MINIMALIST LEGACY, WHERE I BEGIN
With the project I developed, I reactivated the legacy left by diverse artists who, in the 1950s and 1960s, forged new paths for painting through an exploration of its surface and its objecthood. My work, at an early stage, resulted from the modelling of different materials exploring their different behaviours to the same type of intervention. Throughout this process I look for the fragilities of the materials, what their physical and plastic qualities are, how they behave after the human intervention. I try to understand its weight, its relation to space and its stability.
This modelling of objects involves folding them, bending them, finding their corners, creating creases, and the textures it causes. Already in this primary phase I can relate to the sculptor Richard Serra and his Verblist. He compiled a series of what he called “actions to relate to oneself, material, place, and process.”
These processes are carried out, by me, in paper, metal, ceramics, plaster, brass, fabric and rubber. Thus begins a huge conversation between several materials that are related by there manipulation.
Verblist by Richard Serra
FIELD OF WORK
“Neither painting nor sculpture” - the famous expression with which Donald Judd identified half or more of the best new works of the last few years.
“Specific objects” was Judd's term coined to designate three-dimensional works that were in fact neither painting nor sculpture but “related closely or distantly, to one or the other”.
The expression covered a huge variety of artists, mostly related to minimalism.
We are not far from the rumours of a crisis in painting – or even its death, that has more or less hyperbolically traversed many of the avant-garde innovations and breakthroughs in art throughout the 1960s.
For me, as for my art practice I do not believe in the "death of painting". However, I certainly feel a dissatisfaction with the limits of painting, not only its physical limits, but also, and not least, its limits as a space of representation. And for this reason, three-dimensionality has emerged in my work.
I like to think art through the eyes of a viewer, not only because of the relation with scale, but for all the reasons that make art have audience, which are, sometimes, the most important part in the realization of a work.
For minimalists, work and space became inseparable entities; linked by a circumstantial, recursive and indissoluble bond. It could thus be started that the minimalist object was incomplete without the viewer. This connection is one of the reasons why sculpture is also part of my work., its relationship with space and body is intrinsic: “One of the most important things in sculpture is the way the public is invited to look at it. - the way you look will always dictate the way I work. “– Anthony Caro phrase.
details from Pillows Talk by Joana Passos
Materiality is the drive in my work, and what makes the process start. I believe that this desire about materials may come from my education. Both my parents are architects, the materials were always important and relevant in every situation as so the aesthetics. I learned that the choice of materials should be thought out for its purpose. This concept is something that I like to contradict. My idea is to deconstruct this purpose given to materials, so I manipulate materials into a way that we are not used to see them.
The choice of materials I use comes, first of all, from a personal interest, taste or curiosity, that they incite me. I am engaged in their weight, their weight in space, their presence and essentially how they shape themselves, how I can work on them.
Paper: carries poor durability, almost ephemeral, the brevity with which it passes us, slightly reflecting the consumerist society where we live. Ceramic (clay): “two stages of preparation”, the first when the clay stills soft and “obeys” the movement of the hands, it is easy to work, it is possible to make folds and overlap layers. The second phase, once the piece is fired, becomes extremely fragile and lacks care and concern because once broken it is unrecoverable. Brass/METAL: Because of its weight, the thickness it can acquire and the reflective quality it has. Fabric: for its origin from painting, the association we unconsciously make with canvas, and for its impressive capacity to mould. Rubber: it has a special colour, its materiality comes from a different and unique texture. It also conveys a characteristic smell and the variation of thickness and texture.
Joana Passos materials working
I recognized myself, in many parallels with the artist Diogo Pimentão: He experiments more than he draws, using iconic materials like graphite dust and paper. Even though his works are often monochromatic, the surface of the paper or of the wall becomes a delicate albeit metallic texture. The artist thus allows the drawing techniques to go beyond its traditional confines and expand in multiple shapes. The realizing process at the heart of his creation abolishes the boundary between drawing, sculpture and performance.
