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Helena Almeida

Lisboa, 1934 – Sintra, 2018

The work of Helena Almeida essentially deconstructs the two-dimensional nature of painting. Three-dimensional paintings from 1969 reveal the hidden side of the canvas, unveiling the view from elsewhere. The previously unseen side now displays the essential structure that supports the fabric, a curtain that covers, uncovers, falls and curls up, blending with the window it once concealed.

By wearing the canvas, Almeida explores the relationship between painting and the artist’s body in performance. She would go on to repeat such activities, photographed by Artur Rosa, her husband and “viewer number one”. In a series of black-and-white photographs, Almeida applies brushstrokes of a vivid blue, before proceeding to detach the colour and stash it in her pocket.

She variously hides from or reveals herself to the viewer, whom she challenges to “Feel me, Hear me, See me” (Series “Sente-me, Ouve-me, Vê-me”). Through its countless iterations, this series explores the inherent impossibilities of the sensory experiences that have been stipulated.

Clad in “sharp, deep black”, her body cuts across highly architectural canvases that inhabit the space of her studio. This was the very place where, as a girl she would pose for her father, the sculptor Leopoldo Almeida. Here, too, she would examine the powers of seduction of a woman who, as she got older, reshaped her involvement with sculpture, crossing the wall, lowering her foot, her hand or entire body to the floor.

Lígia Afonso
[Plano Nacional das Artes and Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian]
Curator, teacher and researcher born in Lisbon in 1981
Text originally written for Google Arts & Culture apropos the exhibition “All I Want, Portuguese Women Artists from 1900 to 2020”, curated by Helena de Freitas and Bruno Marchand