The Line in Flames at Casa da Cerca
Art history has been made by men over the years. There are few recognized women artists. In cinema, the women who stand out the most are those who work as a team, usually with their partners. However, men are followed and taught in schools and colleges. Examples are Margarida Cordeiro and António Reis, or Noémia Delgado and Alexandre O’Neill (in different areas). Or, if we want to mention other countries, Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin. But, in the last few years, there have been movements that want to rescue some female artists from obscurity.
The Line in Flames, at Casa da Cerca, contributes to this, with an exhibition focused on women artists. The curator Filipa Oliveira is also a woman. Centred on drawing and the vanguards of the 60s and 70s, where the hand and the trace have freed themselves from the paper, there are six female artists who also free themselves from the paper and the stigma of the male artist. They are Esther Ferrer, Gego, Helena Almeida, Kazuko Miyamoto, Lourdes Castro, Mira Schendel and, from another generation, Joana Escoval. As Filipa Oliveira writes in the exhibition text, she “carries and amplifies her legacy”.
Helena Almeida and Lourdes Castro, two names from the History of Art, are Artur Rosa and Manuel Zimbro’s life and work companions, respectively. However, they stood out on their own (mainly Helena Almeida). They are two exceptions in a country that, in the 60s and 70s, lived a dictatorship that prevented women from traveling without their husbands’ company or written authorization. Or, in their absence, their fathers’ or even brothers’.
The works have important connections between them. In addition to this liberation from the trace and paper, we include wool, cotton thread and textiles, in a reference to women’s labour efforts, something easily identifiable in the work Sombra Projectada de Pedro Morais (1970), created by Lourdes Castro, where the human outline is embroidered on the white pillow. Lourdes Castro works with purified shadows, but adds her own qualities, emancipating them from the referent. It is not only the shadow of Pedro Morais. We have the opportunity, based on the essence of an outline, to make a mental journey about the meaning of that same outline.
Helena Almeida removes the lines from the books in Saída Negra (1981) and Main transversée par la mots d’s un livre (1980). She transforms them into horsehair, leaving the white pages behind, but transforming the scratch into a living three-dimensional intervention, going beyond the limits of the book, pictorial space or narrative. For the artist, that transforms itself into a sculpture, a memory of the traces that fill its sheets.
Gego, in Dibujo sin papel 87/2 (1987), also removes the sketch from the paper, adding three-dimensionality to it. The sketch has always been connected to drawing. Even sculptors use the sketch as a basis for study and preparation for other pictorial or sculptural works. Even the cinema uses the sketch on storyboards in the planning of a film. Gego builds a fragile sculpture, with small threads and nails, which chooses the physical space of the gallery as support. Almost as if the work is detached from paper and two-dimensionality.
The installation Variações da série Proyectos espaciales piramidales (1970) by Esther Ferrer is presented for the first time. The scale model of the work was made in 1970, but it is now produced on this scale and presented to the public for the first time. This work, built with threads, has the architectural space as support and allows some interaction with the visitor. Like the charcoal traces on a white sheet, at a distance the work is not completely absorbed and requires a physical approximation.
Kasuko Miyamoto exhibits Untitled (1975), which has many points in common with the other artists. Kasuko also uses yarn to create a work that encompasses different artistic practices, using the wall as support (such as Gego or Esther), in an intricate game of nail-bound yarn, almost like a children’s game, creating a geometric work.
Ondas Paradas de Probabilidade (1969), by Mira Schendel, has thousands of nylon threads falling from the ceiling and a text from the Old Testament. Just as the rain seems invisible, Schendel’s work allows diffuse observation, a silent transparency that appeals to contemplation.
Joana Escoval is the youngest artist and usually works in sculpture. Here, she exhibits It arises not from any cause, but from the cooperation of many (2018). And, although her piece does not use the same type of materials as the other works exhibited, she has the capacity to instil doubts and to detach herself from the artistic hand in order to appropriate the space where she is and to dialogue with the other works.
The Line in Flames is the deconstruction of the line and drawing, towards other artistic possibilities. The basis is the feminine perspective, based on changes such as the vanguards. It is essential to deepen this idea from the perspective of women.
The Line in Flames at Casa da Cerca until 16 February.