LUÍS DEMÉE
MULTICULTURE AND TIME


Luís Luciano Demée is the most important visual artist born in Macau.
This statement is not an eulogy because that would be redundant. It merely issues from the simple acknowledgement of an undeniable fact.
Luís Demée is, also, one of the most important Portuguese painters of his generation, a man who chose the way of reservation, and discretion to express himself, avoiding the all too easy limelight, which he always regarded as excessive.

I had the opportunity of knowing Luís Demée and living closely and intensely with him, in the 1970s, when the artist spent a period of two years in his hometown. That period, now more than three decades ago, was the foundation of a friendship and respect for the illustrious figure of the Man and of the Artist that were rekindled with natural ease following an homage exhibition organised by the then Luís de Camões Museum in 1985.

By the end of the 1960s, at his father’s house, I had seen extraordinary water colours painted by Luís Demée, which already challenged those of master George Smirnoff in quality, at the time when this young man was not older than 16.
To analyze the work of Luís Demée is, for those who may be acquainted with his first steps, to understand the true essence of Macau: the multicultural dimension that is inherent to the city and remains ever at its core, and that its artists know how to interpret from the standpoint of their own individuality.

Since the 19th century, Macau has had a lineage of artists that portrayed it, and its different aspects, in terms of graphic narrative: Auguste Borget, George Chinnery, Thomas Boswall Watson and Marciano Baptista in the 19th century; and George Smirnoff, Luís Demée, Herculano Estorninho, Kam Cheong Leng, Tam Chi Sang, Kwok Si, Lio Man Cheong, Lai Ieng, Chan Kai Chon, and Guilherme Ung Vai Meng from the 20th century to the present.

Within this narrative context, it is entirely possible to identify the overwhelming preference shown by Luís Demée for the marine themes of Macau. The choice of this exhibition’s title may, therefore, be inferred from that very preference.
The perfectly preserved collection, now being displayed for the first time, is over fifty years old.
Made by an adolescent, the 91 works in the exhibition prove beyond any doubt the enormous talent exuding from the young Luís Demée. However, this exhibition is obviously not concerned solely with talent.

By working mainly on the marine landscape of Macau, the artist reveals, on the one hand, complete independence of his master and friend, George Smirnoff, and, on the other hand, he shows a skill that exists exceptionally in precocious and overly gifted artist.

The precocious evolution in capacity of an author who worked in a quiet city in the South of China, and whose later works irrefutably announce a permanent artistic research in a confined geographical space where, at the time, information was a scarce commodity, is a detail that should be brought to light here, in the global reading of this remarkable collection.

Looking at the works in this collection, it is not hard to understand that we are standing before a painter, someone who paints because such is his calling, because such is his intuition and vital need for expressing himself. In the specific case of Luís Demée’s work, this points towards an essential pictorial quality, in the sense of the essentiality of the language that belongs to the noble art of painting.
For the full comprehension of Luís Demée’s work, it is also important to stress that the artist is still producing works of the highest quality imbued with such craftsmanship – now even more refined than ever – that I feel I should emphasize this essential characteristic of the artist, and his full commitment to the laborious craft of painting.
In historical and documental terms, this is an exhibition of an enormous heritage value for Macau, being, at the same time, the point of departure for the understanding of the whole opus of Luís Luciano Demée’s, who has settled in the city of Oporto for several decades now.

In fact, the sea of Macau and a certain ambiance in the current paintings of Luís Demée revisit the multicultural dimension at the heart of Macau, denoting that time, even when diluted in the distance of decades, remains in the consciousness and intrinsic memories of authors whose artistic conception cannot be separated from his identity as shaped by an existence that was led in plural geographical spaces and that expresses itself beyond fashion or the increasingly volatile artistic trends, the contemporariness of which issues from the ephemeral status as dictated by the laws of the art market.
For all these reasons – the works now exhibited before the public of Macau, in their first presentation to the world – and for its intrinsic artistic and documental value, this exhibition arises from the hazy altar of time to testify about a period of Macau, and about an artist whose qualities are unquestionable.

António Conceição Júnior
Exhibition Curator