Avenida da República, 300
2750-475 Cascais
[200 meters from Cidadela]
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March 10th to October 2nd 2022

Curator: Catarina Alfaro


Menez's journey through life (Lisbon, 1926-1995), her affirmation as a painter, and the recognition she achieved as an artist in Portugal were all a little unusual. Having left Portugal at the age of 2 because of family circumstances, she lived in several parts of the world and most of her schooling occurred in Switzerland. She returned to Portugal at the age of 20 to leave again to spend two years in the USA, specifically in Washington, D.C. Menez only began to paint regularly when she was 26, despite the fact that she started at the age of 13, even if without any academic training. However, the fact she was self-taught did not prove to be an obstacle in her pursuit of an artistic career lasting more than 40 years - not exclusively dedicated to painting, but also including drawing, engraving, ceramics, glazed tiles and tapestry - and consolidated by regular solo and group exhibitions as well as reviews of her work by the most esteemed figures of literature and the visual arts. The favourable reception of her work is confirmed by the presence of her pieces in Portugal's great institutional collections (such as those of Millennium BCP and Caixa Geral de Depósitos) as well as private collections.

The originality and difficulty of placing her work within a stylistic framework is due mainly to her understanding of painting as a process of personal affirmation, capable of transmitting her own vision of the world.

In 1954 she exhibited for the first time in the Galeria de Março, namely a collection of gouaches. These works reveal a mastery of this technique and integrate formal and compositional elements that favour luminous values as determining coordinators in the construction of space - executed from the stance of a performance between concealment and exposure, between interior and exterior, between abstraction and figuration - elements which would persist in her work and define it. At the end of the 1960s - after time spent in London (1964-65 and 1969) as a Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation scholarship holder - her pieces already started to show traces of a new figurative line of exploration, with a greater formal definition. In the 1970s her painting continued to develop along this line of "formal fantasy" which imprints on her works a dense and increasingly intricate chromatic volumetry where figurative elements are combined with abstract forms, in an ambiguity between figuration and abstraction.

This ambiguity is overcome in the 1980s when in keeping with the earlier evolution of her work, Menez differentiates and makes visible figures that occupy a scenographically transformed space in the painting. These are interior scenes, most of them of studios but some of gardens, always enclosed spaces that invariably communicate with the exterior. These paintings of studios are her way of "painting the act of painting". Strangely familiar because they belong so closely to the reality of her working environment - where the ceramic pots full of brushes, the easels, the open books, the numerous canvases in different phases of execution can all be found -, these paintings are projections of her imaginary, topographic extensions of her way of "inhabiting" the space inside and outside painting. Using the classic strategies of painting (treatment of light, use of perspective in spatial organisation), her workspace is transfigured by the ambiguous relationships she establishes between interior and exterior. The studio opens up to the outside space - a garden or the window that focuses on the Tagus River - through intermediate spaces, rooms that fragment in sequence, or through the demultiplicating effect of the mirrors or of the paintings within the painting.

Her female figures inhabit this enigmatic space in dramatic isolation where their gesturality is staged, just like the spatiality is staged. In some of these paintings the artist seems to represent herself as a model, in a staging of the act of painting where she herself is the object of the painting.There is no possibility of a personal narrative in these works: the protagonists are constituent parts of a scenographic composition and are, for that reason, unreal.

In one of her rare interviews, Menez stated: "The figurative has to do with something intimate, mine." Accepting the silence of her works, the absolute immobility of her figures and the discontinuity, which sometimes gives way to a temporal and spatial overlapping where they are inscribed, is the best way to relating to them. Under the façade of familiarity, they are inaccessible because they are far from the common appearance of the visible world. And these characteristics have always asserted themselves in her painting.

MenezPaula Rego, Noiva da noite, 2009