Madragoa is delighted to present Smile! You Are in Spain Studio Part I, the first solo exhibition by Luís Lázaro Matos at the gallery.

Smile! You Are in Spain is the slogan of a well-known, five year-long advertising campaign launched in 2004 to promote tourism in Spain. It captioned photographs of young people enjoying Spain, surrounded by sunny landscapes, at unspoiled beaches or in front of iconic monuments, immersed in an inviting atmosphere suitable for culture, leisure and sports. The purpose was to convey an image of Spain as the ultimate tourist destination, an earthly paradise and the land of sun and fiesta. Such conservative campaigning, which put an emphasis on a slow-paced and pleasant lifestyle, succeeded in capturing the stereotypes and clichés traditionally associated with the country, nurturing this appealing, peculiar image of Spanish vitality and cheerfulness in the minds of potential tourists. Throughout the years of the campaign and following more than a decade of sustained economic growth, Spain was badly affected by the global financial crisis of 2008; while promoting such an ideally positive take of Spain under Juan Miró’s sunny emblem, the country was inwardly succumbing to a profound and severe economic downturn.

Luís Lázaro Matos uses this well-known campaign to inform a project which intends to look at how clichés on countries and their culture become promotional commodities and how landscape, traditions, populations and art are rendered simple and ready to use by the consumer. The project is divided in two chapters independent from each other but deeply intertwined: the exhibition currently presented at MADRAGOA and a performative installation which will be presented at ARCO, the International Contemporary Art fair in Madrid, in February 2017.

The starting point of the whole project is the juxtaposition between the “smile” introduced in the advertising campaign and its reverse, an expression taken on to represent the actual critical situation shared by South European countries and simbolyzed by the “scream” from Edvard Munch’s most famous painting. Through a sarcastic filter, the artist uses an image which has undergone an extreme process of semantic depletion: from the deep psychological pain originally expressed by the canvas to the abused iconic image that became such a media staple that it acquired a life of its own, almost completely abstracted from the painting itself. By continuing this process of decontextualisation, the dramatic dissonant landscape in which the protagonist of Munch’s masterpiece is immersed, representing a projection of identity and human experience and a repository for the mystical or the sublime, is replaced by a sunny southern beach where the character finds himself “on vacation” in Matos’ photograph Under the Sun I. For this purpose, the whole gallery is turned into a bright space, animated by a holiday atmosphere and enlivened by Raffaella Carrà’s Hay Que Venir Al Sur, a song encouraging an escape to the South, a land for love and for a thoughtless and peaceful life, again promoting its stereotypes. The song is used as the soundtrack for a video-animation with the same title, which works as a sort of manifesto providing instructions and introducing us to the second chapter of the project which involves a collaboration with several architects.

Matos’ drawing Model for a Holiday Villa, presented in the exhibition, is the artist’s interpretation of a series of instructions given to several architects and requesting the development of a project for a holiday house inspired by Munch’s painting. In the second part of the project, which will take place in a fictional set resembling an architectural studio, the artist will intervene directly on those drawings, correcting them so as to bring to the surface the clichés embedded in them. The deep relationship between the face of The Scream’s protagonist and his surrounding landscape, which is transformed according to his distorted features, is transposed, in the project, from the natural scenery to an architectural context, so as to explore how conventions and mythologies nurture our imagination and give shape to our landscapes. Even the gallery facade, featuring typical portuguese tiles, will be trasformed and covered by an accumulation of advertisement posters designed by the artist.

Luís Lázaro Matos (Évora, Portugal, 1987), lives and works in Lisbon. He studied Painting at Faculdade de Belas-Artes, Universidade de Lisboa from 2006 to 2010 and received a BA in Art Practice at Goldsmiths College, University of London in 2011. His solo exhibitions include: Super Gibraltar, Kunsthalle Lissabon, Lisbon, 2015; Models for Solitude, Old School, Lisbon, 2014; Houses On Punta Massulo, Neoteorismoi Toumazou, Nicosia, Cyprus, 2013; One, Two, Three! Position!, Hinterconti, Hamburg, 2013; Into the Blue/Out of the Blue, Goldsmiths College, London, 2010. Selected group exhibitions include: Prémio EDP Novos Artistas, Oporto, 2013; Via Paraguay Ballet, Villa Design Group, Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, 2013; When We Build Again, London, 2013; Villa I, This House is Triadic Fascist and Made of Industry Glass, London, 2012.