Carlos Martins (1946 - )

Concha e barroco (1977)
Shell and Baroque

Aquatint on paper
height: 28cm
width: 23cm

Donated by Carlos Martins 1998


Carlos Martins had received a British Academy grant to study architecture at Edinburgh University between 1973 and 1975, and in his final year he studied etching at the Slade, London, where he went on to take a specialised course in printmaking techniques (1975-77). Martins produced several still life studies towards the end of this period. Amongst these, the objects depicted in Concha e Barroco are distinctive for their comparatively large scale, centralised position and sketch-like, less precise rendering. Placed casually on a spotted cloth on a tabletop, this image appears at first to be an experimental exercise in capturing two aesthetically interesting forms, a shell and a large fragment of pottery. However the wordplay of the work's title suggests that the two objects were not randomly selected for their interesting forms. When placed next to a seashell, the word 'Barroco' (Baroque) betrays its origin as the Portuguese term for an irregular pearl, and its association with the Italian term 'baroco', meaning weak or imperfect reasoning. Both words, and their respective meanings, have been attributed as the origin of the art historical and aesthetic term Baroque. This wordplay creates uncertain conclusions as to whether this is a piece of 'Baroque' style pottery or a metaphorical allusion to the Brazilian Baroque, the country's formative and often revisited art historical period.

Isobel Whitelegg, 2008

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