Staffage at Lehmann + Silva Gallery / Porto, Portugal


Curated by João Vasco Paiva


Constant Dullaart

Elisa Strinna

Estefanía Landesmann

Filipe André Alves

Gabriela Albergaria 

Lewis Henderson

Magdalen Wong

Sarah Klimsch





2023 – 06.01



Lehmann + Silva Gallery
Rua Duque da Terceira 179, Bonfim
4000 – 535 Porto, Portugal

The brilliant meadow floor of Yosemite which suggested to its first eulogists a pristine eden, was in fact the result of regular fire-clearances by its Ahwahneechee Indian occupants.So while we acknowledge that the impact of humanity on the earths ecology has not been an unmixed blessing, neither has the long relationship between nature and culture been an unrelieved and redetermined calamity. At the very least, it seems right to acknowledge that it is our shaping perception that makes the difference between raw matter and landscape.Before it can ever be a repose for the senses, landscape is the work of the mind. Its scenery is built up as much strata of memory as from layers of rock.

~ Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory. 

Natures portrayal, such as still life and particularly landscape painting, occupied varied positions in the hierarchy of genres within the Western artistic tradition. Landscape painting, initially positioned lower, trailing behind historical, portrait, and genre painting during the sixteen century, gradually ascended to paramount importance by the late 19th century. The manner in which the natural world was represented seemed to hold differing levels of significance across various eras, echoing the evolving relationship between humanity and its environment. 

Within this context, the term staffage pertains to the incidental elements or secondary figures purposefully integrated into a scene. While not the central focus of the artwork, these elements infuse vitality, context, and a sense of proportion, typically within the context of a landscape. They play a role in establishing scale, thereby contributing to the depth and perspective of the artwork. Additionally, they serve narrative functions and compositional purposes, guiding the observer through different segments of the painting.

Yet, these elements also serve as symbolic representations of the metabolic interplay between society and the natural world. They contribute to a portrayal of landscapes that aren’t pristine or untouched but instead constructed, altered, sometimes cultivated, and inhabited by these figures. Images that mirror early stages of social metabolism, reflecting an hybrid relationship that would become the dominant narrative of the Antrophocene.

The interconnected flow of materials and energy between our species and nature acts as the conductive line of this exhibition. The artworks on display and the methodologies employed by the artists involved stem from a symbiotic relationship with the natural world. Strategies that spam from representative, generative, archival, transformative, and commentary-driven approaches, all stemming from this intricate relationship with nature. It is perhaps, in the confrontation of these different practices that lies a common translation –  a landscape that is not separated from human behavior, thought, and manipulation, and that is in itself a construct, a concept of, and for, our perception.