Nada se Perde Tudo se Transforma by Beatriz Horta Correia

“The leaf is the paradigmatic form of openness: the life which is capable of being pierced by the world without allowing itself to be destroyed by it.” We read this in an underlined excerpt from Emmanuele Coccia’s The Life of Plants, placed in one of the half-open drawers of the Chemistry Laboratory, the site of the exhibition. In the underlining made in charcoal pencil, we find the trace that also spawned the drawings, positioned higher up, on the countertop of the cupboard in that same drawer. But the trace is only apparent: they are composed of pencil holes in the paper’s surface, as if it were a perforation. The window’s clear, white light reflects their melancholy. These works, soberly titled Fólios – both the sheet of paper and the leaf of plants – might be seen as the heart of the exhibition, its defining core, the vessel of the world’s chemistry.

The room is almost entirely white. The snapping wooden doors and windows end up diluted in the works’ texturality. Both the piercing of the Fólios, and the porcelain of “untitled” sculptures – between the trunk and the mask – are also signs of openness. An opening that does not unveil a hidden secret, nor is catharsis the goal. It is rather a means to reach transparency, the fusion of the works with the environment, as if they wanted to become air. A transparency that can be formal or conceptual. In Fólios‘ second reiteration, in another window, the artist places a cardboard cover underneath the drawings. It seems that she wants to show the originating context, to reveal to us the process of her construction. The cover’s green and black marbling looks like a microscopic perspective, blends into the wall, into the countertops, as acid as an anomaly.

In the centre of the room, and hanging from the ceiling, we see Plantae, drawings under a black but translucent tissue paper. They create a panel across the length of the room. A map of trees is drawn and cut with each drawing, like randomly arranged silhouettes. The dye is sepia and seems to weep. The sun pours into the paper’s interstices. But the work seems somewhat cold to us for its formal predictability. A liquid and expressive composition is created as a shadow, a minimal gesture that is already standard in works that intend to cross art and nature.

More interesting are the pieces placed in the background, in an altar-like spot. Let’s start with About Nature #1, where an excerpt from the book of Genesis, the creation of nature and world, is transcribed, composed by weaving it under rice paper. The result is a manuscript written with cloth, from which hang the lines that draw the text, as if nature were entering them – the creative word, composed by a superhuman entity, a vine that climbs the sheet of paper. Below is the work that gives the exhibition its title: Nada se perde, tudo se transforma – porcelain books with cracks from which moss emerges – the paper like a stone, at last nature, like the dream of a poem by Daniel Faria. As we approach, we feel the wintry smell of the earth, rather dissociative in July’s 40°C temperature range.

At the entrance are works made with drawn cuts. Again “untitled”, composed of original cocoons, from which everything else springs – the ceramic pencil defines a line from top to bottom, announcing that something will be born. On top of a cabinet countertop, like organisms studying, in a drawer underneath, under bluish light, we see About Nature #4. They are black fossils where, according to this imaginary narrative, these organisms above probably arose. They preserve only one pit, as a mark and testimony of a past that will remain.

Everything here is intended to be cosmology and the understanding of the world – religion, biology, chemistry, contemplation. The venue could not be more appropriate, highlighting works that could have been secondary in another context. The ecology of the title is materialised to the slightest conceptual point, bringing to mind the narrative possibilities between art and science.

Nada se Perde, Tudo se Transforma by Beatriz Horta Correia is at Museu de História Natural e da Ciência in Lisbon until July 31.

Miguel Pinto (Lisbon, 2000) is graduated in Art History by NOVA/FCSH and made his internship at the National Museum of Azulejo. He has participated in the research project VEST - Vestir a corte: traje, género e identidade(s) at the Humanities Centre of the same institution. He has created and is running the project Parte da Arte, which tries to investigate the artistic scene in Portugal through video essays.

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