The way how I, initially, handle paper or fabric was decisively related to the art of Diogo Pimentão, the way the artist folds the paper and gives it a sculptural dimension captured my attention. Painting does not assume the leading role of my work, but it is present and nonetheless indispensable mainly at the semantic level. I use it so that the materials, which are so different in composition, resemble each other, so that only the most detailed look differentiates them, this is other aspect in which Pimentão's work dialogues with mine: “Entering in the exhibition place and the first confrontation with the works provokes a moment of tension and doubt (about the material, about the weight, the categorization ...), this anxiety can only be resolved with a very close observation on each one of the works. It is this close relationship, intrinsic to the drawing (in its making and reading), that puts us back in a familiar position and allows us to catch our breath”- excerpt from the text Andreia Poças wrote about an exhibition by Diogo held at the Múrias Centeno Gallery.
Untitled by Diogo Pimentão
Everyday Painting by Angela de La Cruz
This procedure I performed in my pieces is one of the reasons why Angela de la Cruz's work was the great reference of my project, not only at intervention levels of the work but also at visual aspects. Angela de la Cruz also felt the need to transgress the limits of painting, and hence the conventions that support them, in a sequence of works that progressively and remarkably expand the field of conceptual and formal possibilities of her work. De La Cruz's work resides in the use of formal strategies that underline painting’s objecthood and summons up both the abstract lexicon of modernism and certain practices of deconstruction painting, in order to explore a field of figurative representation that is metaphorically linked to the real world. The artist never ceased to claim painting as a historical matrix and as a universal reference, to the extend of constantly speaking about most of her works as paintings. According to her, in order for her work to make sense, she needs this inscription in the history of painting, although by impassable paths that depart from the parameters and norms agreed by tradition.
In this respect, my project was very different from Angela de la Cruz's work since painting does not play a major role in my work.
Many of the author's works begin with a monochrome painting that is later submitted to procedures, not rarely violent, that undermine the integrity of the pictorial surface, destroy or uncover the frame, occasionally rescind it; in short, transform the painting into an object. These procedures executed on the material are what interests me. In most of the works assembled under the generic title Everyday Painting, the aggressions and various degrees of damage wrought by the artist on canvas and stretcher alike take on an explicit violence whose representational equivalent can be found in the real-life daily situations with which she constantly establishes analogies.
In the further development of this work, which began in the first year of my master's degree, I decided to focus on just one material. I devoted myself entirely to the study of cement. Cement is a material very associated with construction, and in turn very sculptural.
This is the main reason why I wanted to be exclusively concentrated on cement. It was the first time I worked with this material, and I felt that it would take time and several experiments to understand how to use it and learn how to manipulate it. It was, however, very important that the work that was being developed was related to all the work done previously, because despite suffering some inherent changes in the material, it is nonetheless an extension of the former. Everything belongs to the same work group, helping to develop a single project.
The choice of this material was suggested by the huge admiration I have for the work of the Brazilian artist, Lucas Simões, before becoming an artist, Simões was an architect. He has long been interested in the promises, failures, and whiteness of modern architecture. His works are a cross-dialogue between the architectural raw material and its inhabitants; In a silent freedom that destabilizes our certainty about its rigor and endurance, its work reveals the role of what we thought was the most vulnerable part of the structure. The way he uses concrete aroused in me a great desire to work with this material.
As well as combining different materials in the same piece. Materials that sometimes contrast, but nevertheless, when together they complement and belong to each other.
Corpo de Prova by Lucas Simões
Narrative appeared in my work for a brief time, it was brought up by a very specific project called Immurement. The Immurement exhibition, at the Crypt Gallery, subconsciously brought to my work a conceptual side that had never been explored before. The Immurement title employed a concept related to this theme, (from Latin im- "in" and murus "wall"; literally "walling in") is a form of imprisonment, usually for life, in which a person is placed within an enclosed space with no exits. This includes instances where people have been enclosed in extremely tight confinement, such as within a coffin. When used as a means of execution, the prisoner is simply left to die from starvation or dehydration. This form of execution is distinct from being buried alive, in which the victim typically dies of asphyxiation. The research team had come up with this title which leaved much space for interpretation. Some inspirations around the word immurement relating to the Crypt could be: Bodies buried in the Crypt – tombstone of unknown woman; 200(+) years of stories buried within the walls of Crypt; The first stone for the parish was laid by Duke of York on 1 July 1819, carved with a Greek inscription which translates to ‘May the light of the blessed Gospel thus ever illuminate the dark temples of the Heathen’; The walls being used as a shelter during the war; The Crypt having a ‘maze’ like feel to it, being boxed in; Caryatids holding up structure above, boxed in, carrying weight/burden.
