Laura Belém: Time is now, time of waiting
15 April - 22 May 2021
What the past, the present and the future share is a substratum, a ground of timelessness.
The language of pictorial art, because it is static, is the language of such timelessness.
Yet what it speaks about – unlike geometry – is the sensuous, the particular, and the ephemeral.
— John Berger
The work of art should allow contact with the unknown and with oneself, with our own questions and with the imagination.
— Cao Guimarães
In the square in front of my home, flocks of scaly-headed parrots sing lustily, celebrating the beginning and end of each day. The autumn sky slowly reveals a deeper blue than that of summer, despite the heat that hangs in the air and turns it hazy, and the rumors of rain yet to fall. The city is quieter than Sao Paulo, and when climbing the Serra do Curral hills, 1,300 meters above sea level, even less noise can be heard, giving the impression of time suspended.
Since the early 2000s, I have been working in a variety of media, including installation, sculpture, drawing, collage, photography, sound and video. The materials and techniques vary in accordance with the aim and concept of each project. My practice is guided by observation, experimentation, and dialogue with the surroundings, which often lead to works we might call ‘context responsive’. The work is born from this mixture of the outside and the inside world – feelings, sensations, and a bridge between the visible and the invisible. At the same time, I seek to raise awareness of what is around us, of the way we relate to the world, and of my own conscience.
Entreato I, 2020
Minério de ferro, aglutinante e colagem de papel carbono sobre papel sumi-e (Iron ore, addhesive and collage of carbon paper on sumi-e paper)
40 x 30 cm cada (15.7 x 11.8 in each)
Moldura: 47 x 37 cm cada (Framed: 18.5 x 14.6 in each)
I started with a small hillock, a little above and to the north of a field where I was raking hay. On this hillock were three neglected pear trees, two in full leaf and one with its grey wood, leafless and dead. Behind them, the blue sky with large white clouds.
This small corner of the landscape – which I had never particularly noticed before – caught my eye and pleased me. Pleased me like a particular face one may see passing inthe street, unknown, even unremarkable, but for some reason pleasing because of what it suggests of a life being lived.
— John Berger
The works gathered in this exhibition were created between 2017 and 2020, using the medium of paper. The show also includes a video that features a sheet of paper pierced by an incense stick. They all dialogue with nature, time, transience, and a space in between things. Nature is not a theme in itself in my poetics, but a bridge with the world, which is why I consider the works to be created from nature, in dialogue with it, and not about it.
What place do these works occupy within my creative practice? Photography, drawing, collage, monotype, and even the video in question, are like silent notes on paper. These works do not come from the realm of the spectacle, they do not reveal everything, but suggest stories and relationships with the world. They are motivated by something that passed through me, an impression that lingered in the corner of the eye, or by feelings that ask to be revisited.
Entre as Estrelas e Seus Olhos, 2018
Edição de 5 + 2 P.A. (Edition of 5 + 2 A.P.)
I collected from all the different species in this little garden one leaf and mounted them on the surface of paper. A multitude of forms became visible in "forms from the garden".
— Herman De Vries
The surface of the paper and the frame of the video are very different from the real and three-dimensional space. Composing in a flat space is always an unknown process, a little like an experimental exercise. The movement present in some compositions (despite being static) almost always begins outside the studio, with walks that place the body and the gaze in motion and instigate the perception of space, the collection of elements, and the creation of new narratives. It is not an exercise in representation, but in displacement and in relation to things. These works do not start from a preconceived script, and for that very reason they are given power by chance.
Experiences with contemporary dance, with the improvisation of movement and jam sessions with dancers, musicians and other artists in the 1990s, created impressions that even today influence not only my spatial perception, but also my gaze and creative process – experimentation and improvisation have been fertile grounds in my poetics ever since.
In my work, I am concerned about not repeating something already done.
My statements are always anti-stylistic.
The forced repetition of a style leads to the destruction of art.
