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Sculptures made of earth, fire, water, air (Part III) by Nuno Vicente Curated by Paz Ponce

NOTES ON THE ARTIST Nuno Vicente’s world, as curator Lauren K. Raid pointed out, is one filled with ‘objects containing the impossible. Memories, existence, movement and time’. Processuality is at the heart of his practice, and materiality is its skeleton. Throughout his career as an artist, Nuno Vicente has (literally) built a creative imagination made of moss, wood, clay, earth, stones, tears, dead flowers, turtles and birds—the semantics of the elementariness. He has the hands of a carpenter, the gaze of a poet, the mind of an architect and the soul of an artist. No matter the medium he chooses, the way he manipulates, sees, thinks and feels reality is deeply committed by a strong sense of awareness, the lucidity of the witness, the urge to state his position in the universe as one of its ramifications, leaving, in his own words, ‘no edges in between’. ‘A part of the whole,’ he says, ‘we won’t be here forever. We have to make something out of it, leave a trace’. That’s why they call it present – I thought after that lapidary sentence – because is a gift—the being here and now, to witness it and to become reality’s vehicle. In the operation implied in the registration of life

“The being here and now, to witness it through his art, there are no distinctions between his inner self and external reality. This feature is and to become reality’s vehicle.” present very early in his work.

This attitude advocated once by the German 19th Century Romantics, harbors an empathic approach towards the artist’s environment. Empathy, from Greek empatheia, means affection, passion, intended as a rendering of German Einfühlung, literally: ‘a feeling in’. It denotes a mental and affective identification of a subject with another’s feelings. It is impossible to overlook some romantics when viewing Nuno Vicente’s oeuvre. The role played by nature since his early works, the naturalistic pantheism aftertaste or self-awareness of the universe. The desire to fuse things with nature, the sacredness behind it. The fragility and volatility of elementary materials or the ritualistic almost mystical appearance of some of the actions he performs. Whether he turns a found dead turtle into a foundation for life, or he burns a lonely dead bird and returns its ashes to the earth, whether he attempts to record the memory of a stone or collect his tears in slides, or whether he fossilizes a jack rabbit and buries it inside a hill, a deep emotional understanding is pulsating below the surface—a highly sensitive gesture, an identification in that sense of ‘feeling in’. And there is, overall, a constant exploration of the ephemeral/permanent dichotomy, inseparable from his persona. He seems to keep looking (inside or outside himself) for those moments of transition, mutation or transformation, when the changing becomes still, when something as abstract as time imprints a mark into a stone, when the impossible takes place, as if in some ‘Alchemy of being’. Imagem Poética da Ficção (Poetical image of fiction). Nuno Vicente. Enamel on wood. 2007

NOTES ON THE ARTWORKS Nuno Vicente’s latest works for the series Sculptures made of earth, fire, water, air, encompasses all the subjects mentioned above. This time, in ‘Burial of a taxidermied animal’ Nuno took a dead jackrabbit from his Uncle’s house (a hunter himself), embalmed it with concrete, brought it into the woods and buried it in a hill. It is an attempt, in his own words, to ‘trap the form, to keep the structure, to save its actual shape from deterioration and return it to nature’. He fossilizes it, so to speak. Fossils are the memory of life, its traces. It is, again, some sort of ‘alchemy’ for which a substance mutates into another one, and whose shape is imprinted into the rock by mineralization agents, saving as a result its form in its negative appearance, as in a photographic developing. As a counterpiece, this exhibition also ... an attempt to ‘trap the form, to keep the features ‘Dead bird turned into stone’, a granite rock standing in the gallery space structure, to save its actual shape from as a sculpture, harbouring a dead taxiderdeterioration and return it to nature’. mied sparrow concealed in its core. Transformations, alterations, organicism, artificiality and nature are some of the unresolved tensions present in his work. Playing with the processuality, Nuno draws the attention to the many stages implied by this action. He is interested in the very process of fossilization, its transformative power, that alchemy we mentioned before. He himself performs an action that starts when picking up the animal to its burial. And there is also the previous process that he undertakes when embalming the animal. ‘There is a striking beauty’ – says the artist – ‘in the action of covering the body of the rabbit’. Although the concrete conceals its shape, it highlights its contour at the same time. The strong concentration into this part of the process allows the artist to regard at this remnant in a new way, in its pure shape, in the same way as a minimalist artist would do, where the work is set out to expose the essence Transformations, alterations, organicism, or identity of a subject through eliminating artificiality and nature are some of the all non-essential forms, features and concepts. The simplest and fewest elements unresolved tensions present in his work. are used to create the maximum effect. The idea of simplicity appears in many cultures, especially in the Japanese traditional culture of Zen Philosophy. Zen concepts of simplicity transmit the ideas of freedom and essence of living. Simplicity is not only aesthetic value, it has a moral perception that looks into the nature of truth and reveals the inner qualities of materials and objects for the essence. Just as the approach, the display of the final work is purely minimalistic as well, and it seems to echo the nature of the work itself: it is the very trace of the process (as the fossil is to its previous being) what we find when we enter in the space of the gallery. The work is an installation whose objects have been carefully chosen by the artist. A hint, a trace, a collected fetish, an abstraction of the action performed with an absolute economy of means—simple, powerful, purely evocative and very open. Nuno Vicente’s work (and installation art in itself) has a powerful resemblance to the Haiku, a traditional form of Japanese poetry from the late 19th Century, characterized by its briefness, and whose topics are

