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Ana Vidigal Galeria 111, Lisbon, 1999.

Ana Vidigal’s solo show in April 1997 was titled Private Vices, Public Virtues. The divisive pairing of the title was echoed in the work itself and in the installation of the exhibition. The public virtues were small, polite paintings on canvas, presenting the composure of a public face. The private vices dispensed with the more traditional methods of painting, replacing them with assemblage and bricolage. Here, we saw the accumulation of found and recycled material, sometimes without the slightest intervention of paint or pencil. While Vidigal’s work has always swung between these two poles – the public and the private – her recent work displays, more than ever before, a robust and mature synthesis of these two previously discreet modes.

Fresh, unpretentious, thoroughly at home with a pictorial vocabulary that derives its wherewithal from late cubism and that is profoundly indebted to the compositional strategies afforded by collage, Vidigal’s work is exuberant: not brash, but intrinsically confident in its dedication to facture and facticity. The present exhibition is made up of a large body of work made during the artist’s residency in Funchal on the island of Madeira last year. The collage/painting, ranging hugely in size, are hung in a way that underlines Vidigal’s innate sense of composition. In them, the artist combines, as she has always done, a wide variety of found materials: Chinese paper, photocopies of intricately decorative motifs, dress and embroidery patterns, masking tape, tiny snippets of comics, vinyl table mats and phrases pillaged from books and suggestively displaced from their context of origin.

These diverse bits and pieces are organised onto surfaces that reveal the artist’s delight in a materiality that is both the trace of an action and the vestige of a memory. Vidigal allows her flair for using vivid colours to be tamed by the strict organisational capacity of the grid formation that underpins so many of her works. The shiny, varnished finish seems to wrap up the whole work, in much the way that many of Vidigal’s ‘private vices’ are encased in sticky tape or plastic, granting them the appearance of embryonic sacs … or shiny, wrapped gifts.

There is, curiously, in much of Vidigal’s work, the sense of a dedication, a work made for, or directed at, a particular interlocutor. They exude, in other words, the palpable pleasure of offering a gift. This sense of an object made for someone else plays out the artist’s impish delight in setting off against each other the twinned desires to reveal and conceal. We see this in fragments of private jokes or verbal asides, droll verbal articulations weaving in and out of what is an otherwise immaculately decorative surface.

In her celebration of materials, her delight in order and an inventiveness that harks back to the uncensored pleasures of childhood, Ana Vidigal remains intensely immersed in the working process as the wellspring of her works. The surfaces, densely layered without ever losing their freshness, reveal the traces of a gesture and its erasure as successive and mutually enhancing activities. Evasive, suggestive or ironic, the titles of her works, with their veiled eroticism allude to states of sleepiness or vigilance, adding a narrative dimension to works in which geometry, materiality and poetry happily cohabit.

Ruth Rosengarten One-person exhibition, Galeria 111, Lisbon. Visão, 22 July 1999.