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The space between us, by Rosanna Helena Bach

First, I want to make it clear that what I write is personal. Personal because I visited Galeria Foco on Friday, 8 pm, inhabited by affections that I carry, among passions, beliefs and convictions. What I write is the mediation of the relationships triggered when I found the works exhibited by the artist. I spoke with Ben (gallery owner), Rosanna (artist) and Manon (curator). I entered through the gallery’s door that gives access to the street. The environment was bustling, as usual in an opening (despite the pandemic). The first work, on the left, was a framed print, apparently with a blank paper. After getting closer to it, I identified the texture of a whirlwind in bas-relief. Then, I looked forward and encountered glass object on a stone. The base of the glass object was deformed and I perceived that the stone’s surface was inculcated in the glass. After that, I entered the artist’s universe. A borderline – between – intermediate – place of transition – delicate and fragile. Intrigued, I expectantly entered the space and stumbled on the step. A symbolic stumble, perhaps. No one enters the nebulous world of the invisible without losing balance. It is to leave the daily world and enter a meditative state, as this is the place proposed by the artist. It involves suppressing common sense and unveiling an inner gaze.

When I visited the exhibition, I was reading Reborn, a collection of notes by Susan Sontag. On 11/04/56, she writes: “Concerning the death of Gertrude Stein: she came out of a deep coma to ask her companion Alice Toklas, “Alice, Alice, what is the answer? Her companion replied, “There is no answer. Gertrude Stein continued, “Well, then, what is the question?” and fell back dead.” Rosanna gives us no answer. On the contrary, she creates a translucent space for questioning. The questions, like the material in the sculptures – the glass – are reflective and transparent. The ten prints show what the curator Manon told me: magical realism. Figures taken from biology books with a twist: “a fruit turns into an egg and gives birth to a winged horse.” The artist’s trait is delicate, reminiscent of illustrations made by Gothic monks in search of explanations about the mysteries of nature.

The glass sculptures live alongside three wax works. Two are on the floor and assemble a cradle for two small-sized plants. The opacity of the white wax causes a contrast with the transparent glass. Another structure, larger and also made of wax, is in a span inside the gallery. Illuminated, the work looks, just like the plant that emerges from the top of the material, a product of nature. A mountain of sediment formed over an expanded time, different from human time. The curator reminds me: “the stones are in constant transformation.” The artist is clearly inspired by this space-time relation, which escapes the reach of the human spectator’s gaze. Remember: what is at stake is the threshold, which is no longer, but will still be.

In a small room, there is an invitation: a white pillow in front of an opaque glass sculpture. To meditate: to focus our attention. Proposal: to be trespassed by white and what that represents. Everything and nothing. “The emptiness and the endless possibilities.” In a world built from the logic of excess, where we are daily assailed by a constant flow of images, this work seems to me to be a relief for our senses. Or rather: a restart of our sensorial experience.

In the gallery’s last room, I found an installation of cuttlefish bones. Carefully symmetrical, the bones devise a drawing on the floor. In some of the skeletons, I noticed something shiny, silver, as if it were part of that animal. Once again, the materials of nature are magically presented, “radiant talismans”, as Manon writes.

Susan Sontag on 01/03/57: “Goethe declared that only insufficient knowledge is creative.” Rosanna Helena Bach’s The Space Between Us calls for this mysterious place in its fertile potential. “Dream baby, forever and ever. Dream baby dream.” – the music of Suicide followed me as I wrote this article and it doesn’t seem to me to be just a coincidence, but a reminder that echoes after visiting the artist’s universe.

The exhibition is on view until December 5, 2020, at Galeria Foco, Lisbon.

Maíra Botelho (1991, Brazil) has a multidisciplinary education within the fields of visual communication, arts, philosophy and performance. She worked as a graphic designer in Brazil after graduating at PUC-MG, having also studied arts at Escola Guignard – UEMG and at Faculdade de Belas Artes da Universidade de Lisboa. She recently finished a Post-graduation in Aesthetics – Philosophy at Nova Universidade de Lisboa.

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