A spider with a hard-on, a spinach full of magic, a Russian serf sees himself as a reprobate*,
(*caption from a drawing by Gonçalo Pena)
brings together a new selection of drawings from Gonçalo Pena's undisclosed box of graphical oddities.
These works will be included in a forthcoming monograph published by Mousse Publishing (with texts by Alexandre Estrela, Gabriel Abrantes, Pedro Paiva and João Maria Gusmão) to accompany an exhibition at the Serralves Museum, Porto.
At home, framed and hanging on the wall of my study, is an Indian ink drawing by Gonçalo Pena dating from ‘97. In it, two figures, like the Thompson Twins from Tintin, are wearing bowler hats, black winter coats, hiding behind mustaches and sunglasses, and standing on either side of a modern abstract painting. The style of the drawing is gestural but precise. From the context, it is clear that they are in a museum – a Soviet one, incidentally – visited by lovers of the socialist fine arts and that the painting is by Mr. Kandinsky. The figures are no other than two KGB agents, who are guarding the valuable Muscovite treasure from being snatched. In addition to the interplay between the cultural context and the thing depicted, there is, I feel, something both familiar yet strange about the drawing. I have always been surprised by the clear physical likeness between the two agents and that of Pedro Paiva and myself. The one on the left looks like Pedro, and the other’s face is just like mine in disguise. If the drawing is from ’97, it anticipated the friendship and admiration that developed between us all by ten years. To me, this coincidence opens the door to the visionary dimension in Gonçalo’s work: Tintin goes to Moscow to retrieve Kandinsky’s masterpiece from Stalin’s clutches. The Thompson Twins are in fact double agents working on the other side of the Iron Curtain... Hidden covertly behind the famous abstract painting is the Holy Grail of selfless aesthetics. The Bolsheviks realize the subversive quality of the painting and take precautions; Tintin, on the other hand, imagines the rewards to be had if he can get the work of this genius to Brussels. The socialists undertake a covert operation against commodity fetishism in the visual arts.
Over the last decade, Pedro Paiva and I have organized various exhibitions of Gonçalo Pena’s drawings and paintings. We have published two books on his graphic work and have been closely involved in his artistic production. You could call Gonçalo a timeless aesthete: a music lover, film buff, bibliophile, polyglot and an incredible scholar of the history of painting and the image. Gonçalo’s work is the materialization of something truly unusual and preposterous. It presents the idiocracy of western man realized through his grossest contradictions: the chronicle of violence between ideological apparatuses and the people who perpetuate them. The aim is to expose the brittleness of the large collective projects that created the prevailing western myth of the history of the white man. Always present and called into question by Gonçalo’s work, either for their absurdity or for the purposes of denunciation, are the tragicomedy of neurotic and metaphysical desire; the pathetic prevalence of the phallic narrative and the incomprehension of female desire by structural and historical male chauvinism; the contrast between elitist intellectualism and the most bizarre vernacular; the crime of colonialism, the terror of war and the stupidity of fascism; the bankruptcy of the industrial revolution and the socialist ideology; the failed promise of modern and avant-garde forms; post-modernist pluralism; and so on and so forth... The humor is black and ambiguous, cynical, sometimes in bad taste and misanthropic. The imagery is sensitive, multi-stylized and at times punk and raunchy – a truly challenging and passionate ideographic study of the unconventional, the heterodox and the heretical. Above all, what is felt is the continual presence of an impossible political project that is the libertarian reverse of established ideas.
The drawings exhibited in this photonic showing are accompanied by short and extra-descriptive notes written by myself and fellow Pena enthusiast Chris Fitzpatrick to guide your virtual perusal of this artist’s idiosyncratic approach.
João Maria Gusmão, December 2020
The bearded barber owns the establishment, to embellish is his purpose, combs and scissors are his weapons. An artist artisan of the most prestigious guild of aesthetes.
