Salette Tavares

Maputo, Moçambique, 1922 – Lisboa, 1994

Salette Tavares was a highly accomplished and interventionist artist who spanned a great many genres. A distinguished poet, critic, essayist, translator and performer, she was a pioneer of performance, concrete poetry, spatial poetry and conceptual art, but she also worked as an educator and cultural agitator and headed up various associations. As the artist behind an extensive body of radical and provocative work, she declared that “to make something is the most religious service that a human being can perform”.

Her work explores the possibilities of combining writing, images, the page, body and space, resulting in unique objects and poems that defy and subvert the rules of language. Her playful, parodic visual exploration of the word using graphic and phonetic elements and the way in which she transforms mundane objects into poetic experiences inform her experimentation with form and communication. This is manifested in installations, typography, screen printing, prints, embroidery and tapestry.

“I’m still on close terms with my inner child,” she says, explaining the constant presence of humour, playfulness, fun, mischief and experimentation as the “natural and permanent state” of her work. The “creative dialogues” that she initially sets up with her family take their cue from her status as artist/woman/mother. These test our creative perception and call for active participation from viewers.

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
© DR