“The hours that hold the figure
run their course within the house of the dream.”
Walter Benjamin (in One-Way Street)
In 2019, Leonor Hipólito held two exhibitions at different Sá da Costa venues. In the gallery of the bookstore, where she showed the project Que permanecendo sem ser, será, part of the exhibition that Teresa Milheiro had there during May – entitled O Poder da Fragilidade. The other one took place in December, in the front room of Espaço Camões, belonging to the same Lisbon-based institution. It was an individual exhibition of drawing and sculpture entitled Duet(l)o, divided into two consecutive moments.
In the first intervention, the artist’s drawings and sculptures assumed themselves as a panegyric to life, a visual poem praising creative energy, whole and transforming – “opening windows of wind, undressing ghosts of yore”. These works establish a dialogue with the chromed metal and glass objects that Teresa Milheiro exhibited in this period – sharp, refined and cruel objects. In Duet(l)o, Leonor Hipólito rehearsed a personal and ineffable representation of Desire, with works that, in their reciprocal relationship, expressed this “feeling that moves us, that sometimes dominates us; that vitalizes us, or else withers or annihilates us. It is always transforming, it is movement, action, projection, subtraction and addition, all at the same time. It gives shape to the shape itself, the body, the face (…), it recreates them”.
Beyond the proximity between the themes of the two exhibitions – the creative power and desire, constructive and/or destructive impulses, part of the Will, and whose effects echo in the manifested world – at the formal level, and even in the general conception of the projects, we encounter clear-cut affinities. For instance, in the relationship that both reveal between the images/objects exhibited, and the poetic texts that accompany them, not as explanatory or illustrative supports, but as a bubbling magma of restlessness, a horizon that adds new possibilities of understanding and vice versa – “Silent/it awakes at the dawn of each breath (…), it is discovered in rebellious thoughts.//It walks remorselessly (…) on leaves eaten by beings that chew, masticate, swallow readings.// Eternal, silent. It flaunts a new attire”, the artist wrote in the text of the exhibition Que permanecendo sem ser, será. On the other hand, in Duet(l)o – Parte I , she refers to the words that “can never define this encounter, thrown into forces so revolting (…) insinuating, inescapable forces, like a desire that is never erased while alive”. And, finally, in Duet(l)o – Parte II, she writes that “with the sunset, the earth cools down and, in the folds of time – in the shadow of consciousness – dreams reorganize memory”.
But the meaning of these poetic texts does not seem to define a continuous and coherent line with the corresponding images. Perhaps this discontinuity derives from their being the front and back of a subliminal reality, which forces us to question where the origin of these images and their intangible beauty and almost immaterial lightness lies.
In Que permanecendo sem ser, será, the artist presented two drawings on paper, placed on the wooden floor, and three wall sculptures, made of metal and painted fabric. The tenuous color lines of the drawings advance on the white sheets, as if they were radicles, blood vessels, nerve roots. Sometimes, they meet each other on the lines drawn with blows. In turn, the metal-made sculptures were placed in the whiteness of the walls as aerial roots, absorbing the air moisture. On some of the metal arms, thin strips of blue and red cloth hung, flying delicately.
In the first “movement” of Dueto(I)o, the artist exhibited four works: a drawing made of graphite and coloured pencils, a brass baton, and a metal-made wall sculpture. These were the frame for a fourth piece placed in the centre of the room; a sculpture (?!), a visual idea (?!), a composite work, a ring with two human figures hanging inside – a metal skeleton and a human body with a skin-coloured clothing. An identical figure rested in a display case placed on the floor, in the second act of Duet(l)o. In the same scenario, a brass mobile, hanging from the ceiling, with drawings in graphite and crayon, and a deconstructed frame. The human body, the skin, the touch, the sensory qualities occupied the nerve centre of this plastic staging, which unfolded itself over the clarity of the space, in a minimalist and even incorporeal way. This showed the “transparency” of the exhibited works – “In the world of pure forms, transparency is whole. Transparency is an effect of the transfiguration of light and the equation between otherness and identity: there, each person is like an eye, every individual knows their own self without relying on words”, wrote Maria Filomena Molder, in O Pensamento da Forma: Consentimento e Louvor do Caminho Intermédio.
The main thread of Leonor Hipólito’ two exhibitions was the drawing and, above all, the line; the line in the vibrant emptiness of shivering and light; the line that is transformed into thread, vein, nerve, radicle, root, ball; the line that gives form, that is part of drawing, sculpture, installation – like Ariadne’s Thread, penetrating the labyrinths of time, punctuated by encounters with “forces so revolting (…) insinuating, inescapable forces, just like desire”, as the artist described.
On this clash between contradictory impulses and revolting forces, Nietzsche wrote in The Birth of Tragedy, contextualizing it under the realm of Apollo and Dionysius. He stated that both “impulses, albeit so distinct, walk side by side, in most cases in open divergence and provoking each other, to create new sprouts ever more vigorous, to perpetuate the struggle of that opposition which only the banal word ‘art’ apparently overcomes; until, finally, through a miraculous metaphysical act of ‘will’ (…), they emerge mated. In this mating, they end up generating the work of art, as Dionysian as Apollonian. (…) let start by thinking them as artistic realms separated from dream and ecstasy”. Apollo, the god of the plastic forces, and also the seer god, who, according to his root, is “the being that shines”, the deity of light who also dominates the beautifulness of the inner world of fantasy. And Dionysius, immoderate, destructive, histrionic, represented in the satirical figure of tragedy, the synthesis of god and goat.
In A Forma como problema: as nuvens e o vaso sagrado, Maria Filomena Molder addresses the same question. She refers to the German philosopher, saying that “in the excess of vital force, Nietzsche recognized the god Dionysius and, in the configuration of the form, he identified the god Apollo”. She also added that, for the Greeks, it would have to be evident that “the love for the form, as the constitution of a figure sustained by an inner principle of perfection and beauty, is at the heart of a struggle that never reaches its end, not against chaos, but as a response to it, a projective prolongation of understanding, which surprises the inseparability of the destructive and creative forces of nature, of life”.
Leonor Hipólito speaks of this endless conflict in her works and related texts; about this imponderability, which makes us eternally oscillate between the two antagonistic poles of creation and destruction, because “if the form dares to annul the forces of chaos, it is also clear that the forces, non-submissive, return. Whenever we believe that we can annul chaos, reaching its definitive overcoming, we are stuck to what can be called a dead form, in other words, the one which is petrified in a false configuration” (idem, M.F.Molder, p.152).