Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Helena Almeida combine painting, photographic imagery, and drawing

Over the last forty years ALMEIDA (Portuguese, 1934) has combined painting, photographic imagery, and drawing to explore intimacy, sensation and the limits of the body.
Many of her experiments took the form of private performances, which her husband, the architect ARTUR ROSA, photograph.
I turn myself into a drawing. My body as a drawing, myself as my own work – that was what I was searching for“- by HELENA ALMEIDA

« The Portuguese artist Helena Almeida is a riddle of contradictions. She is not a photographer, yet the vast majority of her work is in black-and-white photography. She does not make self-portraits, but nearly all of her artworks depict the artist over her 40-year career. She uses a particular shade of blue, not unlike the famous Yves Klein Blue , yet refutes any similarities or references to the late French actionist. It is enough to drive the most open-minded critic back to the history books in a frenzy of re-examination. Yet Almeida's position is not born out of perversity.
She emerged on to the Portuguese art scene in the early 1960s after having studied painting at the University of Fine Art in Lisbon. Like many of her contemporaries, Almeida was inspired by the neo-concrete movement gathering momentum in Brazil under the charismatic leadership of Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark. Almeida embraced their desire to liberate colour into three-dimensional space and began experimenting with ways of breaking with the confines of a canvas. Her first step towards this end was to only exhibit the documentation of her research, which she chose to record in black-and-white photography.
Many of her experiments took the form of private performances, which her husband, the architect Artur Rosa, would photograph. Some of her best-known include dressing up all in white, with a white canvas fastened to her torso, and strolling through the garden of her studio as if she were taking the canvas for a walk. In other images, Almeida has attached single strands of horsehair to a drawn line in ink so that it looks as if the line has lifted off the page. In later works she has slashed a canvas – as inspired by the Italian artist Lucio Fontana  – and been photographed trying to slip through its slits. Arguably, these artworks were not just about physical liberation, but psychological emancipation too; Almeida grew up in Portugal under the rightwing regime of Antonio Salazar, and the concepts laid out by the neo-concrete movement appealed to a generation of Portuguese artists.
Why we like her: For Study for Inner Improvement (1977), a sequence of photographs in which Almeida looks like she is eating blue paint. There is no question that the colour she is consuming is very similar to that of Yves Klein. She had in the past protested at Klein's use of women as objects in his artworks. At the time of making Study for Inner Improvement, the concept of anthropophagy (cultural cannibalism, the idea of consuming other cultures as a way of asserting independence) was a popular ideology. Almeida's chewing up of Klein's blue, a colour he had come to dominate, was a liberating act for women and artists everywhere.
Artistic heritage: Her father was the Portuguese sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida, famous for his monumental works that include Lisbon's The Monument to the Discoveries  in Belem. He nurtured his daughter's talent and even taught her drawing while she was studying painting at university. »

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