When Portuguese graphic designer, Rita Matos was approached by Lisbon-based curator Joana Portela to stage a solo show at the FOCO gallery, she saw it as an opportunity to explore graphic design as a medium but also to initiate cultural discourse about the capital’s creative scene.
Lisbon’s creative scene is currently growing at a rapid rate as a response to the cultural demands of its increasing numbers of visitors – in 2016, the number of tourist arrivals in Portugal exceeded 10 million for the first time ever. “When I started to work [as a graphic designer] in 2014, the climate was very pessimistic and most of my friends and colleagues left the country,” Rita tells It’s Nice That. However, she now sees a city with unexplored potential due to a new community of talented, creative and ambitious individuals who are determined to stay in Lisbon and create their own scene.
Despite this, Rita describes how the art and design circles still function as parallel worlds in comparison to many cities where the dynamics are more intertwined meaning designers and artists collaborate frequently. “In Lisbon, they still operate in very separate and traditional circles. It starts in our schools, where there’s very little exchange between people in different disciplines,” she explains.
“With this exhibition, I attempted to bridge the gap by showing that firstly, it can make sense to put graphic design in a contemporary art gallery and secondly, by facilitating a moment where people from these two circuits could meet, talk and exchange ideas,” Rita says. Entitled What We Feel Like, the exhibition presented a range of Rita’s typographic and editorial work, a site-specific installation (in collaboration with Bruno Rodrigues) and an exhibition identity.
The focus of What We Feel Like was Rita’s freelance and personal work, which often incorporates her own identity. With individual work and collaborations with friends, the exhibition’s title is a subtle nod to the introspective qualities graphic design can embody.
Inside the space, Rita lined the walls with a variety of posters featuring her bold and graphic type-lead design. Her work utilises letters, words and language as a way to explore the rawest forms of communication and the exhibited posters reflected these recurrent themes. Making use of the printed page in order to research her personal motivations and interests, each poster also functioned as a typographic experiment.
This visuality was then transferred outside and off the gallery walls, informing the exhibition’s pronounced identity. With a frame created by the title What We Feel Like, Rita mirrors the space in which her work was contained, relying on her chosen statement and its communicative potential.
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