O N LY A B R I E F W H I L E H E R E
O N LY A B R I E F W H I L E H E R E
An a M a r i a Pa c h e c o
I, Netzahualcoyotl, ask this: is it true that one lives on the earth? What is it that has roots here? Not forever on earth, only a brief while here. Although it were jade, it will be broken; although it were turquoise, it will be shattered as if it were just quetzal feathers. Not forever on earth, only a brief while here.
JOURNEYS THE ENCHANTED ISLAND YO U R T E A R S W I L L B E W I P E D AWAY
Studies for relief sculptures in bronze, alabaster and wood
The studies in this book are preliminary explorations of ideas for a series of painted relief sculptures that Ana Maria Pacheco will execute in three different materials: bronze, alabaster and wood. They are painted in tempera with a wash of oil, and some include the use of gold and metal leaf. Pacheco has made reliefs in the past. In Brazil she produced a large historical tableau and more recently has explored aspects of Brazilian myth in Portland stone. While Associate Artist at the National Gallery, Pacheco’s contact with early, pre-Renaissance Italian painting put her in mind of reliefs and rekindled an interest in confronting the challenges of working between two and three dimensions, and using colour. These studies for her new reliefs show a continuing engagement with themes that have preoccupied her throughout her career. Pacheco has used the metaphor of the journey since the early 1990s to consider aspects of what it is to be human: our passage from birth to death (and beyond); the nature of our drives and impulses; the workings of imagination; our venturing into the new, the strange; our understanding of self. The studies for Journeys represent various strands of this theme. A young girl, very like the innocent figures in In Illo Tempore I and plate III of the Terra Ignota drypoints, steps aboard a small boat, guided by a woman holding a candle. She is at the start of a journey to an unknown land. Odysseus, on the other hand, knows exactly where he is bound, but on the way is lured by temptation in the form of a siren, here a curious dragon-like creature of the sea. He is determined to undergo the experience of temptation but takes the precaution of being tied to his boat. In another study, a young woman hurtles through the air astride a panther that conveys her to realms of ecstasy, as other wild animals have in Pacheco’s world. In the late 1990s, Pacheco became interested in the journey that the Queen of Sheba made to Solomon’s kingdom. Here the Queen travels on a camel, whose sly glance seems to imply he knows more about their destination than she does! They journey across the desert beneath a star-spangled sky to the meeting of superpowers, different in culture and sex. In the final study of this series a ghostly figure, protected by a snake spirit, passes from our world to the next through a door of fire. He reminds us of those figures on the prow of the boat in The Longest Journey, who seem to act as mediators for the travellers on whatever their journey may be. These reliefs will be cast in bronze.
The Enchanted Island is inhabited by bicho (wild animals) that Pacheco recalls from her Brazilian childhood. Their world is reminiscent of the world of A Modern Bestiary, an artist’s book on which Pacheco collaborated with the poet George Szirtes. Pacheco has constantly confronted us with our animal nature: people in her work wear animal masks, have paw and claw-like hands and feet, show a wild excess of teeth. Some of the bicho in The Enchanted Island slumber or play among the jungle leaves; an egret seems to offer a man a means of escape – or is he having fun at the man’s expense? A winged bull flies through the sky trailing a rope ladder that floundering humans try to grasp; deer dash through the air but one of their number, rooted to the earth, is pierced by arrows, shot by an invisible assailant. Here are the exuberance and tranquillity of paradise, depicted in a flat, pre-Renaissance space. But this is a paradise that we are denied, as we deny and become estranged from the animal within us, losing in the process our ability to deal with it. Alabaster will be the material for this series. Its comparative softness allows for the rendering of fine detail. An inevitable, one might almost say necessary, part of our journey through life entails suffering. This has been a constant in Pacheco’s work, dating back to the early trilogy of sculptures, Exercise of Power, Banquet, Acrobats and continuing through to the monumental installation, Dark Night of the Soul. In many of these the instigators of suffering are present, and in some cases it almost seems that the victims are colluding in their fate. (Are the acrobats grimacing or grinning?) However, the print Study for St Sebastian, leading up to Dark Night of the Soul, prefigured a development of the theme that is depicted in the final series of studies, Your Tears Will Be Wiped Away: the compassion that suffering engenders. The wings of the ethereal comforters, as much as instruments of flight, look ready to envelop the sufferer in tender embrace, like the rounded forms of the women in the Study for St Sebastian. The comforters ease the pain and convey the sufferer through this transient phase to the next stage of his journey. The images in this series will be considerably larger than the others to increase the emotional impact. They will be carved in wood, the most transient of the three materials and the one most closely associated with suffering. Robert Bush
THE ENCHANTED ISLAND
YO U R T E A R S W I L L B E W I P E D AWAY
Plates from a series of nineteen studies Printed in archival inks on HahnemĂźhle Natural Art Duo 256gsm Text set in Bembo Edition of 19 Each book is accompanied by one of the original studies in o il and tempera on paper with gold and metal leaf (each approximately 25.5 cm x 20 cm) Text by Robert Bush
Printed and Published PRATT CONTEMPORARY ART 2007