Interview with Clara Imbert: Behind the cover

The opening of the group exhibition at MONO Lisboa, where Clara Imbert participates, was postponed like so many others, without a date to return to the cultural scene. But the calendar includes the cover of UMBIGO online in January, with a highlight on the Shadow Objects series of 2020. Clara Imbert is the artist behind this cover.

With a degree in Fine Arts from Central Saint Martins, the French artist found her studio in Lisbon, at the AZAN cultural space. It is here that she develops her practice and questions the perceptions of space and its notions, reinterpreting that space through the curve and line. It is here that she gives form and figure to the perspective of the being that looks and observes what is on the other side. It is a fine line between reality and illusion, which she features through photography, sculpture and installation. Her studio also integrates the surrounding space organically and naturally – the studio is in an old rebuilt warehouse, where the strong and robust lines serve as shelter for various artists’ workspaces. It is the material she uses in her work, iron and steel, that best connect Clara to that space.

She uses photography as the main basis of her artistic method, which she deconstructs and transforms to play with the illusions of what is and is not, of the visible and invisible. Photography can go through various processes in creative work, culminating in an invented spatiality. The observer becomes part of the process. It is the perspective of this observer that matters to free him from the senses, which leads to the discovery of the invisible in these coordinates mirrored by the reinvention process of the initial act.


Beatriz José – You rely on photography as the basis of your artistic method, which then unfolds in other forms, usually sculpture and installation. How do you describe your artistic exercise?

Clara Imbert – The act of photographing is as of capturing. It is a movement, a dance between the subject and the camera. When taking a photograph of a sculpture, this circular motion repeats itself around the unanimated object. I would say that I use photography as a foundation yes, but also as the result of a constructed shape and to portray ephemeral encounters. I do not believe that photography serves sculpture, but I see both mediums as complementary practices, one results in the other and vice versa.

BJ – You also feature photography in the January UMBIGO online cover, from the 2020 Shadow Object series. Describe your pieces and why that makes sense at this moment we live – in an interplay of shadows.

CI – This series is an on-going process that started during the first lockdown. While this strange period felt like suddenly something paused, it reflected in my work. A motion that seemed insignificant suddenly grasps new importance and this is the thing about shadows; you realize they move, but only with time. The gaze changes with this slowness, becomes sharper. Obviously, photography is a game of lights and shadows, it has this duality. With the object it feels more like a positive and negative space, the shadow stages the “other” object, it makes visible both its concrete and imaginary nature. It is quite an instinctive series, almost childish, as it is about touch and vision, the placement of the object and its visual answer.

BJ – You work essentially in situ installations, such as From a Parallel Perspective of 2019, and your participation in the Festival Exquisito in 2018. Would you say that the encounter between the object and the spectator is the moment when the play of the senses becomes more important?

CI – It is all about feeling, the body and the senses. When we find ourselves in front of an object we respond to it, either by marking a pause, looking, or simply ignoring it. It triggers something whether we want it or not, and this manifestation is sensorial. With my work, I am trying to create this moment, where something as natural as seeing for instance is enhanced and brought to the observer’s attention. Either in its lines of perspective or its shape, it plays with our eyes. I believe this encounter can be subtle and that the object can be quiet. I like this quietness, because senses don’t need to be loud to be powerful.

BJ – What can you tell us about the exhibition that will take place, still undated, at MONO Lisboa? Tell us about the piece you present.

CI – The light show at MONO Lisboa brings together artists whose practices are about light and how it can become an autonomous object. The work I chose to show is a response to a sound: the rings of Uranus recorded by NASA. As I was researching about light speed my explorations led me to this sound and I was absolutely mesmerized. From this instant, I wanted to create a piece implying this idea of an endless rotation. The installation, inspired by different astronomical instruments, acts as a fragmented telescopic device and diffracts the light source as it shifts.

Concluded the Bachelors in International Relations with a minor in Communication Sciences at Universidade Nova de Lisboa and an MA in Art Markets Management at ISCTE. Has been involved with varied cultural projects such as AZAN, ProjetoMAP and REDE art agency. Assisted the production of the exhibition ProjetoMAP 2010-2020 Map or Exhibition at Museu Coleção Berardo and produced the exhibition I WILL TAKE THE RISK at AZAN. Was involved in the publication of the book ProjetoMAP Map of Portugal’s Artists and contributes for publications such as GQ Portugal.

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