Artist Statement -

Borneo > 2003

The tropical rainforest and tales of maritime exploration continue to be reflected in my work. Indeed, travel and displacement condition my work - the many places I lived in throughout my childhood and those others my chronic wanderlust has led me to since then have always had an impact on the choices and directions I have taken. The knowledge that a new perspective can be acquired over things we believe to be "fixed" triggers curiosity and fosters a certain degree of unconformity. The need to find and learn new ways to depict whatever it is I wish to depict keeps me on my toes and doesn't allow me to settle with the tools or the style I am already familiar with - I am constantly "on the move" and my painting is meant to be a record of the path I move along.

Perceived from a distance my approach tends to be cyclic, each cycle divided into series. Progression occurs from the outside in – from the surface to the core, from a certain degree of figuration to abstraction. Upon tackling each new theme I will be struck by the outward aspect of things and charged with a strong desire to capture it. However, I choose not to, preferring to contradict this initial urge in an effort to synthesize the constituent parts that make up the whole and create my own landscapes. Thus I sway between figuration and abstraction. This will perhaps explain why each new beginning is more representational. It is a natural part of a process that I allow to go on for as long as necessary and until such a point when I realize that my own building blocks have acquired a life of their own.

I am not an immediate artist. I am not interested in capturing the light on a particular object, the beauty of an instant and much less the raw anger and frustration that sometimes overcomes me. My aim is to grab hold of the beauty and magnitude of things that escapes time – the light, followed by the rain, followed by the mist, followed by the night; the fire, the demise of the object and its rebirth. To do so I must repeatedly familiarize myself with a different type of vision, one that allows me to go beyond the three dimensions we seize in our customary state.

The rainforest is a living entity. When we get caught up in the immediate beauty of the moment and attempt to capture it we at once forget the deeper dimension toward which the instant and the feeling it had provoked within us were pointing at. We are left with the snapshot and loose track of the life we extracted it from. We capture each snapshot in succession [ trapped in time ] one after the other and put them together in our minds to create the movies of our lives. But we never see them simultaneously. We are unable to perceive the whole of the experience at once – the living entity always succeeds in escaping our grasp. To capture Life we must go beyond perception, let go of our precious snapshots and concentrate at another level – the level of the feeling that was awoken in us by the heightened awareness experienced when first coming upon the snapshot!

A significant portion of the technique I resort to is abstract-expressionistic, though I do not consider myself an abstract-expressionist – I lack the immediacy. I will often work on several paintings simultaneously over a relatively long period of time, creating and destroying layer after layer after layer, until I am pleased with the feeling each piece stirs in me. When this happens the painting is complete – not because it emulates nature but because it brings me closer to a moment of heightened awareness experienced at some stage [perhaps far removed in time but always present beyond time].

Inexplicably, this delay allows me somehow to escape time and deepen my knowledge of my surroundings: to notice the subtleties that are present one moment and gone the next, and to become increasingly aware of the pulsating undercurrents that the mere senses fail to capture.

Art affects us in unexpected ways. It can induce us to advance in new directions, to consider a certain book, to be suddenly moved by a particular piece of music that had previously left us indifferent. Indeed, all artistic manifestations are linked in such a way that contact with one will lead to an attraction toward another and in such way lead to subtle changes in the way we perceive reality and, eventually, what we become.

Dali led me to an interest in the fourth [and further] dimension[s] and the determination to capture and depict it in my own way. Dali's melting clocks are not merely deformed objects hanging over the edges of tables or other similar planes, they point to the melting away of the concept of time [time being the way in which our limited apparatus translates the 4th dimension]. The figures he conjures from reflections in pools or the unexpected shapes of objects are his own ingenious allusions to the dimensions we may perceive once we understand fully our relation to time.

The glimpses we are given of the 4th dimension are short-lived and often discarded. I have found it to be more a profound and altered feeling of my presence in the environment than an actual vision. At this stage the closest I can come to depicting such a heightened emotional state is by departing from linear perspective and removing as much as possible the elements of figuration that tend to automatically encapsulate our thought-process within its habitual mode of operation, so as to hopefully liberate the viewer and bring him/her to share in the possibility of this new vision.

In a certain way my works are maps.

But my aim is not to take you to any known geographical/historical place but rather beyond our normal everyday plane of perception to a place where feeling is more important than vision and enhances what we see so as to give us a new sense of who and where we are.

