DA TABVLA AO TRÁFICO DE TEMPO
in conversation with the art critic Camila Belchior
and the gallerist Maria Montero
03.09.2016 - 12.11.2016
São Paulo Brazil
From Tabvla to Time Trafficking*
Fernanda Chieco has been making systems for thirteen years. Complex and interconnected circuits of relationships between things that are expressed in a visual universe where fantastic narratives prioritize physical and conceptual links, as a way of addressing themes such as consumption, control and dominant social habits.
The territories that punctuate her artwork defy common logic. These spaces are at times inhabited but difficult to define and at others outlined but abandoned - they trace the paths of the artist’s trajectory, peppered with residency programmes in countries as distinct as Iceland, Ireland, South Korea and USA. Chieco’s artwork touches on her research, observations and experiences of landscapes and social dynamics during periods immersed in new contexts, away from her routine. They coexist in a unique and peculiar system of relations that she creates – mappings and ethnographies of a limbo at the margins of ‘civilization’ - with its own praxis and rules.
The point of departure for the exhibition From Tabvla to Time Trafficking is the fragmenting nature of the system that governs the art market. The artist has made countless artworks that have been sold to collections (institutional and private) all around the world and that conceptually form intertwined series that are now geographically scattered. For the first time paintings, drawings, objects and photos made from 2003 until today are brought together in an exhibition that outlines Chieco’s career and the large, unfinished and splintered circuit of artworks she has created.
In the enormous drawing Tabvla Prima (2003) the connection between elements is explicit and monumental. The bodies in the sketch are linked by objects that enter and exit orifices, secretions that are collected and expelled from them, innards that are displayed – they explicit the disorder of common bodily circuits by mapping out other possible relations between mundane things.
The body as metaphor for system permeates all of Chieco’s artwork and hair punctuates mostly her production of objects, in which it leads the resignification of hierarchies between elements that comprise a system of values that is so familiar to us. In Shrunken Heads (2005) the body is riven: arm, ear, leg and dental arch are individually covered with human hair. The objects in this series are in themselves part of a symbolic system and relate to an old tribal tradition the artist came across in England in which enemies’ heads were shrunk with a technique that kept the hair intact.
The domination and control found in more ‘civilized’ contexts, isn’t any less savage in Chieco’s universe. In the series Flycatchers (2009), a tongue – the strongest muscle in the body according to old medical manuscripts – torments the bodies it also connects. Here, the artist introduces watercolor to the graphite drawings for the first time, as a solution for portraying the nature of the humid and unassailable muscle. Apart from the individuals’ tyranny, social tyranny fed a ritual the artist kept during the South Africa World Cup. As she walked aimlessly through the empty streets of São Paulo, which were abandoned by people gravitating to televisions transmitting the matches, she registered their emptiness at strategic points that were monitored by cameras. These places are the origin of barbaric scenes reminiscent of torture that compose the series of drawings Night inquiries of a wandering soul (I’m guarded, therefore I exist) (2010). Her interest in souls that hover in social spaces also fueled research that led her to choose a watermelon as the protagonist of the more than one hundred drawings that comprise The process (2010) from the series Destined for multiplication. At the time, the original drawings were never exhibited, but their reproductions were used in a site-specific installation at Centro Universitário Maria Antônia in São Paulo. In this narrative, the fruit encapsulates a metaphor for blood and is transferred between the human bodies and animals as a reference to the conflicts that occurred in the region. From Tabvla to Time Trafficking is the first time these original drawings are exhibited.
With Chieco’s move to Korea, the bodies suspended in space and time that became familiar in her production made way for their residues, imprinted by societies in objects and (social) rituals. In Fisherman’s Throne (2011-2012), creatures take over drawings of abandoned furniture seen in a Korean city and in Sausage Stickers (2012) phrases originating from conversations had over dinners that served exotic sausages made from rattlesnake, alligator and armadillo, are printed on adhesive photographs. In Gone (2014-2015), made after a period spent in residence in Fort Collins, USA, the human presence is reasserted by its absence. Her research on ghost towns resulted in large asymmetrical watercolors – a choice in technique that references the antithesis of the climate that is portrayed in the paintings. Their structure heightens architectural qualities, which also announce people who have disappeared, leaving an imprint of their past presence behind them. A group of drawings made on sheets of compacted viscera for Unfinished artwork as I had my heart broken by this hand surgeon (2015–2016), shows hands that massage blades and make meatballs with the flesh that is expelled by the body – sutured traces of a relationship that no longer exists.
After a period experiencing the Icelandic winter at the end of last year, the artist started work on Trafficking for Time Trade a series for which she created her own currency – Icecoin – that is used in exchange for different materials to paint on (in this exhibition, all works are painted on stolen airplane blankets). This parallel exchange system that allows these artworks to exist references the narrative that the title puts in place. To Chieco, time is like an organ that we have but cannot see. In places like Iceland, where its passing cannot be measured as one does habitually by the presence or absence of light and needs a system of its own, there’s a gang that negotiates this precious organ.
Although Fernanda Chieco makes art using various techniques, she considers her body of work a large and continuous drawing. Organizing this show in a commercial gallery, which represents the market that at the same time feeds and deconstructs the cohesion of her production, seems fitting with the dichotomies of her fantastically peculiar logic and the ideal space in which to retrieve and reconnect the systemic circuit that she’s created between her artworks over the course of thirteen years.
São Paulo, September 2016
Camila Belchior is an art critic who received her Bachelors from Bristol University and a Masters in History of Art and Theory from University College London (UCL) with a special emphasis on ‘The Politics of Representation’. She’s been researching contemporary art for the better part of 15 years and currently contributes regularly to Art Forum and Ocula.com, aside from writing a monthly column in Bamboo magazine. Her words have been published in other titles, amongst them Frieze, Art Review, Art Nexus, Dardo and Wallpaper*.