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Parasita, by Rita Ferreira, at Travessa da Ermida

Parasita is suspended in the vault of an old hermitage. It is an oil painting on paper, designed by Rita Ferreira for Projeto Travessa da Ermida. João Silvério is in the role of curator, although he claims that the work did not necessarily depend on the curatorial process.

Rita Ferreira’s work (Óbidos, 1991) is focused on painting and drawing. The abstract forms, present in most of her works, “seem to precede the language of meaning”, as stated in João Silvério’s text about the exhibition. In Parasita, these blackish forms are vigorously drawn on a green background. The aestheticism of painting is countered by the movement, the organicity and the plasticity of the forms, which reveals a choreography of the body. For the first time, “the background assumes itself as a proper background, as a base, and not as a form or an element that gives shape to something”, Rita Ferreira declares.

The scale of Parasita was defined taking into consideration the dimensions and characteristics of what was once a space of religious worship. The 3,60 m x 2,50 m surface has two sides, structured by several layers of paper, which give it thickness, stiffness and weight, allowing it to be supported only through its upper edge. The body of the painting, its physicality, is similar to a tapestry.

The sculptural or installation dimension is typical of Rita Ferreira’s work, taking into account the structures she creates for the exhibition of painting. Racks made of brass, which frame planes on paper, or iron structures that allow vertical exhibition, are some of the devices used. But the suspension is a novelty presented for the first time through the work Parasita.

Only 10 cm from the floor, the painting is presented as a levitated body. The light around, between the work and the space, underlines this suspension. Three elements are combined in perfect harmony: the scale of the space, the proportion of the painting and its positioning in the space. The work could be neither bigger nor smaller. It could be neither closer nor further. It has the right dimensions and it is in the right place.

Located in the spot of the old altar, visible immediately by those who enter the first antechamber of the Hermitage, the work of great dimensions paradoxically presents a reverse side. It is as if the first visible face, the first clash with the observer, contaminated its back, leading the public to surround it and discover what is behind it, in the place of worship. According to João Silvério “the parasitism of this work is in its spatial situation, suspended under the roof of the hermitage, rising at the same time over the spectator”.

Parasita appears after Rita Ferreira’s most recent work for the Anozero Biennial, in Coimbra, based on memories of the place where she was born. Memories that aroused interest in the development of a research on parasitic plants. “He who eats at someone else’s table” is the definition of the Greek term “parásitos”, the origin of the word “parasite”, organisms that associate themselves with others, taking away their means of survival, thus affecting the host organism.

Hyobanche Sanguinea is the parasitic species, with origin in South Africa, which is the origin of the work Parasita. Its reddish tone and small dimensions are not at all similar to the scale and green tonality used by Rita Ferreira. The result is far from the referent that gave rise to the painting, with no intention of making a direct representation. Although the name of the work nurtures a mental image or an idea of what the work may be, that image is not corresponded, opening up other interpretations and causing greater involvement of the visitor. This “parasitic object” ends up saying more about us, as spectators, than about the botanical species that was in its origin.

Parasita is on view at Travessa da Ermida, in Lisbon, until January 11.

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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