In her ongoing series, Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos has been wrapping various animals in five-needle lace, handmade cotton crochet. But these aren’t just any animals. Vasconcelos has been heavily inspired by the ceramic artwork of Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro (1846-1905), one of the most renowned Portuguese artists of the 19th century.
Each of these pieces “are ambiguously imprisoned/protected by a second-skin in crochet-work,” says Vasconcelos. At once both beautiful and strange, the work stands as a testament to the extraordinary craftsmanship of the artist but also as a one-upmanship of maternal femininity and domesticity. The use of crochet to mummify the ceramic animals “opens up a vast and rich field of interpretation” that challenges our preconceptions of femininity, as well as our notions of tradition and modernity.
The very nature of Joana Vasconcelos’ creative process is based on the appropriation, decontextualisation and subversion of pre-existent objects and everyday realities. Sculptures and installations, which are revealing of an acute sense of scale and mastery of colour, as well as the recourse to performances and video or photographic records, all combine in the materialization of concepts which challenge the pre-arranged routines of the quotidian. Starting out from ingenious operations of displacement, a reminiscence of the ready-made and the grammars of Nouveau Réalisme and pop, the artist offers us a complicit vision, but one which is at the same time critical of contemporary society and the several features which serve the enunciations of collective identity, especially those that concern the status of women, class distinction or national identity. From this process there derives a speech which is attentive to contemporary idiosyncrasies, where the dichotomies of hand-crafted/industrial, private/public, tradition/modernity and popular culture/erudite culture are imbued with affinities that are apt to renovate the usual fluxes of signification which are characteristic of contemporaneity.
Joana Vasconcelos was born in Paris in 1971. Lives and works in Lisbon. She has exhibited regularly since the mid-1990s. After her participation in the 51st International Art Exhibition– la Biennale di Venezia in 2005, her work became known internationally. Recent highlights of her career include Trafaria Praia, project for the Pavilion of Portugal at the 55th International Art Exhibition– la Biennale di Venezia (2013); a solo exhibition at the Château de Versailles, France (2012); participation in the group exhibition ‘The World Belongs to You’ at the Palazzo Grassi/François Pinault Foundation, Venice (2011); and her first retrospective, held at the Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon (2010).