DEANNA HAVAS - INTO THE WOODS
GONÇALO PRETO - FRAGMENTO
The entire concept of the show is originated by an analysis on the subject of the Forest that, apart from being a natural asset, represents a cultural heritage: the history of western thinking seems to be deeply rooted in the Forest. The act of going “into the woods” runs through the modern philosophical speculation, from Thoreau’s Walden pond and Heidegger’s hut in the Black Forest Mountains, until its more generic idea of a spiritual retreat; it acts as a metaphor of a travel towards a more profound self-knowledge, towards wisdom and a more human-oriented, essential way of feeling. The Forest topic is also an foundamental element in literary tradition, especially in the chivalric romance, as the woods represent the realm of adventure, of the unknown, where the knight has to prove himself. Troughout history, a very ambivalent relationship has been established with the forest: on one side, it has been negated and antagonized because seen in contradiction with civilization and progess, as every human settlement starts from a deforestation; on the other, it is connected with nostalgia, where this environment is thought as an authentic experience, where it is possible to find our own true self through isolation from society, a manifestation of modern individualism.
The trope of the Forest, apart from constituting the philosophical substrate of Deanna Havas’ project, offers a whole vocabulary of lingusting elements, material ones like the wood and earth, as well as forms, like the one of the tree, which symoblizes a logical and schematic organization of knowledge, on which the show unfolds and metalinguistically resonates. The artist extrapolated these elements, and sabotaged them in order to feature the disorder, the wildness that is deeply present in the forest, where irrational forces arise, beyond the will of transforming the woods into a place for knowledge.
The project is presented in the form of a painting show, as in the art form that most deals with subjectivity. A series of canvases seem to be smeared with a natural element, looking like mud, in contrast with the presencence of an industrial- looking fluorescent orange. The measurements for these canvases are taken for the standard formats of French landscape paintings, with the aim to resonate, order and confront through a specific genre that set a logic for the respresentation of nature. The two works that start from a print on canvas seem to share deranged elements with the previous: in one, a series of horizontal stripes, although looking regular, present a some flaws and seem to be on the verge of collapsing, smashed by the green borders that surround it; in the other, an image from the news where both nature, human organization and chaos are depicted, loses its clarity and definition, its embedded tension reinforced by the artist’s intervention on the canvas with studs. The show is completed by the presence of trifolds that are normally used in schools or for scientific presentations where in this case a laughter appears, seemingly negating a logic organization of knowledge and visualizing the mysterious side of the Forest, where we can hear sounds without understanding the origins of them, where we might end up getting lost in fear.
In his famous painting La Mémoire (1948), René Magritte depicted the head of a female statue bleeding from a wounded temple. The strangeness provoked by the association of these two elements pertaining to two different contexts – the vulnerability of human body and the timelessness of sculpture – introduces us to the reflection in which Gonçalo Preto’s new series of works are rooted.
Fragmento is based on the juxtaposition of images depitcting parts of the human body and fragments of ancient sculptures, both investigated by Preto with the same analytical eye and rendered on paper through a realistic and detailed description.
The starting point of Anamnese, the portrait of a young man with a disfigured face, is a picture dating back to the World War First, that emerged from a research on the work of British Francis Derwent Wood and American Anna Coleman Ladd, two sculptors who put their art at the service of the injured soldiers during the war. Wood opened his so called “Tin Noses Shop” in London, while Ladd founded the Studio for Portrait Masks in Paris: both laboratories were devoted to the creation of masks to be worn by men whose faces had been disfigured and made to resemble the soldiers’ former selves. Similarly to the process of sculpture restoration, the artists made plaster casts of the damaged faces, a reconstruction based on pre-injury photographs, and modeled masks in order to restore their mutilated original features.
Anamnese is facing Apogeo, the drawing of an ancient mask whose entirety has been compromised by fractures and damages, and whose original aspect is irremediably lost. If the effect of the mangled human face is disturbing, because the viewer instinctively empathises with the human body, with its fractures and missing parts the mask looks familiar: subject to the action of time, and accidentally broken, it acquires a human dimension.
The diptych Untitled is based on the same relationship: displayed horizontally in a case, inviting the viewer to lean over to see them up close, the image showing an accumulation of fragmentary ancient statues and busts is juxtaposed to the perturbing drawing of disarticulated bodies piled up. Both ruins of war, consequences of a timeless violence, they at the same evoke episodes of recent brutal destruction in ancient archelogical sites, like Nimrud and Palmyra.
In Solstício, the sculpture and the body are fused together in the drawing of a bronze hand in which the coldness of the metal melts with the warmth and tension of the gesture, while the diptych of paintings No fio da navalha show the same image of a wounded human ear subject to a disappeareance through a patina that seems to visualize our process of adaptation to upsetting images.
In Fragmento broken bodies and wounded sculptures face each other in a silent dialogue, both subject to the passage of time and witnesses of a trauma.
March 23 - May 6