First of all, I would like to thank the very friendly team at Hangar, for their welcome and availability, our curator Cristiana Tejo who is always so warm, the very kind and welcoming team at the Botanical Gardens of Ajuda that made this residency project a success, and the Institut français du Portugal for their constant support since 2019 and their warm welcome.
The drawings I’m going to present to you are a selection of those made during two residencies done this year in Lisbon, in May and June at the Botanical garden of Ajuda and in July at the Centre of Artistic Investigation Hangar, from the Ficus Macrophylla met at the Jardim Botânico da Ajuda and at the Jardim Botânico Tropical de Belém.
They are an extension of the work done at various residencies in Lisbon since 2018 (two thousand and eighteen), from the trees of the Jardim da Estrela and the Praça do Principe Real, presented in July 2020 at the exhibition Do jardim tropical ao carvão vegetal: o desenho na linha das metamorfoses, at the National Society of Fine Arts in Lisbon.
Made with charcoal on cotton canvas, they measure about 150 x 80 cm (one hundred and fifty by eighty ) each one.
Some may also contain zinc oxide pigments mixed with an acrylic binder.
Their proportions, defined by the dimensions of the table on which I work, refer to those of the human body.
Suspended vertically on the walls of the exhibition space, they are presented in a sort of face-to-face with the spectator, inside a mirror device.
The Jardim Botânico da Ajuda and the Jardim Botânico Tropical de Belém founded at different times and in different contexts, are part of Portugal’s history, reflecting its colonial past and scientific ambitions.
Our approach (on the other hand) tends to highlight the extraordinary beauty of the plant and the fascination that it can exert on each of us, reactivating childhood memories nourished by tales and legends in which the plant participates in the marvelous.
The (geographical and temporal) elsewhere towards the garden propels us, here and now, constitutes a propitious place for the rise of repressed or hidden pictures, relating to childhood memories, but also relating to a memory that does not belong to us in our own.
The drawings constitute interstices, time and space intervals, breaks and blanks, interfaces between here and elsewhere, between reality and dream.
They are also the expression of a desire, that of going back to the source of the dream.
Made on cotton canvas, these charcoal drawings are themselves made of plant materials (woven cotton, calcined wood) modified by humans. These industrial transformations are replaced by manual and tactile transformation, that engage the “body of the artist at work” in a kind of struggle with the material to transform it and reactivate the buried memory of the plant it contains, its natura naturans, its nature in the making.
Receptacle of our gestures deployed, matrix of our body that it envelops through tactile exchanges, the canvas carries in negative the memory of the «body of the artist» that is retreating and offers to the spectator a split image, in mirror, of his own body.
If my interest focuses more particularly on the Ficus Macrophylla, native to the eastern Australian coast, it is because it had already caught my attention in Brazil, almost 20 years earlier, when I had received a scholarship as part of my Phd to study in the School of Art of Belo Horizonte (State of Minas Gerais).
If it can impress by its dimensions and the forms it deploys, it also generates a certain attraction and gives free rein (libre cours) to various interpretations.
The growth process of this tree is particularly remarkable. Indeed, its aerial roots become trunks once they reach the ground. From these trunks, new branches unfold.
Kind of tree-forest, each individual is composed of multiple beings who end up joining and merging, generating forms of strong organic character.
So, if these forms unfold from the inside to the outside, they also seem to be going back on themselves, in a double and continuous movement that reveals as well as it hides and contains growth potential that generate varied forms to infinity.
This multiple being, in perpetual transformation, is apprehended in a transitional state, which carries the imprint of what has been and what is coming, shaped by its environment that it shapes in turn, in tactile exchanges in which these drawings participate.
Its shadow makes it a place to rest, sleep and dream.
In it, our imagination takes root, tending towards a future, uncertain and alive.
Christine Enrègle, 28 july 2021