Maria Capelo

Lisboa, 1970
Lives and works in Lisbon

The artist depicts landscapes in an ancient and universal tradition, capturing specific places in southern Portugal, northern Italy and Spanish Extremadura. Whether painting or drawing, Maria Capelo starts by observing natural scenes that are defined by a certain harshness – neither truly inhabited nor totally isolated. She then translates what she observes into her work, attempting to rekindle an experience, rather than simply reproducing a scene.

Austere and arid, her compositions feature a pared-back array of elements: a vision of trees, punctuated here and there by branches, shrubs, paths and rocks. By reclaiming and reconfiguring these elements in terms of perspective, scale and meaning, Capelo comes up with different ways of expressing the same distorted and imagined idea of the landscape. The artist also works with photography as documentary material for pinning down reality, sustaining memory and shedding light upon any enigmas.

Her paintings are rigorously thought out and patiently crafted. They draw viewers closer to the canvas, where they discover an apparent chaos of vegetation and geological forms, testament to fleeting moments in the past. As Capelo sees it, “everything that happens on Earth leaves its trace on the landscape, and all human activity, be it political, cultural or economic, shapes the place where it occurs”.

Lígia Afonso
[Plano Nacional das Artes and Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian]
Curator, teacher and researcher born in Lisbon in 1981
Text originally written for Google Arts & Culture apropos the exhibition “All I Want, Portuguese Women Artists from 1900 to 2020”, curated by Helena de Freitas and Bruno Marchand
© Marta Mateus