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Armanda Duarte and Elisa Montessori, Um lugar desenhado pela passagem do corpo

Armanda Duarte (Portugal, 1961) works in sculpture, architecture and installation. As a rule, she seeks an almost dialectic relationship with the space that hosts her works. Elisa Montessori (Italy, 1931) works in drawing and painting, both abstract and figurative. In the gallery Monitor Lisbon, João Silvério’s curatorship brings the artists together in a dialogue that embraces the space itself.

The first work observed is a book bound in leather, Foglie e fiori (2011), by Elisa Montessori. It is a reference to the ancient herbaria, which are now in museums. However, many of us, as children, made them. But, in this herbarium, there are no real plants or flowers, but rather their representations, some more figurative, others more abstract, which refer us to vegetal motifs. As the title indicates, esercizi naturali 3 is an exercise of deconstruction of the real focused on abstraction. In this case, a set of vertically presented reeds progressively abandons this appearance and becomes a series of Chinese ink scratches. With its different thicknesses and intensities, it creates an abstract visual and modular rhythm.

Armanda Duarte brings together the memory of the body in a dialogue with the architecture of the Monitor Lisbon, in works such as Desenho com modelo desconhecido (2019) or Desenho com modelo: cotovelo (2019).  In both, two horizontal planes come out of the wall to support the drawings with model. These planes are not exactly shelves, as they have neither the dimension nor the ideal elevation – they only serve as a basis for the drawings, which are not exactly drawings either, as they are three-dimensional. Furthermore, the design and the base are made of cardboard. But the drawing is there, in charcoal lines. They run through the pieces as if they were memories of the traces that connect the work to the drawing, just as the three-dimensionality of the planes associates it to the sculpture.

Armanda Duarte does not want to stand motionless. Her works require movement. We must step closer, we must bend over, we must rotate to one side or the other, going around her pieces to extract something more. Beyond the much they give us, a restless spectator is always ready to discover yet another thing. This line here, that fold beyond… Juntos (1996) is a set of small squares that refer to the idea of a box and of keeping something. Small boxes usually store valuable things. We have to get closer to these boxes, which are more or less overlapped on a plane near the floor. And maybe we would not have got close enough to see the tiny, soft drawings that these boxes contain, if it weren’t for the exhibition sheet. In the materials, it mentions “graphite and gastropod mollusc waste (snails)”. Inside these boxes, we supposedly encounter thin papers containing small tears opened by small gastropods. But they also have those small drawings, apparently depicting animal or vegetable morphologies. The detail is so great that they seem to balance the scale of the work as a whole.

Armanda often questions the scale of things: of architecture, of sculpture. But she does it phenomenologically, without creating easy answers or mappings. She also questions perenniality: the passage of a snail through a box leaves visible but not easily identifiable residues. Paninho encardido (2019) retains the memory of a body rolled up on the floor, in a barely visible way, and forces us to reposition ourselves before the work of art.

Um lugar desenhado pela passagem do corpo is an invitation to a sensitive and curious journey, where the freedom of art and fruition abounds. Armanda Duarte’s works at Monitor Lisbon remove the sculpture from the plinth, she creates consoles at different heights, she scatters them on the floor or in a corner. The visitor is forced to embrace the surrounding space. Elisa Montessori’s drawings and paintings underline this ephemeral and almost fragile character of human nature, the nature of space or the nature of fauna and flora.

Until 14 March, at Monitor Lisbon.

With a career in film production spanning more than 10 years, Bárbara Valentina has worked as production executive, producing and developing several documentary and fiction films for several production companies including David & Golias, Terratreme and Leopardo Films. She is now working as Head of Development and Production Manager at David & Golias as well as a postproduction coordinator at Walla Collective. She is also teacher at ETIC in the Film and Television Course of HND - Higher National Diploma. She started writing articles for different magazines in 2002. She wrote for Media XXI magazine and in 2003 she began her collaboration with Umbigo magazine. Besides Umbigo she wrote for Time Out Lisboa and is still writing as art critic for ArteCapital. In 2010 she completed a postgraduation in Art History.

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