A card carrying member of the Journeymen Barber’s Protective Union.Gonçalo PenaUntitled (rebrab posh), 2019Graphite and colored pencil on paper8 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches (21 x 29.8 cm.)(GOP21-001)
Mr. and Mrs. Pena drive up to a crossroads, when Mr. P. suddenly stops the car and turns off the engine. “What is it, honey-bug?” And Mr. P. replied, “Can’t you see the road sign?” “Of course not,” she answers, “you know I’ve been blind since birth.” “That’s right I keep forgetting.” “What does it say?” “Well it’s the same in every direction, a dead end.” (silence) “What do we do now honey-bug, if we cant keep driving?” “You tell me. You're the sorcerer.” “Well, let’s sleep over it, maybe the sign changes in the morning?”Gonçalo PenaUntitled (Metafísica), 2019Indian ink on paper8 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches (21 x 29.8 cm.)(GOP21-002)
A typical Thursday. Pena gives himself a hand while going through a catalog of shunga prints. Later he reads a classical pillow poem by Yadoya no Meshimori.
In the bathhouse / Under blossoming cherry tree / While taking an afternoon nap / The music lesson / You are like a butterfly / Deeper, please / Love beside a shi shi dragon / Like an explosion on Fuji in spring / First time: young girl and her music teacher / Good times / After a smoke / The writing lesson / A moment of pleasure between a courtesan and a kabuki actor / Self-satisfaction / Under the mosquito net / Ninth month: chrysanthemums / Sekitori sumo wrestler / Maneemon in bath house / Winter night / Night at Fukagawa / Male prostitute: willow storm / Bamboo river / The season of chrysanthemums / Man who dreamed of her for nine years / Writing a love poem
‘Its beak caught firmly
in the clam shell
the snipe cannot fly away
on an autumn evening’Gonçalo PenaUntitled, 2019Graphite and colored pencil on paper8 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches (21 x 29.8 cm.)(GOP21-003)
“Pena, Pena, Pena,” said one Pena to three others. “Pena, Pena, Pena,” said one Pena to three others. “Pena, Pena, Pena,” said one Pena to three others. “Pena, Pena,” said two Penas, in unison, to two others. “Pena,” said three Penas, in unison, to another. “Pena,” said three Penas, in unison, to another. “Pena,” said three Penas, in unison, to another. “Pena,” said three Penas, in unison, to another. And so on.Gonçalo Pena
Untitled, 2019Graphite and colored pencil on paper8 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches (21 x 29.8 cm.)(GOP21-004)
John Wayne goes to Nagasaki to promote the movie They were expendable, by John Ford: “Alcohol does not solve any problems, but then again, neither does milk,” he said, to address the injustices of war. Nanban, the barbarians, arrived from the south. That night, John dreamt of Edo, shoguns, samurais and geishas, and succumbed to his nocturnal emissions.
The violence is within the cowboy.Gonçalo Pena
Untitled (Nanban), 2019Graphite pencil on paper8 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches (21 x 29.8 cm.)(GOP21-005)
The solar calves of time immemorial stand petrified. No, not terrified—ossified! These idols are Gods, and good buddies, occasionally sharing a drink and a game of darts (or pool) in the Pyramid bar in downtown Cairo, though most of them are Assyrian. They dig and groove on the tall transcendental maid serving drinks at Pyramid’s, occasionally bringing her presents which she rarely seems to value. Gods with boners.Gonçalo Pena
Untitled (Magick Buddiess, marduks and akin), 2019Graphite pencil on paper8 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches (21 x 29.8 cm.)(GOP21-006)
