears to be strangely static when everything would otherwise seemingly impel us to the dynamic demanded by the watercourse. And, nevertheless, this immobility that provides continuity of something good is also a threat, and always shows up populated by the vestiges of an idea of perpetual motion: in the adventure, in the climb, in the dive, in the jump, in the fertility, in the elevation, in the communion, in the tenderness, in the iridescence of the fluids.

Lisbon, February 2018


Nuno Matos Duarte