Ana Hatherly Invented Herself
I pay here a simple tribute in memory of her departure from this world. She was an intricate personality, endowed with great versatility, unique when it was time to intervene, who left us a premature, singular and avant-garde work, particularly in the field of performing arts, in which the body was granted a pivotal role. Ana Hatherly is considered one of the pioneering names, juxtaposing different artistic expressions, in a multiplicity made of hybrid supports, from writing, to plastic arts and cinema. Even when taking into account her visual compositions made of (un)collages, writing is always present. In the series of video images and poster layouts that comprised Les Rues de Lisbonne, unparalleled documents which are now part of the Gulbenkian Collection’s acquis, recently exhibited at CAM, one can attest that these are characterized by an extremely strong urban poetization, conducted during a cycle that was part of the post-revolutionary period.
Regarding her own history, one should mention that, in autumn of 1977, the artist detached pieces of posters from the walls, mostly associated with politics, tears that were made in a performative and shredding motion, much to her own taste, a sort of a reenactment in which the city returns to us. Those posters display that tendency, where the text flaunts itself among freely conceived compositions. Their interrupted shapes are made of amputated words and images, throwing us back to an artistic tradition of the 20th century, which includes important artistic references, such as the collages of Picasso, the Merz paintings of K. Schwitters, and the découpages of nouveaux réalistes Mimmo Rotella. In these pieces, one can feel the shape of A. Hatherly, with her everlasting enthusiasm for the urban space, her intense creative sensibility, as well as her boldness and dimension. These images, abiding by their own dynamics, start to germinate, made of fractions of street fragments, properly segmented, as if they first started to exist spontaneously. A unique pictorial expressiveness is acknowledged, drawn from a logic where collage has the central role; which then has its purity replaced, as to what concerns the visual and verbal matters on the accretion of coincidences, by the extraneous gesture of pasting and tearing. In this context, art is no longer synonymous with the production of a specific object, but with the production of a concept that is mainly focused on the broader and most profound form of communication/intervention.
“Each one only has left his own lone flight” (A. Hatherly)
The movie Rotura works a performative installation, displayed at Galeria Quadrum, one of great impact, shrouded in a mood of extreme suspense and dating from the same year of the aforementioned posters. This work, that holds a profound density, in which the artist, photographed and filmed, presented herself wearing a plaid flannel shirt and a beret (blending, in an image depiction, two clichés: the painter and the Portuguese revolutionary); tearing with knives, an action with some degree of violence, the white sheets of paper, as if she had an aversion not to white paper but to blank paper. The sound starts to emerge in a powerful way, to the point where the author herself was surprised by the final outcome. Given the panel’s height, Ana had to position herself on the top of a ladder to carry out her work; with the audience ending up exhausted, after having witnessed the creative act giving birth to a work of art, something that is seldom allowed, amid a quarrel against the material itself.
Hatherly has a very distinct path, during which she tried to conceive, with her visual works, an interpenetration, under a close and amicable relationship concatenated between the image and the text, where the creation, in her imaginary world, attuned the plastic arts with the literary universe. This process, on the one hand, gave visibility to the art of writing and, on the other, did the same for drawing; both boundaries became more and more blurred, where defining accurately where each one of these domains begins and ends is far from being something obvious. As the creator used to say: “I’m a painter of the word. I’m always attached to writing, thus the writing lives inside the painting. What people don’t realize is that writing is a form of drawing in itself”. It’s going after the unsayable. Currently, this way of conveying communication is something recurrent, but back then it was rare. “My works starts with writing, which then extends itself to visual arts based on experimentation with the word”, through a process in which one becomes more aware of the ties that unite all arts. She assumed a marginality that was necessary to her work and she kept being a rebel until the very end.
Increasing the knowledge about the mystery of creativity was something that awoke her interest: “What is created and how it is created. It’s a sacred act. I don’t write to say what cannot be said. But what cannot be said can be shown”. To this author, in art, the truly attainable reality is the one we create.