I decided to lean on all these historical facts about the crypt and create this cement pillows that represent all of those who suffered in this space, telling through there form the story of these men, women and children, that were forced to find shelter on this walls and slept in this space. The pillows were chosen to mirror those nights spent in the crypt, that were obviously devoid of comfort, rest, repose, sleep…among others, these privations will be manifested by the cement, this material represent all of the discomfort felt by these people, the fact that it is hard, not malleable, and for carrying a huge contrast with pillow features.
Consequently, to all these factors, it was born a narrative in my work. There is a very defined and clear concept in my practice. The pieces that I do, in this particular case, objects, are made to “tell a story”, through them appears a narrative, we are able to learn more about the “person” who used these pillows.
This project entitled PillowsTalk were made in relation to, and for, the Crypt exhibition. Although, it did not made sense to me to leave this theme right way, there was still a lot to explore. For this reason, I kept working with cement and also with this object, pillows.
CONTRADICT USE OF MATERIAL
I first approached this material, for the first time, by creating pieces that I called Pillows named after the object it represents. At first I made it on a small scale and as I got to know the material and gain some technical skill I decided to make it bigger and try represent it, almost in full scale.
However, there is a controversy in these pillows, since this is an object that frequently reflect comfort and rest, and no one would like to use cement pillows, because its obviously not comfortable. This question about material–representation is something that I like to play with. In my work I am keen to contradict the normal use of the material. Deconstructing the usual impression of materials, I manipulate cement in order to show it in a way that we are not used to see.
We can see the directions of the same purpose in Christoph Weber path, works with concrete and through his pieces his ability to defy the quality of the materials he works with and his interest in the process based approach to art are clearly evidenced. On Fold, Christoph Weber’s second solo exhibition at ProjecteSD, is precisely about focusing on this antagonistic notion: going against the raw nature of the material to subvert it and move from there putting together what seems impossible to be connected. In a way On Fold is about finding new relations, transforming and finally expanding the idea of sculpture.
Apart from this artist, also in one work of Portuguese sculptor João Castro Silva we can identify this characteristic of doubt in relation to the material. In his piece entitled Draperies it is very visible. There is tremendous technical quality in the way Castro Silva handles wood, brilliantly representing the shape, lightness, and expression of fabrics, using this material so contrasting and vastly different from what is being represented.
Draperies by João Castro Silva
Titles began to gain influence in my work. I felt the need to use them and to think seriously about them so that the observer would understand better and could read my sculptures, meeting what I intend to communicate. We are able to recognise influences from Angela de la Cruz work. After studying the artist's work, I created a deep interest in the "game" she performs by titled her pieces. By transforming the monochrome paintings into figurative objects, the artist endowed them with human subjective qualities, psychological and emotional attributes, even of her own free will, and portrayed them in full action or in real-life situations.
In summary and in his words, the paintings assumed “the role of the object person”, “becoming more human than humans themselves”; "It's as if the paintings were playing a human role instead of a painting role." The importance of titles in this anthropomorphising effect and in the corresponding production of meaning in the passage from signifier to meaning is remarkable. In my project this conceptual feature allows the objects created by me, in this case the pillows, to be able to tell stories, essentially about the people who own these objects, their “owners”. Giving the observer little characteristics about these people, as if they were little clues that lead us to understand what happened in a given action. The object prints the action of the one who used it. Being able to tell / transmit small facts or stories about these “people”.
Work by Joana Passos
For the easter stage I elected to work, and embrace my practice in this object - pillows - for several reasons, that gave my work depth and meaning. First of all because it is an object that we are used to have contact in private life, in our intimacy, our homes, or friends and family homes. It is a very intimal object, with a very private and personal load. The idea of bringing these interior objects to the public adds to my work new features, which I find stimulating and which in themselves may appeal the curiosity of viewers.
In addition to being in an intimate setting, these objects are used every day, they are present in our daily life. At most times we do not even notice them, are almost an ignored presence, perpetuating them in cement, in a way, forces us to feel them and see them in an alternative approach. And this action of drawing attention to the obvious is something that motivates me. In various artists I review some of these themes, such as Marie Lund born in Copenhagen, lives and works in London, “As she has been doing in a number of materials and via a range of processes, Lund was looking for the imprint, the record of exposure, left inscribed on an object by a previous life and function. This attention to the skin of an object, its vulnerable surface, places Lund’s practice on the precipice of the object – at its fragile outer limits. This is border territory where one object is constantly defined by its dyadic relation to another. The interaction of two objects is mediated by an interstitial agent operating at the membrane between entities through which knowledge, pleasure and purpose are exchanged.” One of his works where I support my practice is the Dip installation, the concrete pieces where clothes have been impressed on.
