Ways of Seeing Abstraction:
João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva

Most people still understand abstraction as a concentration on form. It is viewed as an art movement which is used to express aesthetic ideas, orders, philosophical ideas or inner feelings, but which does not have much to do with everyday reality. However, especially in times marked by crises, relevance and urgency are also expected from art, and it is expected to make a statement on current social issues. Today, artistic commitment is not conveyed exclusively through clear visual messages and content, but increasingly through abstraction. For younger generations, in particular, non-representational art is the means of choice for addressing politics, religion, and social issues. Showcasing works from the Deutsche Bank Collection, the exhibition “Ways of Seeing Abstraction” at the PalaisPopulaire undertakes a thoroughly subjective survey of international abstraction from postwar modernism to the recent present, documenting the diversity and discursivity that lie behind the idea of non-objective, “pure” form. On the occasion of the exhibition, our series will show you works by artists who use abstraction idiosyncratically and define it in new ways.


João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva, Lightsaber Outline, 2015
© the artists and Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf

João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva, Green and Pink Stripes and a Light Blue, Cross Over a Dark Background, 2015
© the artists and Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf

João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva, Simple Purple Cross Pattern, 2015
© the artists and Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf

João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva, Dim Apricot Stripes and Blue Bands an Black, 2015
© the artists and Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf


At first glance, the works of Gusmão + Paiva resemble photographed fabric samples or the grid structures found on carpets by Bauhaus artist Anni Albers. But then the overlapping strips of fabric have a confusing effect—they are not completely straight, their contours begin to dance before our eyes, and where they overlap they do not mix according to the rules of color theory.

Gusmão + Paiva's series, which is based on negatives exposed multiple times, not only refers to design, it also deals with twentieth-century abstract art, like the flickering effects of the stripe paintings of Op Art painter Bridget Riley. Gusmão + Paiva's works generate a similar feeling of visual instability. Such moments of subtle uncertainty characterize the entire oeuvre of the Portuguese artist duo. Their films and camera obscura installations deal with the issue of the inadequacy of perception and explore the magical potential of everyday reality. The artists sum up their work with the phrase "recreational metaphysics."