Às Nove a Caminho, by Sara Mealha

Às Nove a Caminho is the title of Sara Mealha’s solo exhibition that opened on June 7 at Galeria Balcony in Lisbon. With a background in painting, the artist relies on several different supports, having in mind the unique traits of each approach. Às Nove a Caminho gathers drawing, painting, sculpture and installation.

The gallery’s upper floor hosts the larger drawings. They depict shoes, colourful compositions of shoes, or the artist’s idea of ​​what a shoe is. Her option for oil is an attempt to perpetuate compositions, given that other materials that she has previously used, particularly liquid watercolours, would eventually disappear with time. The drawing is a path in itself, a path through which Sara Mealha progressively and thoroughly reinvents the shape of the shoe, creating images, registering each reinterpretation of the same object.

Interlaced and contorted insoles, that set a more or less accelerated rhythm – “flap, flap, flap, flap” – while staying in the very same place, insoles that are buildings, mountains, shadows, unidentified flying objects and plenty of other things. Compositions that are similar to Philip Guston’s representative paintings, filled with shoes and insoles that assemble cartoonish landscapes and monuments.

According to the artist, the images’ freedom of composition proves to be much greater through drawing/painting than through sculpture. This is how the exhibition announces a return to roots, taking into consideration her education in painting, and the whimsical and playful realm that envelops her work.

The upper floor’s wide and bright space is a contrast with the circular gallery-corridor found on the lower floor. The artist opts to counteract that same circularity, using a wall to block one of its ends. The entrance is the only way out and the audience is forced to go back to the starting point, after walking through a long corridor. This return forces the viewer to see the exhibition pieces one more time, in inverse order.

Several house sculptures, different interpretations of the very same house, of the house archetype or the concept of the house, are found in the basement floor. Just as she envisions the shoe shape through drawing/painting, Sara Mealha incessantly retells the shape of the house, altering it. She stretches it, shrinks it, distorts it, repositions it, assembling wooden sculptures with soil-filled white walls and red roofs, circumventing any possibility of habitation. Yet again, she devises images that interact with the body and space.

The path ends in a section of the profusely lit corridor, where other smaller shoe designs are shown. A return to the upper floor is hinted. The existing grey floor is covered with yellow pages, increasing the luminosity of the space, individualized by a curtain made of translucent plastic bands.

The installation trait of the exhibition space itself, where the artist also has her say, is also part of the body of work displayed. An experience that takes us to the realm of “dolls’ houses”, integrated into Sara Mealha’s universe.

Without an introductory text, the exhibition is accompanied by a small book, where the artist gathered eight texts alluding to the act of walking. The ninth is her own, materialized in the exhibition itself.

Às Nove a Caminho is open until 7 September, at Balcony, in Lisbon.

Joana Duarte (Lisbon, 1988), architect and curator, lives and works in Lisbon. She concluded her master in architecture at Faculdade de Arquitectura of Universidade de Lisboa in 2011, she attended the Technical University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands and did her professional internship in Shanghai, China. She collaborated with several national and international architects and artists developing a practice between architecture and art. In 2018 she founds her own studio, concludes the postgraduate degree in curatorial studies at Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas of Universidade Nova de Lisboa and starts collaborating with Umbigo magazine.

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