The 30th São Paulo Art Bienal opened in September 2012 in a whirl of parties, openings and parallel exhibitions, and with arty types, gallerists and cultural kingpins, not to mention artists, rubbing shoulders all over town. With many of the artists in SP for the opening, it was also a chance for some of them to take an interest in each other’s work.
With that in mind, we talked to three Bienal artists – Eduardo Berliner, Shelia Hicks and Sofia Borges – and asked them to tell us about another artist showing at the Bienal whose work had made an impression on them.
Here, the painter Eduardo Berliner talks about the installations of Fernanda Gomes.
‘I saw Fernanda Gomes’s work for the first time a few months ago at an exhibition at MAM, where she had a huge space filled with intimate, delicate things. I found it very moving, and also a very clever way to fill the space – an accumulation of very small things occupying that monumental space. In some ways, I identify with the kind of poetry that I noticed in her work – it’s a poetry that has to do with the perception of personal events, small symmetries, the relationships between materials.
‘When I was setting up my space at the Bienal, I had the odd chance to speak briefly with Fernanda. I saw her work space and the impression I got was that it was a kind of a miniature studio she had set up using the wall of the Bienal itself – the partitions of the rooms. She hung things in them.
'One day I went by, and there was a bunch of grapes, only without the grapes – just the stem. So she’d set it aside in a corner, and then suddenly she’d add a piece of string that she found – string, or small things that were part of the installation itself. I found it very beautiful.
‘There were some sticks, or small rods. She experimented with the tension of the rod, forming kind of a curve using the resistance of the rod itself. She created this tension using the very structure of the wooden partition – I saw how she pressed into the wood, and she made a curve and supported it with another part of the partition. So the very structure of her room determined the elasticity of the rod.
'It was her way of perceiving and interacting with the space through the manipulation of very delicate things, which were discarded materials that ended up in this space because of the Bienal – shipping crates and the like. So she uses these found objects to create special apparatus to perceive the space, and to make us perceive the space.
‘The impression I get is that she’s working with materials she has found in the Bienal building, or with the very few things she brought with her.
‘In one very simple piece she made, there are two plastic bags, which probably came with some of the things she was bringing to the studio, or that she bought there. She joined them with string and put one inside and one outside the Bienal building, so that when the wind blows, only one of them moves. They’re on the same string and at the same height, but one’s stationary and the other is swinging outside. The relationship between them is very beautiful.
‘By reducing the number of things, she pays attention to very smallest of things. When you have less to work with, it’s all about limits. I think the power of her work derives from that – that when you pare things right down, the eye starts to notice things that people who are exposed to a lot of information don’t normally see.’