“The haiku is like a pebble thrown at the listener’s mind, evoking associations of his memory.” Alan Watts

mainly the return to the elementary and specially nature. It describes generally natural phenomena, seasonal changes and daily life. As Bashô, the most prominent figure of this literary movement suggested: ‘We have to search for the Haiku in the things surrounding us’. Haiku refers to a fascination with the simple yet miraculous ‘is-ness’ of every day sights and sounds, and thus expressing the necessity to ‘catch life as it flows’. The haiku’s simplicity, beauty and value lay in condensed, symbolic and intuitive ideas. It is in some way, the naked sensation that allows the things to speak for themselves, ‘slightly transcended by the humanity of the poet’ (Fernando Rodríguez Izquierdo). It is a way to apprehend the emotion directly, attached to the sensitive. It is a free way to penetrate and see into the man’s soul.

As an expression of zen art, the Haiku is steeped in its philosophy and its way of feeling; that’s why we often see the oblivion of the self, when the impersonality of the poet allows the haiku to be self-explanatory of loneliness, and awareness of being alive now, without caring about what has faded or about what is about to come, the acceptance of reality, the right to existence of every being, the rejection of verbalism, the rejection of intellectualism. There is freedom and love, which is to say the compassion and empathy of the person with its surroundings. ‘That state of contemplation that allows things to be naturally’ (Humberto Senegal). The work reveals ‘the expression of the intersection point in between the momentary and the constant and eternal’ (Donald Keene). In that intersection point is where Nuno Vicente’s art lies. The Haiku represents a borderline experience, through the almost entire absence of language (both literary and artistic, in this case) to try to recover an original emotion that the poet/artist experienced and that the reader/spectator hasn’t known. Following this parallelism, the language for the Haiku has the same function as the installations for Nuno’s work: it acts as a medium, a vehicle, whereas the real outcome relies on the viewer, who has to supply the emotion himself. ‘One is expected to ‘fill in’, to continue where the artist, so to speak, leaves off’ (Nancy Wilson Ros). The cornerstone of the Haiku is the aware, a Japanese term that describes a ‘profound emotion’ provoked by the perception of nature. It often has a melancholic tone: the poet, infected with the suffering of all sentient beings feels their sadness and loneliness, and this is where his poetry emanates from. Joy, however, is also present. It is a spiritual commotion, both aesthetical and emotional. In this same way, Nuno Vicente’s work is imbued with some sense of (Portuguese) Nostalgia, a childhood territory. The vast geography of remembrance, the places of the intangibility - not entirely real, kept somewhere in the dusty corners of memory, without being able to return to that physical place anymore. Unmanageable images, but that somehow seem close to us, something that belongs to our surroundings, like a collage in an abstract context. Maybe the eyes of the rabbit staring at the little boy he once was, from the top of the shelf where it stood at his uncle’s house. The hunter’s house. The haunting memories. Nostalgia, awareness, alchemy and poetry. Sculptures made of earth, fire, water, air (part III). - Do you think she’d like roses? - Is it a she? - Yes, the females are larger. And less colorful. - What happens when we die? - What happens? We return to the place that we came from. - I don’t remember where I came from. - Nor do I. - She looks very small. - Yes, that’s one of the things that happens… we look smaller. - But very peaceful. Still from “The Hours”. Stephen Daldry. 2002

Exhibition presented at João Cocteau. Kienitzer Strasse 98 12049 Berlin Opening: Friday 7 December 2012. 19.00h Ongoing: 7-9 December 2012. 14.00h – 20.00h Design by Text by Paz Ponce

Sculptures made of... Part III  

Exhibition text by: Paz Ponce Design by: David Rigote

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