Ne Pas Plier: Sara Mealha at Zaratan

Sara Mealha‘s language climbs the walls of Zaratan in her new solo exhibition Ne Pas Plier. The artist presents works made directly on the gallery walls, where words and letters acquire a monumental scale, prolonging the experience of drawing and language.

Ne Pas Plier is based on drawings originally made on paper, which bring together words and expressions in French taken from films, interviews and texts. Échapper (2020) is an example of this original series of drawings, made in coloured pencil on paper, where we notice the difference in size between the compositions. The rigorously drawn words enter the gallery, where the drawing becomes an installation, a body and above all freedom. The transformation in the letters’ proportion widens the imperfections and challenges the guiding geometry, which then obeys the unevenness and corners of the walls.

In Eau (2023), the composition is defined by the repetition of the word Eau, unfolding vertically up to the gallery’s ceiling. The experience with colour is made within the limits of the letters and in their negative. There is a vertical movement to read the work, contrary to the horizontal motion that normally guides our eyes when we read words and try to decipher them. But Sara Mealha believes that making sense of the words is not important, they are the orientation axis for the drawing.

The less importance given to meaning is especially visible in AeUv (2023), where the composition is made of shuffled letters, lowercase and uppercase, without forming any words. The work contradicts our natural eagerness for meaning and significance. Without knowing what it means, the eyes are directed to the whole composition, to the straight lines and curves that make up each of the letters, to the paint that covers and remains unfilled, to the different colours and textures of each stroke. The space between the letters and the viewer’s body is not much and so we feel very much the amplification of language. With no room to move away, the letters become gigantic compositions that enter the gallery’s architecture.

And what happens to the work after the exhibition is over? Throughout its duration, an agreement was reached for the venue to accept the weight of the artist’s work in its architecture. Although invisible, this agreement lasts as long as the show, and will end when the next exhibition is prepared and the paint covers Sara Mealha’s work. But we will always know that there will be Ne Pas Plier in our memory behind those layers of paint.

Ne Pas Plier by Zaratan is characterised by ephemerality, by the transience of a moment between language, symbols, perception and image.

Ne Pas Plier by Sara Mealha is at Zaratan until March 18, 2023.


Laurinda Marques (Portimão, 1996) has a degree in Multimedia Art - Audiovisuals from the Faculty of Fine Arts of Universidade de Lisboa. She did an internship in the Lisbon Municipal Archive Video Library, where she collaborated with the project TRAÇA in the digitization of family videos in film format. She recently finished her postgraduate degree in Art Curatorship at NOVA/FCSH, where she was part of the collective of curators responsible for the exhibition “Na margem da paisagem vem o mundo” and began collaborating with the Umbigo magazine.

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