Juli?o Sarmento’s painting Tirar a Renda e Soprar na Flor (To Take Off the Lace and Blow the Flower) belongs to a body of work presented at the Portuguese pavilion of the 1997 Venice Biennale. It consisted of a series of twenty paintings and one holographic projection dedicated to the eighteenth-century Italian libertine and memoirist Giacomo Casanova. The paintings are sparsely decorated with female torsos, some unclothed, some wearing black dresses, partially erased lines, and enigmatic imagery on broad expanses of white. The canvases are coated with an emulsion of polyvinyl acetate, a rubbery synthetic polymer primarily used for adhesives that is milky white in color and both accentuates and conceals Sarmento’s compositions that are made up with visible and invisible layers of imagery marked by pentimenti -- elements that appear to be either moved from their original place to slightly different location or partially overpainted.
The title of Sarmento’s painting contains references to both Casanova’s legendary accoutrement of seduction (lace) and to the object of his pursuits (to deflower). The fragmentary and partially obscured and disjunctive imagery, which seems to reveal less than it conceals, is embodied in the index finger that touches the throat, pointing to the unspeakable or nonrepresentable that is at the heart of all great art.