The Sibyl’s gaze, Museu do Oriente

Today I visited the exhibition “the Sibyl’s gaze” at the Museu do Oriente in Lisbon. The theme of the exhibition is the transformation of the body, with the figure of Sibyl as a metaphor therefor. The exhibition has been created by 6 different art institutions coming together and unites works in many different media- drawing, painting, sculpture, installations, video work and written word. It is widely advertised all over town.

I guess my expectations were too high, especially as it seemed to fit my studies of the human figure so perfectly, so I was very disappointed at the exhibition.

First of all I had a really hard time finding a connection between the theme and most of the art. I guess “transformation of the body” does not have to mean the human body, at least not in any recognizable form.

Here I will write about a few works that deal with the human figure, as that is what interested me.


These drawings in oil pastel and graphite on paper are by Portuguese artist Joana Villaverde. I do not really appreciate how abruptly they end and the limbs missing, but a good reminder to explore the “unfinished drawing”. Despite always liking an unfinished element , I always fiddle too much and finish my own drawings.


This is a cloth sculpture called “when you wish upon a star” by Joao Pedro Vale, the nose of the figure continuing into this mass, Pinocchios lies neverending maybe.

Two small oil paintings by Vieira da Silva, the right one a self portrait of the artist. I was happy to see these paintings here as Vieira da Silva is an artist I have been wanting to discover for a while. I will look closer at her work in the portrait part of the course.


This oil painting called “Heaven” by artist Gemuce from Mocambique touched me. There is such a contrast between the heaviness I associate with the burkha and the lightness of the sky and the movement of the figure on the swing. The pose is still contained and careful, but there is the flying sensation of being weightless too.


This photograph on a light box by young Portuguese artist Rita GT is a strong image too. All the focus of the image is led to the centre, between the legs of the model where she is collecting wrapped candies. An image that can tell many different stories.

Lastly I include this painting, as it was the most clearly dealing with the theme of transformation, although I am not sure about the body here- it looks like a beast or maybe a Kafka transformation, but I guess that can open up a lot of musings about what the body is and means…..




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