The several layers of Branca Cuvier
There’s an impressive amount of talent around Branca Cuvier. From her mother, the painter Joana Rosa, to her grandma, the plastic artist Helena Almeida, Branca comes from a family of artistic women and architectural men. The latter are the earth, the former the fire and the air. Branca is the fruit of all this, is also the different sum of the parts.
She started with drawing, but the tridimensionality of her jewellery was the place where she found a more full-fledged form of expression. After having created her own brand, taking her to the zenith – her own, more than the brand’s – she is back to her roots. With an elastic reasoning, one always sharp-minded, she explained to us the inner process that has taken her from Baguera to simply being Branca Cuvier.
Art was always an unavoidable destiny for the girl who, in school, sat in the back doing portrays ordered by her friends. It was the natural extension of the drawings, of the collages and the paper dolls she always did alongside her mother. “At home, everything was about hands and senses”, she explains. When it was time to choose a degree, she naturally took drawing at Ar.Co. At the end of the first year, one of the teachers, impressed with an informal experience with oil pastels, advised her to go to painting. She directly joined the 2nd year and, for some time, she was happy among canvases and inks. “It had the drawing, the colour, something was starting to emerge there, but it was not enough yet”. The frustration kept growing alongside the absence of stimulus for someone who willingly admits that always had a strenuous relationship with school.
The next step was to move from 2D to 3D. It proved to be the right option and, in the jewellery course, also at Ar.Co, she was able to find an extension of the body and brain.
She says that she always put herself in front of the headlights, even in the most daunting or unpleasant situations, as long as she felt she had something to learn from them. That’s what she did at the end of the course, when she acknowledged that she had to move out of her comfort and stagnation zone felt in Lisbon. She joined the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, where she stayed for one year. After that, she completed a 4-month internship at Lucy McRae’s studio, a period she deems essential for his artistic growth.
After having synthesized the Dutch experience – “I learned to arrive on time, to deliver the works ahead of schedule and deal with things in a way that was just not to get by” – it was time to come back to Lisbon with her head bubbling with ideas. She wanted to create a jewellery brand, however, since she was not fond of gold and silver, she spent eight months exploring another kind of materials. In 2011, Baguera was born.
Despite admitting that she was more tormented back then than what she is nowadays, she upholds the quasi-choice conviction that guided the project: “I can do anything creative that is not tormented. The artist can usually work for 8 hours per day, one does not need to drink, smoke, suffer, in order to conceive something good. One can be well adjusted and an artist at the same time”. And Baguera was like that: a vehicle for simpler and more accessible ideas, without betraying Branca’s creative expression. It aimed to be a means of living which, at the same time, had room to develop another type of a more complex work.
And it was almost all that for five years. But, in school, they do not teach us that the logistics of conducting a project like this to reach calm waters can swallow us in the process. “I’m extremely proud of it and I would not change a single thing. If I wanted the brand to be my life, and if I did not have any other call, Baguera would have been enough. But what I really wanted was something different and, after five years, I was already grey inside”, she explains.
It was time to make a decision on what would be the future of Baguera: closing it, selling it? Despite a large number of astonished voices, she decided to offer it. One of her best friends and a former partner at Ar.Co, Raquel Strecht, had at the time just resigned from the jeweller Leitão & Irmão and everything became clear to her: she was the right person to control Baguera. She said she did not want to sell the brand, because she did not really know its value and, even if she did, the person to whom she wanted to give it was not in a position to buy it.
They even worked together for six months, thinking that this two-headed formula would give her the time she needed to explore other projects. But the truth is that it was the right time to cut all the strings and move on.
What came next was a period of physic and psychologic drain, with five years of compression emerging at the surface. “My cure was going to a therapist and laugh a lot. Louis C.K. and Amy Schumer cured me. It was a back to the basics thing: eat well, sleep well, spend time with family. I needed to feel things straight from the roots, being quiet while observing and avoiding any rushes. It was a professional and personal reset”, she declares.
Gradually, the energy was back and, with it, the ideas and the instinct she had stopped to feel. She started to gather a file with everything that popped up in her head and wrote yet another manifesto in order to try to reconnect herself with what was important for her as an artist. She compiled a list of things that prompt her, a list that is still hanging in the studio of Príncipe Real: mystery, secrets, sensuality, sexuality, fragility, religions, shortcomings.
More than concerning herself with the support of the work that she was about to do next, she wanted to accept herself. In a nutshell, forgive herself. “I do think one has to forgive herself to let things happen, to stop controlling and fearing”.
She read, wrote, walked a lot, listened to music, cooked (one of her great pleasures) and, in the inner space created by those things, she was intuitively going back to the roots: the paper, the colours, the transparencies, the layers. After fighting a “relapse” during which she again controlled too much – “I even had the name of the projects that were not finished, without even seeing them” – six months ago she started to produce drawings which can be seen on her website and Instagram. Faces, bodies, colour spots that overlap traces, creating some kind of flat layers.
She started to have orders right away and has been selling almost everything on social media. Despite that, this work is not a definition, is not Branca Cuvier from now on. It’s just the beginning of something. “I already know my manifesto, I know what I want to convey. I know that I’m deeply interested in the relationship that the human being has with himself and with the others, with the need to connect and what that implies, with what happens in that space and in the inner space. The emotions and the issues attached to those and the way I will play with that to mess with people a little bit, to express myself, to exist, to work”, she explains.
With that being said, everything is possible. The work can head towards video, sound, she does not now. It will certainly go in a direction against the quest for perfection, one of the other things she tried to leave behind. For the moment, she feels that she is going back to 3D again. On her desk she already has drafts for works that approach, yet again, her fascination for layers. “I always remember that sentence from Shrek – ‘you know, ogres are like onions, they have lots of layers’. Perhaps I’m an ogre”, she says laughing.
Above anything else, this ability to laugh is something she does now want to lose track of.