Artist Exhibitions

having shown his work for the first time in a group show at the fortress of cascais in 1985, jose freitascruz has since taken part in countless collective and group shows in germany, chile, india, portugal, australia, canada, brunei, japan and laos



HB55 kunstfabrik, berlin

iCat gallery - vientiane, laos

may machikado art week - kometani house, imai-cho, nara, japan
january transnational art 2013 - enokojima art, culture and creative centre, osaka, japan

october kyoto arts festival - kyoto municipal museum of art, japan
january Transnational Art 2012 - osaka contemporary arts center, japan

december 3 men in a boat - centro cultural cascais
+ simultaneous screening of video barca.borneo at FocFest lisboa yerevan istambul

august-october video barca.borneo selected for montijo international biennialvespeira prize - montijo, portugal

june ship of fools - yarra sculpture centre, melbourne, australia.
see details at

may video - participation in greening the infrastructure with project

october with OD artists rui aco fernando vidal - Ordem dos Medicos, lisbon, portugal

november OD resident artists exhibition - OD gallery, cascais, portugal

september with artists pedro pinto coelho and luis bivar - cascais marina, portugal

x artists - one boat. empireArt gallery, brunei

june inaugural exhibition - empireArt gallery, bandar seri begawan, brunei

january artforum brunei 2004 - the art gallery - brunei national museum, bandar seri begawan, brunei

inaugural exhibition gallery artists - rainforest gallery, bandar seri begawan, brunei

guests in brunei - the art gallery - brunei national museum, bandar seri begawan, brunei

10 artists one boat - galeria castello maior, cascais, portugal

amnesty international exhibition in an 18th century prison - cadeia da relacao - porto, portugal.

artexpo cascais 98 - boardwalk along the atlantic - lisbon, portugal

kunst im kettenwerk, kunstverein kettenwerk ww2 panzer production line, with artists Genia Hoffmann, Thomas Boerner and Wolfgang Block, hamburg, germany

DeGrau - inauguration exhibition, cascais, portugal

gallery artists - galeria da praca, porto

winter exhibition - convosco gallery, lisboa

winter exhibition with jorge portela and other artists - artespaço gallery, cascais

portarte 94, portimao

africamiga - auctionexhibition caixa geral de depositos, lisbon

portarte 93, portimao

criarte - belem cultural centre, lisbon

young artists award exhibition, galeria soctip, lisbon, portugal

selected for the young artists exhibition,
casino estoril, portugal

9th international art biennial of valparaiso, chile

selected for the young artists exhibition,
casino estoril, estoril, portugal

fortress cidadela de cascais, cascais, portugal

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS only those shows where a new body of work was presented

landscapes from now.hereland – spectrum gallery, osaka, japan

kokoro no uta poetry of soul - mssohkan gallery, kobe, japan

recent paintings - SoHo art gallery, osaka, japan

inspirasi 2 - palacio da independencia, lisbon, portugal

inspirasi - empireArt gallery, bandar seri begawan, brunei

par-dela les iles aux epicesbeyond the spice islands - alliance francaise de brunei

paintings from the borneo series - the empire hotel, brunei

ermida n. sra. da conceicao 17th century chapel in belem, lisbon, portugal - selected works from the water series text Jorge Marcel.

galeria castelo maior, cascais, portugal – mysterious vortexmisterioso vortice

galeria da praca, porto, portugal – circumambulatio text Laura de Castro

galeria 65a, lisbon – the bridges of utopiaas pontes da utopia

isabellas artroom, lisbon - the unfathomable noumenono insondavel numeno

galeria arcada, estoril, portugal – the paths that lead to the seaos caminhos que levam ao mar

galeria arcada, estoril - india 2 text David Mourao-Ferreira

siemensforum, lisbon – watercoloursaguarelas

galeria janela verde, lisbon - india 1

amoreiras complex, lisbon - first solo submersion and flighta submersao e o voo text Lima de Freitas


panel for the altar of the church of our lady of the ascension in portela de st. iria near lisbon, portugal.


Artist Publications

catalogue texts:

[*]submersion and flight - text by portuguese artist Lima de Freitas for the first solo exhibition in 1987:

My forays into the realm of "artistic teaching" - an unfortunate description - have been many throughout the years; in truth no one teaches no one, especially in the complex and sensitive domain of art, if by "teaching" one means more than the mere transmission of techniques, applications and workshop antics - in other words, not simply to inform but rather, to form; the apprentice alone is capable of teaching himself, if he is capable and if he so desires - and the role of the master is to act as a catalyst, exemplifying and spurring him on. To really 'teach' he must be tireless in communicating energy, giving useful and constructive criticism, and engaging, ever so subtly, in freeing his disciple from his own specific hypnosis and the sometimes unbearable weight of complexes, anxieties, and inner obstacles that so often hinders the awakening of creative forces. Therein lies the master's greatest challenge, but also his greatest glory, one that elevates him in the best of cases to the rank of psychologist (or psychiatrist!), of a confessor or even the psychopomp.