— Jannis Kounellis
Time is now does not reject the memory of the past, present at our core and in the formation of our society, and not even the dream of a better future. But it affirms the power of the instant, of the moment, and recalls the pulse and ephemerality of life. Time of waiting indicates the importance of the pause. The pause that contains another temporal dimension and is essential for entering the silence of the drawing, of the dancing line, of the monochromatic texture, of the black trace, of the light that penetrates, of the shape that dialogues with the point, and of the set of works that generate another movement.
Everything was shifting.
The three pear trees, their hillock, the other side of the valley, the harvest fields, the forests.
The mountains were higher, every tree and fields nearer.Everything visible approached me.
Rather, everything approached the place I had been, for I was no longer in that place.
— John Berger
Indeed, Steve Paxton and Nancy Smith were interested in the synergy of movement when they created the modality of dance. They encouraged a greater awareness of ki or chi energy among the dancers, which would become the basis through which their bodies moved easily amongst each other, and how injury was avoided upon impact. They considered momentum, the dimension of presence and awareness of movement, touch and improvisation, as alternatives to standardization and as paths to self-knowledge.
Reflections on time, nature, movement and existence have always followed me and been present in my work. And while the works gathered here emerge from this common source of inspiration, this process does not occur in a rational or deliberate manner. Each one of them is motivated by different situations, and what they share is a relationship between the structural field and that of the senses. Explaining them individually could reduce them to a single point of view, robbing them of their freshness and mystery. In addition, I believe that artworks require no such justification. One possible approach is to take a journey through some of their elements.
Art is not definable.
Every definition of it is a limitation.
But for me it has to do with the formulation of consciousness or with the process of becoming conscious.
— Herman de vries
Conjunto de 15 colagens utilizando casca da árvore Campomanesia guazumifolia (nome popular 'sete-casacas') e confetes de papel pintados de guache (Set of 15 collages using bark of the Campomanesia guazumifolia tree (popular name 'sete-casacas') and paper confetti painted with gouache)
30,5 x 22,5 cm cada (12 1/8 x 8 7/8 in each)
The golden bark that naturally works itself loose from the trunk of the 'sete-casacas', or “seven coats”, tree is as thin as parchment and is the motivation behind the compositions with green and black confetti in “Transmutation” (2018). In these collages, the bark was torn by hand, skin by skin. Confetti floats or dances in balance with each of the golden-brown shapes, finding shelves in their bodies, as in contact-improvisation dance.
In the drawings of the series “Breath” (2018), this dance suggests a more chaotic, unstable, or deconstructed space. The grime of the city, the bamboo bark that lies on the ground in the park. The elements intertwine, leave a trail, collide and fade away. A landscape in turmoil, a body in motion, lances, mountains and ridges that have become unstable.
Before being cut down, the 100-year-old Ficus trees always embraced me as I walked beneath them. The sunlight turned them a brilliant green. Left behind are decapitated trunks that never grew again. This painful scene, the impotence when faced with this act of brutality and an attempt at a symbolic cure motivated the series “Reconstruction” (2017). I composed these with stones and crystals upon printed black and white images, and photographed them again. A photo of the photo: the procedure is analogue and comes close to that of a Dadaist or Surrealist collage. Each stone retains its three-dimensionality in the final printed image, which leads me to thoughts of sculpture. I visit Kassel in 2002 with an old lover: we talk amidst Beuys’s 7,000 Oaks, which he helped to plant, and around the basalts that accompany each tree. On the avenue in Belo Horizonte, curiously, a stone also sits next to each tree.
Walk around, by chance you’ll come across a palm bark that has come loose; now it gains a fresh breath of life as it crosses the blue-green surface of the water in the photograph “Crossing” (2020). The yellow leaves of the cherry tree seek the flow of air through the window and communicate with both indoors and outdoors in “Wind Vane” (2020) - a samurai on the attack, the wing of the butterfly that we come across on our way, a dancing god, an exterminating angel, your saliva, a game. Spaces of passage and transition, the power of the banal, the ordinary and the divine in everyday things.
