Saturday, April 12, 2008

Artista do dia - Joana Vasconcelos

Joana Vasconcelos has recently appeared on my radar screen in the same genre as some of the great feminist artists of the 60’s and 70’s. Think: Judy Chicago meets Crochet. Born in Paris, Joana now lives and works in Portugal greating large sculptural pieces that often include knitting and crochet.

A Noiva

Vast sculptures created by Vasconcelos from a variety of domestic objects are currently gallery spaces across the globe. She came to the attention of many during her appearance at the Venice Biennale in 2005. The stunning chandelier sculpture (above), A Noiva (The Bride) took the form of a chandelier made from around 25,000 tampons and greeted visitors to the Arsenale. Vasconcelos loves to play with the idea of femininity, of the "womanly knowledge", and to put it on its head.



The remarkable structure is typical of her often witty and provocative work, which mainly consists of very large-scale sculptures that on closer inspection are made up of familiar objects as in the shoe sculpture above, created from tin cans. They also utilize a degree of handicraft, such as meticulously and ingeniously engineered crochet or knitting.


As the French newspaper Libération put it, she uses out-of-date archetypes, but ones which still impregnate the collective memory, to update "Portugality". An avid proponent for the preservation of the environment, Vasconcelo’s work also "criticizes the action of consuming ". Her work is more than a rebellion - it's a provocative flirt, in which the pieces turn discourses such as pop, or the aesthetic irony of kitsch, around and over themselves, adding a new ironic twist to the use of these languages and materials.

Caração Independente Vermelho (Red Independent Heart)

The red sculpture (above) in the shape of a heart, is made from translucent plastic objects. The piece refers to the Viana do Castelo Heart, traditionally worn on pendants by women from the town of Viana do Castelo in Portugal, famous for its folklore traditions and decorative filigree jewellery. It is an example of the way Vasconcelos is concerned with Portuguese culture and national identity.
a photograph of several illuminated false flowers

Vasconcelos was recently commissioned to create a “Garden of Eden”, an ambitious piece that explores the relationship between art, nature and technology and ponders on our perception of nature in the future.

Visitors can wander through this completely artificial and multi-sensory garden, which attempts to marry beauty with something slightly chilling.

She also created two works that use ceramic dogs of the type commonly found in Portuguese homes – as ironic status symbols or as substitutes for the real thing. In Matilha, a group of dogs are wrapped in an elaborate coat of crochet while Passerelle sees the dogs locked in a relentless parade where, on impact with each other, they slowly break into pieces on the floor.

Her work is additionally about democratizing objects. From a discourse on her Web site: “Today, there are objects … that anyone can appreciate as being cool and trendy … There are objects that have changed status in this way. Status of people—of objects—changes; it isn’t static. Things that are banal today might belong in high culture tomorrow.”

She also uses the crochet work to draw the viewer in (it’s often said that the average person spends about 30 seconds in front of a piece of art). According to Joana, “Handcraft gives you three things: time, repetition, and then, when things are repeated over and over again, they become abstract.” She thinks of the crochet as a drawing or pattern on the work.



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Stacy Alexander