Certain disciples reveal from the start signs of possessing a clearly defined inner configuration with distinct inclinations - inclinations and configuration that reveal an honest vocation marked by the presence of unique expression and the insistence of a true calling. Such is the case of Freitas Cruz, a young artist in whose imagination the archetypal life fluid of the elements of water and air freely flows as these spontaneous works so clearly reveal. [In his latest works] we stand before a universe of tranquil sadness laden here and there with hints of the Far East (the flight of colourful birds, the filigree of branches), where the presence of what is absent pulsates and the immaterial unexpectedly becomes visible. Submersion and Flight: submersion in the immovable flooding of the sea, tears and forgetfulness - a slow descent into the blue depths of the maternal unconscious; but also flight, similar to that of a flaming desire - the gliding ascent of flamingos or those flying boats left without helmsman linked only by a thread to the memory of astral bearings.

Such an art, in which the opposites of ascension and fall reach out for one another thereby creating the tension of a drama devoid of acts and with one single (invisible) presence is indeed worthwhile looking out for.

[**]india 2 - text by portuguese poet David Mourão-Ferreira - 1992:

Upon seeing the work of Freitas Cruz, the words of the great Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector sprang to my mind: «So often in painting, as in music and literature, that which is called abstract seems to me to be simply the figuration of a somewhat more delicate and more difficult reality, less obvious to the naked eye».

Such is the case at hand: even when at first glance Freitas Cruz's paintings seem to reveal a tendency towards 'abstraction' we soon realise that nevertheless they always figurate his own personal reality, one which he has come to unravel within the nebulous frontiers of esoteric traditions.

Not, however, those of our western, Hellenic and Judaeo-Christian heritage. It is further in space, perhaps even in time, that Freitas Cruz discovered those sources of secret knowledge more akin to his own spirit. He looked for them in the East; in that «Orient whence everything comes, both day and faith», the «Excessive Orient» that is «all that we do not yet have» and «all that we already are» to borrow the words of the poet Álvaro de Campos.

However, because he did not fail to experience it first hand, Freitas Cruz, with superior mastery and rare discretion has managed to purify, sublimate and capture the quintessence of the very excess of the Orient. The apparent 'minimalism' of the process by which he captures the essence (especially noticeable in his watercolours) further constitutes a tribute to such reality: allowing us on the one hand to perceive the intimacy he has upheld with it over the years, he invites us at the same time to approach it on our own terms and to look at it with renewed vision. Indeed, we find, both in his watercolours and his works in oil,that he often attains that magical point where that which has been learnt and that which is revealed becomes fused into one as only a true artist is capable of achieving.

[***] circumambulatio - catalogue text by art critic Laura de Castro for the exhibition in Oporto, 1998:

If the positioning of works in an exhibition never is arbitrary, reflecting links and ideas the artist or gallery director wished to emphasize, this is even more relevant in the present show in which all the pieces have been grouped in rigorously planned nuclei.

The rules that govern the plan suggest two main images. The first, that all is based on a principle of filiations between a nucleus or mother-realm - which the artist refers to as the hub - and its descendents, dependent and smaller in scale - satellites. The second, of a different order - referring not to the familiar but to the universal - points to a cosmic link between the central planet and the satellites which gravitate around it in "the inevitable turn of the wheel" as one of the titles suggests. One can sense the same primordial appeal in the chromatic range chosen, in the economy of certain shades and the intensity of others.

Rather than looking for images that may shed light on the organization presented here - images recalled from the humble human realm or from the universe's overwhelming presence - let us instead concentrate on the very idea of order Freitas Cruz puts forward.

What, then, characterizes the order in these paintings. A path laid out by foot-steps, exposed foot-prints, repetitive grids, traces of hands and emerging faces, finely drawn: these are the signs of the trail to be traced, the timing of the rhythm to be respected, the stages of a path to be explored. The way in which the artist organizes his signs hints at a trail rich in ritualistic and musical values suggesting a theme and its variations. By the manner in which these indicators are arranged, expanding from a nucleus out towards the fringes, or drawn in line we are offered glimpses of trails that might be followed, as suggested by one of the titles "notes from a short walk". The function of the works at hand seems to serve no other purpose than to retain and preserve the signs of a trail. In so doing, [Freitas Cruz's] is in tune with one of the strongest premises of contemporary art - that which values the act of painting in itself, the project. But in his case the project applies not only to the act of painting but also to the act of progressing along an inner trail.