Also Edwin Wurm has some series of “Clothes Sculptures” where he hangs pullovers, or creates cubes and cylinders with them. These objects became very performative, and are converted into a media. They suffer a transformation just by the way they are showed, from personal and dress objects to sculptures.
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Even after the Immurement show, it was very important for me to keep working on the pillows theme and narrative, I needed to understand if those objects worked in a different environment, . What would happen if the pillows were taken from that crypt context? Would the pillows carry the same meaning without that scenario?
To answer all these questions three more pillows pieces were made, to show on the first assessment, as we can see on the left side.
I realised that the pillows were not so well read outside the crypt context. It didn’t make sense to keep working on them. It was time to move on...
So I was in a position to decide that materiality would drive my practice forward and step aside narrative.
For this reason I developed my work and pieces with a materiality concept apart from a narrative. This precess is absolutely associated with materials and their relation. I have been working with more than one material in the same piece.
I aim that my work is not so tied to a represented extrinsic concept, but rather entreat viewers to consider the materiality of their components.
COMBINATION OF MATERIALS
As said above, I started working with two materials in the same piece. I wanted to keep working on cement and maintain the exploration of the plastic qualities of this media.
Therefore I experimented mixing cement with different types of materials, essentially fabric: canvas fabric, collared fabric, soft fabric, texture fabric. And also with rubber .
When doing the appreciation of all those experiments, during tutorials, Dragon’s Den, between others…I reached the conclusion that the combination of rubber and concrete was the most successful juxtaposition. The smooth sinuous black in contrast to the rough blocky grey worked as an interesting solution.
That was the challenge, relate two different materials, with so many contrast between their features, used for different meanings and with a very distante plastic language. I needed to understand how these materials reacted and behaved when mixed. How would the viewer “read” them together?
It is very important that the selected materials work together, almost completing each other, besides all their disparity they need to make sense together.
experiences by Joana Passos
At some point, after working on some pieces with cement and rubber I was already comfortable with the materials, and I had learned how to manipulate them well enough.
It was time to understand what were the principal concerns in my practice and in which way I should improve the work.
One of the weakness present in my pieces were about the form of the cement component of the work. It was suggested to create my own shapes rather than relying on preexisting receptacles. I started to research some possible shapes, sketch some hypotheses and also think about the moulds and how to fabricate them.
Lucas Simões was once again a very strong inspiration for these shapes, he has the ability to create extremely simple and unique forms with concrete. Learning that the singularity of these “bodies” rely on small variations of forms that we already know.
With that goal in mind I created, I believe, some shapes of my own.
Abismos by Lucas Simões
Once analysed, the physical and plastic qualities of the materials I work with, as well as the interventions that occur in them and why, I now want to clarify the relationship of my pieces with space. Because they have become objects: between sculpture and painting, their installation requires a major role. The wall is no longer taken for granted. Various methods of installation will be used, as there is an inequality of materials will also be mixed different ways of exposure. The production of meaning and the interpellation of the viewer through the work’s positioning, now become essential to my practice. Some pieces require the floor, some the wall, and some require both, among others… Circumstance that recurs in the work of Kantinka Bock: she is an amazing German sculptor and visual artist. Bock has developed a sculpture-based practice that integrates different materials such as glass, wood, terracotta, metal and textile. Measurements and repeated gesture are two important aspects in her work. Her sculptures are very often shaped by hand, smashed or subjected to a fall, referring to a random process; they are sometimes minimal, repeating or echoing the space they occupy. The use of simple materials such as stone, glass, wood, water, ceramics or clay, mineral and organic material, evoke a landscape, a movement, they define a space and deal with memory and the traces left.
These are the place issues that I take from Kantinka's work and try to apply on mine.
In short, I try with all these projects to build a path, and to develop my work in this master's program. Seeking as a basis for this work creativity, a plastic, a visual, and conceptual quality; working on a conscious and informed record for an incentive to find ways to announce original alternatives. As my main goal I seek to develop and create individuality and contemporaneity.
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