List of German thingamajigs which are likable to be licked if sugared and icy: milk-chocolatey mouse; bubblicious bunny; little lemon bear; mouse bear mousse; succulent slug; salacious snail; p-p-p-p-puh-pearls; favorite-issimo; cutie pie; my sweetheart.Gonçalo Pena
Untitled (1. Maus…), 2020Graphite and colored pencil on paper11 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches (29.8 x 21 cm.)(GOP21-007)
Daphne, voluptuous as a bosom tree, and little Apollo, twiggy and anemic as ever, chase each other around a china vase in Chinatown. It’s tiresome and boring. Daphne would love to sit down and consider other gods for partners—she always had a thing for Hephaistos. Apollo has always preferred boy nymphos (fucking fauns, having sex with satyrs).Gonçalo Pena
Untitled, 2019Colored pencil on paper11 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches (29.8 x 21 cm.)(GOP21-008)
“Pardon my French, but Pena’s so tight that if you stuck a lump of coal up his ass in two weeks you’d have a diamond.” –Hair’s How MagazineGonçalo Pena
Untitled, 2019Graphite and colored pencil on paper11 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches (29.8 x 21 cm.)(GOP21-009)
Like sands in the hourglass, the self image is faint, fleeting and fragile. The client ain’t always happy with the trim but in the end the customer is always right. To amuse bruised egos the guild recommends the Barber’s discretion when presenting the bill. One could cry, but tears won’t fall.Gonçalo PenaUntitled, 2019Graphite pencil on paper11 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches (29.8 x 21 cm.)(GOP21-010)
A beautiful, moral, Marxist tale about the mischievous nature of Capital as seen through the lens of a lemon’s anal fixation. Humorous, smart, naughty and compelling, this story will encourage you to eat more fruits and vegetables. Best read of the year.Gonçalo Pena
Untitled (The Amazing Lemon Brothers. Are those truffles or what?), 2020Ink pen and colored pencil on paper8 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches (21 x 29.8 cm.)(GOP21-011)
Priest Francisco went to the colonies to bless the Amerindians and grant the pious sacrament of baptism onto the godless people living in the rainforest. To share the joy of celibacy and monogamy with the venereal lot -that was his intention. He later confessed the hardship of converting such a demonic horde. What trials of seduction he endured! The naive savages constantly flashing their bare skin and wiggling their cute little nipples inadvertently. "In the name of the Holy Spirit I baptize thee in the river Amazon! Rejoice, for I have cleansed you of all your past pagan sins and evils… Please be so gentle as to fetch the cigarettes, my young padawan."Gonçalo Pena
Untitled, 2017Color marker on paper8 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches (21 x 29.8 cm.)(GOP21-012)
An Englishman, a Frenchman, a Russian and a German arrive on an island inhabited by fierce headhunters. Who would have guessed the islet was so rich in natural gas deposits?Gonçalo Pena
Untitled, 2017Ink pen and graphite pencil on paper11 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches (29.8 x 21 cm.)(GOP21-013)
This socialist panther is a man-eater—a feral feline beast that bestows the proletariat’s hatred for factory owners, financial tycoons and wealthy bastards in general. Its impenetrable blood-stained pelt is nonetheless much coveted by the ruling class, and lusted over for fanciful floorings, fur coats and dust mops. Almost never seen in daylight, the ravenous abomination feeds exclusively on human prey, and favors tender meat, especially the livers, hearts, and bowels of the blue blooded. It also likes to play with yellow ribbons.
Tyger tyger burning bright!
