NY ARTS Magazine, May/June 2006 -
by Juliana Monachesi
Desire, as we all know, is imperative. In the works of Fernanda Chieco, thats where eroticism begins. By establishing relationships, similar to the ones we find in medical textbooks, between bodies and body devices, objects are coupled to the body with strange functions like counting saliva drops, inhaling absinth or sucking red light. The 29 year-old Brazilian artist has been developing this series of drawings since her Masters degree in Fine Arts at the Goldsmiths College, in London.
In Absinth Inhaler, an apparatus connected to the back of a woman allows her a new way to inhale the inebriating substance; in Cadbury Torture, a man smashes chocolate down the throat of a woman through a device that looks like a funnel with a very long tube. The connectors are always drawn in a more detailed and even more human way than the bodies, which are always simplified and almost understood in a single trace. The color, which is always present, is a sign of distinction to which only the objects have the right. In Floss, a woman holds a red thread that comes out of her mouth and penetrates her body again between her legs. From Green Gas Produce, coupled to the left breast and having an extremity pointing to the users navel, a greenish breeze blows.
All of these works have in common the fact that they dictate ways of using the body. Theyre imperative drawings, performance drawingsboth in the sense of displaying a body in action as well as offering parameters for such an action to happen. Other works by Chieco also carry this type of authority along with rules that are both written and drawn, like the objects that bring instructions. This is the case of Flatus Inhaler, thus described: "Device to inhale human fart. Anatomically shaped to suit one person sitting. Twelve plastic tubes transport the gas to volunteers noses. Up to twelve people can inhale at the same time." The Shower Device happens to be a "steel and aluminum piece for mounting by one person. With piss collector connected to a showerhead. Has to be installed at a high position to fit one or more showerers washing underneath."
An intersection between the The Bride stripped bare by her bachelors, even by Duchamp and the drawings by Tracey Emin, between medical books and the sadomasochistic guides for dummies, the performance drawings by Chieco are representations of the id without any vestiges of a superego around. "Theres no law of gravity in drawing," says the artist, who chose the support as an alternative to objects that were impossible in three dimensions. Drawing as a consequence of sculpture and not the opposite.
In the opening exhibition at the Leme Gallery in São Paulo, Chieco showed the work Tabula Prima, a drawing about eight meters long which details a complex system that intertwines tens of naked bodies, lending them different functions. The delicate trace contrasts with the coldness when portraying human figures in a kind of sadistic chain of relationships. In Tabula Secunda Bestiarum, the same happens to an eclectic group of animals: biting animals, frogs, snakes and deer retro-signify themselves. The idea of organizing relationships between these animals, according to the artist, came from the observation of a poster where several species that dont share a common environment stood side-by-side.
Ever since she put her bestiary into the world, the animals never left Fernanda Chiecos focus of interest. The series "Hell" followed, in which the artist sketches in white, over a reddish series of photographs taken on a beach in São Paulo, animals in the sand or emerging in groups from the sea. A camel, an elephant, hounds and an anteater find their place within the ecosystem of the Brazilian coast and gain new functions among human beings. In the exhibition that will be shown between March and April at the Leme Gallery, the series of drawings "Brave vulture" gives way to the difference of balance between outlined human figures and animals, in this case the brave vulture drawn in detail and colored.
Despite behaving as a pet vulture, appearing on peoples laps, being caressed or balancing a dispute between two people, the animal brings up a memory of a visceral relationship with the body for which it is best known. A funereal atmosphere surrounds the new series of drawings by Fernanda Chieco and nevertheless, instead of drama, what we see in the present exhibition is serenity in the pose of the women who interact with the vultures. The bizarre doesnt fit in the natural atmosphere of the systems built up by the artist, which makes us think about the self-portraits of the Austrian artist Elke Krystufeck, naturally surrounded by pink flamingoes.
In the photographs by the English artist Neil Hamon, who exhibits his works along with Chieco at the Leme gallery, morbidity shows more openly. Hamon, who studied at the Goldsmiths College with the Brazilian artist, simulates his own suicide in his works. The inanimate body of Hamons photographs establishes a dialogue with the bodies drawn by Chieco.
Fernanda Chieco borrows the poses and the foreshortenings portrayed in her drawings from photographs of models, friends who pose for the artist with no detailed instructions. The artist usually asks a friend to do any pose and from the position the body adopted in the photograph, she begins to imagine and build up a support system for the body in that specific situation. The practice mounts up to Fernandas own experience as a live model during the period she studied in London.
These are layers of eroticism that superpose as the drawings are observed. The objectified body, the abject, the subtle memory of a voyeuristic game between the model and the artist. A cold eroticism that echoes the cynical state of contemporary sexuality, mediated by technology or excessively calculated and protected. Finally, theres also something erotic in drawing as a language, in the sheer fact that the drawing is drawn, in other words, inscribed in a raw and direct form onto a paper surface, following a principle of transparency and non-erasibility. "The drawn line is always raw, on permanent view. It has no mantle of invisibility to conceal its emergence into the world," states the art historian Norman Bryson. The drawing is explicit. In the works of Chieco, drawing is performance.