Jacarezinho 92 Ana Elisa Egreja
03.30.17 _ 05.06.17
Make yourself at home
We liked the house because, apart from being spacious and old (today old houses succumbed to the more advantageous sale of their materials), it kept the memories of our great-grandparents, our paternal grandfather, our parents and our entire childhood.
Julio Cortázar, House Taken Over
A house is a building to be inhabited. It is a city’s basic unit, and it is a reference of spatial belonging in the world. It is an origin and a destination, refuge and castle. In the new series of works by Ana Elisa Egreja, the house is the main character of this new phase in her pictorial research. Domestic environments and interiors have always been the artist’s subject. Even when her animals seemed to be the true protagonists, textures, patterns, and floor and wall drawings were actually the recurring elements in all the situations she invented. The interiors were the scenario she chose for the paintings that didn’t just favor bedrooms and living rooms, but also depicted service areas, restrooms, and stairs. We either faced decadent constructions, with infiltrations, floods and damages, or sumptuous chambers with spectacular views.
It is interesting that, until that time, none of the rooms that Egreja painted existed. Her artistic practice involved creating and making up scenes and architectures from infinite images: she accumulated photographs, illustrations and reproductions from the internet, like a collector who digs, stores and recombines images and incoherent, crazy and absurd elements, resulting in spaces where there are no human figures, just the vestiges of their presence; wild and tamed animals frozen in the brink of an action; or merely mannered furniture and decorations, different lining and weird materials.
In a consistent unfolding, these digital montages were transcended by small still- life paintings. Since 2013, the artist dedicated herself more and more to the particularities of indoor architecture, especially to textures and matters. Fortuitously, while visiting a friend, she entered the service area and found a cleaning sponge behind a hammered-finished window. She photographed it and replicated the composition, opening a new series of “small glasses”.
At that moment, thus, the obsessive search for internet images gave room to installations with real objects, bought, organized, staged and photographed behind small sheets of rolled glass – low quality materials used in less esteemed areas of a house. The paintings became smaller, respecting the diminutive scale of the still-life and the concrete assemblages she created.
For a few years, the realization of these small sculptural installations unfolded inside the rooms and outside, in the garden, of a modernist house that belonged to the artist’s grandmother. The property, located on Rua Jacerezinho, 92, hadn’t been occupied for many years, didn’t have an intimate life, and then it was converted into a studio, or atelier, in 2008. This new series of works presented here, thus, are somewhat the peak of the research that began with the small glass paintings. The small still-lifes exploded and took over the home.
Egreja intensely and radically intervened in the building. Although in a infinitely larger scale, she implemented the same procedure she had once developed with the glass pictures: she elaborated themes, chose all the elements of the contexts, searched for and arranged all the desired objects (real or artificial) and photographed the compositions so, then, she could paint them. However, for this ensemble, she prepared and produced the house’s occupation as a movie director in a film set, orchestrating the scenario for a fantastic realism narrative. Each room depicted in her paintings served as a stage for real actions: extraordinary scenes she previously conceive and sketched in a small notebook were designed and built. She mobilized several people in order to install, photograph and document each different quarter – almost as episodes that were mounted with different furniture, animals, pictures, accessories, transformed by graffiti and wallpaper, and professionally lit – so that she could finally translate them onto the canvas.
In the bathroom of pink-colored tiles, typical of the 1950s and 60s, octopuses were rolled up on the taps and faucets and place inside the bathtub, surrounded by pearls and seashells lit by small flickering candles. The bedroom hallway (with its doors covered with holographic stickers we used to have in our childhood) was covered with striped wallpaper, and the passageway was overrun with rats and Christmas lights. One of the closets with wooden cabinets was entirely tagged and graffitied by the artist and her assistants, where they then released dozens of small bright canaries. Fat chickens walked and pecked around the bottom of old carpeted stairs. And numerous original paintings by important Brazilian artists were brought to decorate the entry hallway. Finally, Egreja installed a large pond in one of the rooms, facing a large window, and filled it with water plants – a similar scene to the one from a painting made in 2011, Poça (Puddle) – creating a swamp-like landscape inside the modernist house located in a upscale São Paulo neighborhood, Jardim Europa.
A video was also born from this arduous production, and is presented in the exhibition as well. An unusual medium for a painter, the film – documental and poetic at the same time – emphasizes the real elements from the installations that can be identified in the paintings, to the smallest details. Images in close-up, from narrow angles, reveal the objects’ textures and nuances, while underlining seminal issues in her pictorial production. The recorded scenes allow us to witness the animals moving, the water trembling, the candles burning – stages of the work that we cannot fully reach when facing the paintings.
The works that depict the house’s environments abandoned the small scale of the object and returned to the large scale of architecture – while still maintaining a close relation with reality. When we visit the exhibition, we are entering the house that belonged to Egreja’s grandparents, which had a deep impact on her work. She now invites us to visit the rooms she visited as a child and in which she spent so much of her time during most of her career. The artist opens the doors to her studio and, all the more, tells us: “come in, make yourself at home”.
Julia Lima graduated from PUC-SP in Art: History, Criticism and Curatorship, and was a student at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, in 2009. Between 2013 and 2016, she worked at the Research and Curating Center of the Instituto Tomie Ohtake, coordinated by Paulo Miyada. Today she works as an independent curator, and as a teacher in free courses in art history and curatorship.