The rough Cerrado leaf flies and, covered with black iron ore, leaves its trail on the yellow Sumi-e paper. The weight of the iron ore contrasts with the lightness of the paper and prints a mark upon it. The shapes made from carbon paper, crumpled and torn by hand, punctuate this writing. “Entr'acte” (2020), as the title indicates, suggests an interval, state of suspension, or matter that fades and is transformed.
The same synergy that exists between the dancing bodies can exist between the three hands in the video “Between The Stars and Your Eyes” (2018). The leaf of paper now floats against the blue sky. Day is dressed as night, fire burns the paper, everything that separates us and brings us closer to the stars, the leaf falls like a veil.
The quotes in this text resonate with my thoughts and poetics; they are like duets in an ephemeral existence. The references come from the real world, from the sound of thunder, from the singing of birds that for now has ceased, from the dust from the ore, the rustle of leaves, the whistle of cicadas and the noise of cars, the uncertainty of things, the impression that remains from a news story, an anecdote, the imagination, a dream, a silent dance, and everything I do not know.
Laura Belém holds a BA in Arts from the Escola de Belas Artes da Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (1996) and a Master's in Fine Arts from the Central Saint Martins College of Art (2000 - London, United Kingdom). Participated in artistic residencies in several institutions, the most recent being: Art Residency Wildbad (2019 - Germany) and the Delfina Foundation SP-arte Residence Award (2018 - United Kingdown). Among other awards received by the artist are: CIFO Grants and Commissions Program / “Emerging Recipientes” from Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundations (2011 - USA), Prêmio CNI SESI Marcantônio Vilaça para artes plásticas (2011 - Brasília, Brazil) and Bolsa Pampulha from Museu de Arte da Pampulha (2004 - Belo Horizonte, Brazil).
Among the main individual exhibitions already held, the following stand out: 2018 - Porque olhamos a natureza num mundo conturbado (Celma Albuquerque Galeria de Arte - Belo Horizonte, Brazil); 2016 - História Curtas (Galeria Athena - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil); 2015 - Ilha Restaurante (Casa do Baile - Belo Horizonte, Brazil); Hoje tem Cine (Sesc Palladium - Belo Horizonte, Brazil); Anekdota (Capela Morumbi - São Paulo, Brazil); 2012 - The Temple of a Thousand Bells (York St Mary’s - York, United Kingdon); 2011 - A Outra Paisagem (Galeria Luisa Strina - São Paulo, Brazil); among others.
Among the main group exhibitions are: 2020 - A exposição invisível: uma viagem sonora pelo século XX (Culturgest - Lisbon, Portugal); Artistas se divertem (Praça Adolfo Bloch - São Paulo, Brazil); 2019 - 3º Anto: O Verso (Museu do Louvre Pau Brazyl - São Paulo, Brazil); 2018 - Com o Ar Pesado Demais para Respirar (Galeria Athena - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil); 2017 - Tempo Presente (Espaço Cultural Porto Seguro - São Paulo, Brazil); 2016 - Transparência e reflexo (Museu Brasileiro da Escultura - São Paulo, Brazil); A spear, a spike, a point, a nail, a drip, a drop, the end of the tale (Ellen de Bruijne Projects - Amsterdan, Holland); 2014 - Limited Visibility (CAM Raleigh Contemporary Art Museum - Raleigh, USA); 2013 - Amor e Ódio a Lygia Clark, (Zacheta National Gallery of Art - Warsaw, Poland); 2011 - Viewpoint (Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation - Miami, USA); 2010 - The more things change (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art - São Francisco, USA); 2007 - VI Bienal de Artes Visuais do Mercosul (Porto Alegre, Brazil); 2005 - 51st Venice Biennale (Venice, Italy); among others.