September 2014
Companhia União Fabril, Barreiro
Variable dimensions

InPortugal, few landscapes are as impressive as the one that awaits any visitorat the industrial park of the old company União Fabril, in Barreiro. Almost entirely,the park is today a pale and degraded version of what it once was, filled withdeactivated units, either in ruins or deserted, with very few still active. Thepark is, also because of that, quite an example of how an economic activity andits path, shapes a city and how it drains it out when it vanishes.
Founded at the start of the 20th Century by Alfredo da Silva, thefounder of an economic empire that at one time had 16.000 workers, the park wasthe materialization of the concept “family-company”, that extended theinfluence of the company into the private life of the workers, by providing homesand other necessities. So many years passed, it is ironic that the leafy mausoleumof the founding “father” – made by Cristino da Silva and Leopoldo de Almeida –is in much better shape than the legacy that surrounds it.
Curated by Claúdia Ramos, also an artist, and supported by the company that todayruns the grounds (Baía do Tejo), this exhibition gathers a group of interventionsby artists that participated in a residency on the site and the works now onview are strongly connected to the appearance and specific nature of thislandscape.  
We can start by Ricardo Jacinto’s intervention that responds to the factorynature of the place by summoning a sculpture-like dimension – through scaffoldingpresent in the space – to which he adds the local industrial humming sound. ValterVentura’s action is equally one that collects in a distinct way industrial materialsworn out by time, components whose function is no longer easy to signal. Afterbeing photographed these materials turn into an actual archaeological metaphor.Right next to it, in the same pavilion, Martinha Maia chose local materialsthat become painting materials that the artist used in abstract muralinterventions that include gesture and geometry. As usual, António Bolota intervenesin the pre-existing architecture, particularly rich in this place, creating an impenetrableand dense architectural-sculptural compound – a plaster-coated structure withrounded corners – that alters our perception of the space. In the most ingeniousintervention, Dalila Gonçalves transformed a section of one of the pavilionsinto an intricate kaleidoscope of observatories of the sea and the industrial landscape,establishing delicate connections between things that allow us to see andthings that are there to be seen. Maybe the exhibition lacks an interventionthat brings to the foreground the human contingency of the place, but whatthese interventions highlight is the symptomatic nature of the landscape where themarks of an economic utopia of the past still resist, even though its currentstate leads us to believe, inevitably, in the present state of the country, deindustrializedand economically impoverished.      

Celso Martins
in Revista Atual nº 2185, September13th 2014, newspaper Expresso, p.32.