True Gardens #2 (Stockholm)
I first encountered Pedro Cabrita Reis (b.1956) in 1998, when I coordinated the project Arkipelag – European Cultural Capital, in Stockholm. Arkipelag was initiated by David Neuman, with an idea to introduce a wider diversity of global contemporary art to Stockholm. It was a large-scale project, spanning over 40 exhibitions, 7 venues, and with multiple international and national curators and artists. One of the curators was Michael Tarantino (b.1948), who, with a strong focus on contemporary Portuguese art, exhibited Pedro.
Pedro’s work Large glass, white and red, took place in an abandoned power plant that was part of the outdoor museum Skansen in Stockholm. The main components of the installation were two gigantic pieces of glass, painted in white and red. I remembered that Pedro, his assistant, and I would often have long lunches in which I truly got to know Pedro. Since this project, I have visited him several times in his home and studio in Portugal.
Pedro’s 2001 solo exhibition at Magasin III, The Silence Within, featured four new artworks, True Gardens #2 (Stockholm) being one of them. True Gardens #2 (Stockholm) is the second of many in a series of True Gardens by Pedro, in which he approached the concept of a utopian garden with ready-made materials.
True Garden #2 (Stockholm) was made of MDF modules (a popular material during the late 80s and 90s), hand-painted glasses, and fluorescent light. Pedro paints on ready-made materials in a mechanical-like manner, making it purely abstract. He considers the use of ready-made material in context to the notion of factories, shelters, and commodity productions.
At Magasin III, Pedro was good at creating a vibrant atmosphere of his presence. He communicated well with the production team and appeared to enjoy working in a fast tempo. During the production he preferred to work with plans in which he would draw installation layouts and then explain the thought processes to us.
I recall a minor incident when we were ordering glasses for True Gardens #2 (Stockholm). The measurement from the drawings that we got from Pedro was written with one digit missing. When the glasses arrived at Magasin III, they came inside a box the size of my palm. We took out a piece from the box, which was only one-tenth of its original scale. The situation became quite hectic for us as we had to re-order the glasses. We had to work really hard to cope with the opening date.
Once you meet Pedro, I would say it is impossible to unassociate him with his artistry – an interesting paradox because I find that his artistic practice does not reflect his personality. The use of industrial material and precise assemblage of his artwork appears to be quite cold in feeling, while I find Pedro to be very generous and welcoming. Whenever I see him, there is always a pleasant surprise.
Summary of Richard Julin’s conversation with Jims Lam and
Ida Sjödin, April 2021.
Text edited by Jims Lam.