In the factories you ignite;
what immoral hand or eye,
could tame thy avenger revolutionary?Untitled (Tyger Tyger), 2019Graphite and colored pencil on paper11 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches (29.8 x 21 cm.)(GOP21-014)
Like the ubiquitous images of Samson (patron saint of Hirsutism), this enchanting Egyptian cat sculpture is featured in many barber shops as décor. Large mice routinely jump into its fangs and play dead while the barber trims the whiskers of gentlemen, infants and ladies alike.Gonçalo Pena
Untitled (Tiger, tiger burning bright), 2019Colored pencil on paper11 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches (29.8 x 21 cm.)(GOP21-015)
Two construction workers wait at a bus stop. One notices how smooth the other’s hands are, which then draws his attention to the cleanliness of his boots, and then to the perplexing tailoring of his garb. So he asks him, “what are you, a union delegate?” “No,” the man replies, “I’m a grad student at UC Berkeley.”Gonçalo Pena
Untitled (So it takes a bo-bo (bohemian bourgeois) to fantasize about the working class), 2019Graphite pencil on paper8 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches (21 x 29.8 cm.)(GOP21-016)
This image offers a rare view into a diverse and more shimmering layer of the multiverse, and allows us to chart a key moment in a rather different evolutionary path. Here, apes have evolved to become the most sentient beings on the planet, males have developed acute emotional sensitivity, and females are just plain brutes.Gonçalo Pena
Untitled (This is always cool!), 2019Colored pencil on paper11 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches (29.8 x 21 cm.)(GOP21-017)
The sexy robe Jesus wore to the crucifixion.Gonçalo PenaUntitled, 2019Graphite pencil on paper11 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches (29.8 x 21 cm.)(GOP21-018)
Fascist movements in Europe are searching for a bright and prosperous future for their countries. Their strategy relies on the re-industrialization of their economy by overturning the established Marxist consumer-driven class of service providers. The plan features a new brand of automobiles run by a renewable spring-driven engine, wound up by the cheering populace that advocates for fascism. A carriage for the carrion.Gonçalo PenaUntitled (Furas wagen), 2019Graphite and colored pencil on paper8 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches (21 x 29.8 cm.)(GOP21-019)
1 chorizo, 2 chorizos, 3 chorizos, little pig let me in!Gonçalo PenaUntitled, 2019Colored pencil on paper8 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches (21 x 29.8 cm.)(GOP21-020)
The young actress, Hildegard Knef, joins a sect of elusive opticians in Berlin after escaping the Red Army’s P.O.W. dungeons. Her nazi boyfriend was executed by the soviet military administration. The sect members dyed her hair black to preserve her identity, for she was, after all, not a collaborator. Later on, when the matter was forgotten, she was cast in The Snows of Kilimanjaro with her natural hair tone. She looked pretty, men desired her, and everything was okay again.Gonçalo PenaUntitled (Hildegard Knef. Sekt), 2019Graphite and colored pencil on paper8 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches (21 x 29.8 cm.)(GOP21-021)
Pinocchio only has eyes for a wooden doll named Pinocchia. This is not Geppetto’s craftmanship, but Gianpietro’s. Her hips are Pinocchio’s favorite piece of lumber. And, as everyone knows, being naughty is in his sap! Eros and Thanatos reach match point.Gonçalo PenaUntitled, 2019Colored pencil on paper8 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches (21 x 29.8 cm.)(GOP21-022)
As a rule, the space invaders maintain nice afros. The barber on the spaceship recommended the dismissal of space helmets for their ground attack to preserve the look. The great vessel plays a Shepard tone from loudspeakers duly optimized for the limited bandwidth of human ears, but with a particular emphasis at 7 hertz. The ecstatic inhabitants of the planet wave them aloha.Gonçalo PenaUntitled (Goa, Katmandu), 2019Graphite pencil on paper8 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches (21 x 29.8 cm.)(GOP21-023)
A patient and a physician play a game of hide-and-seek. If the patient doesn’t lay still, the doctor is unable to use the stethoscope. Fortunately, he keeps a pair of anaglyphic glasses in his pocket for such frantic cases of dystonia.Gonçalo Pena
Untitled, 2018Colored pencil on paper8 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches (21 x 29.8 cm.)(GOP21-024)
Gonçalo Pena (b. 1967) is a cult figure within the Portuguese art scene who currently lives and works in Lisbon. Trained as a painter, Pena holds a PhD in Communication Sciences and has done extensive research on design theory and meta-design. He teaches painting, drawing and theory at a range of university-level institutions in Portugal and is considered an influential art professor for a younger generation of Portuguese artists. After a distinguished career in editorial illustration for major Portuguese newspapers and magazines during the 1990s, Pena started showing his work more regularly as a visual artist from the mid-2000s, with major solo shows at ZDB, curated by Natxo Checa, and at Graçabrandão Gallery, both in Lisbon, Galleria Zero, Milan, as well as several projects at Kunstverein München in 2016. Since 2014, Mousse Publishing has published Pena's graphic work in monographic volumes edited by João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva.
Barbearia… by Gonçalo Pena