One of the keys to these paintings lies in the emotional memory by means of which certain previous experiences are remembered so as to be recuperated and acted upon as suggested in the text chosen by the artist for the present catalogue: (...) If you find yourself in this place again, try to remember the steps that took you there (...). The intimate emotional memory of the actor, accustomed as he is to the scenes he rehearses night after night.

Figuration of a trail, Freitas Cruz's work does not disclose, however, the point of arrival: such a point belongs to the world of silence, of that which cannot be spoken and cannot be translated into words. After all, not all the knots in his paintings have been untied. In spite of this omission we can sense that the point of arrival is to be found to the East. A facile approach to the Orient would have been through recourse to exoticism; a decorative approach would have been another, equally accessible, means to portray it. Minimalism is yet another course, one implying contagion with its philosophy and engagement in its religion. It is in the latter that the present works should be included.

In texts written by the artist and which we were privy to we discover that the emotional memory we alluded to acts as a lever for the progression of his art through constant re-evaluation of works that influence him by other artists and from which he consciously transfers signs in his drive to perform a truly pacific and creative transfiguration. We shall do accordingly calling on Filomena Molder's words from a text written in 1984: "If painting becomes mute when faced with Logos it is not out of shyness or lack of power, rather the limitation befalls whoever questions it and the purposelessness of such an endeavour. Discursive reason and its words belong to a different order to that in which painting happens. (...) Therefore we can speak of painting, but painting does not speak, it was not meant to speak".

{all translations jfx}


Press coverage:


april 2005:
brunei national television, rtb, interview for the evening news: [x?] artists - one boat

may 2000:
portuguese cable television, channel cnl, interview with fernanda freitas in central urbana: [water series]

june 2000:
portuguese national television, channel rtp1, interview on morning programme ‘praça da alegria’: [water series]

portuguese national television, rtp africa: interview

portuguese national television , rtp internacional: interview

brazilian cable television, gnt, interview at my studio + at water series exhibition + coverage of the exhibition

june 1998:
portuguese national television, channel rtp1, interview on morning programme ‘praça da alegria’: [circumambulatio]

may 1996:
portuguese national television, channel rtp1, interview on morning programme ‘praça da alegria’: [bridges of utopia]

portuguese national television, channel rtp2,: ‘bridges of utopia’ highlighted in cultural agenda for may/june

radio [interviews]

april 2005:
rtb - brunei: [x?]artists - one boat

june 2000:
radio paris - lisbon: [water series]

june 1996:
radio marginal - lisbon: [bridges of utopia]

newspapers & magazines

april 2005 (brunei):
2 articles in borneo bulletin for [x?]artists - one boat

january 2004 (brunei):
article and review in borneo bulletin [brunei art forum]
text published in borneo bulletin: reply as chairman of brunei art forum to anonymous critique in same newspaper.

february 2004 (brunei):
2 articles in borneo bulletin [beyond the spice islands]

march 2004 (brunei):
cover story and extensive article on brunei art forum in royal brunei airlines in-flight magazine.

may 2004 (brunei):
2 articles in the borneo bulletin [local colours exhibition at empire hotel]

july 2004 (brunei):
article in borneo bulletin: majestic art at the empire – opening of empireArt gallery

june 2003 (brunei):
review in borneo bulletin [ borneo series ]
article in borneo bulletin
article in miri news (malaysia)

august 2003 (brunei):
article in borneo bulletin [ borneo series ]

june 2002 (brunei):
review in news express [private viewing]

november 2002 (brunei):
highlight in borneo bulletin [guests in brunei exhibition]

june 2000 (portugal):
review in correio da manhã [water series]
review in o dia
review in semanário
review in jornal de notícias
review in xis magazine
article in grande reportagem
article in casa & jardim
article in revista visão
artist’s profile in caras magazine
highlight in jornal de letras

june 1998 (portugal):
review in correio da manhã
highlight in revista visão

may 1997 (germany):
review of kunst in kettenwerk in taz hamburg,
review in langhorner wochenblatt

june 1996 (portugal):
double page review in correio da manhã [bridges of utopia]
review in diário de notícias
review in o independente
review in xis magazine + article on the artist
highlight in casa e jardim
exhibition highlight in o expresso
exhibition highlight in o público

may 1986 (portugal):
highlight/review in diário de notícias on participation in young artists competition - casino estoril

Artist Collections

public collections - brazil presidential palace palácio do planalto, brasília
+ private collectors in europe portugal, france, germany, switzerland, uk, australia, bahrain, brunei, hong kong, malaysia, singapore, u.s.a.

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