At the age of three, Catarina had a near-drowning experience. What could have remained a straightforward, traumatic incident at such a tender age ultimately provided her with a moment of strange enlightenment and rapture, a moment that continued to inspire her into adulthood. For whatever reasons, one day at the pool her three-year-old self decided to lift her arms off the inner tube that was supporting her, and just like that, she began to sink to the bottom of the pool – and in that moment, as she sank, she discovered a sort of Nirvana. Dry, noisy, overstimulating reality was in one swooshing moment deleted, and she was swept down into a calm, silent, blue weightlessness. She was in utter awe; the emotions she experienced that day as she sank under the water were so strong that she remembers them to this day with the utmost clarity. It is perhaps no surprise then that over the course of her artistic career, water has become a predominating symbol in her work, appearing both literally in her subject matter and figuratively via the handling of paint.
Mantero’s work showcases a series of autobiographical paintings that seek to make sense of the experienced world through the medium of paint. A diversity of moments – people, places, objects – serves as the focal point through which she scrutinizes her understanding of self and the human experience.
Struggling to make sense out of the chaos, ambiguity, and obscurity that is our existence, Catarina performs a systematic excavation of her most self-defining recollections via paint and canvas, pinpointing moments that have for one reason or another most strongly survived time in the distorted filter we call memory. Mantero’s painting process resembles an archaeological dig, as she painstakingly excavates layer upon layer of buried memories and works to understand their precious stratification in her mind.
Naturally, one’s day-to-day perceptions, and by extension, the conclusions drawn from these extremely personal experiences, can never constitute any kind of objective “truth.”
Catarina therefore seeks in her paintings to emphasize the surreal and dreamlike quality that is inherent to any interpretation of the real, especially when these moments now exist solely in that intangible realm known as memory. The dreamlike compositions that she sketches as a result of her memory exploration become the backbone to her pictures, a skeletal frame that will sustain the story of paint. Ultimately, by juxtaposing traditional painting techniques with a more contemporary visual language, Mantero produces hybrid images that blend past and present in mirage-like layers and evoke a strange mysteriousness.
Catarina Mantero (b. 1988) is a classically trained contemporary visual artist from Portugal. A native of Lisbon, she trained at the Faculdade de Belas-Artes da Universidade de Lisboa before receiving an MFA from the New York Academy of Art in 2017, where she became a two-time recipient of the Academy Scholar Award, as well as a recipient of the Golden Foundation Award.
She was awarded a teaching residency at the Parsons-affiliated Escola de Diseño in the Dominican Republic, and is currently an Art & Culture instructor for undergraduate students at the New York Academy of Art. Her work has been shown internationally throughout Portugal, Germany, and the United States. For the past three years, she has been included in the annual “Take Home a Nude” exhibition at Sotheby’s in New York City. She had her first solo show in Lisbon in October 2016, and has since had two solo shows in New York.
Moreover, her work has been featured in Timeout Magazine, Artspace, Purple Fashion Magazine, Visão and Público. Mantero is currently living and working in the vibrant city of New York.