‘You shall know the difference now that I am back again’ Achilles
Mira Schendel is undoubtedly the best artistic discovery I have made so far, in spite of the fact that she seems to be very well-known in Brazil, where she created all her work and where she died 25 years ago. Her biography is extremely fascinating as it has those elements that, sometimes, are able to stir fabulous creative responses in talented people. Not only are displacement and emigration (in 1938 she was forced to leave Italy where she was studying philosophy due to her Jewish heritage, lived afterwards in other European countries until her definitive moving to Brazil in 1949) crucial to her life but also to her work.
As I was walking along the rooms in Tate Modern last Sunday, I went through what I, later on, realized to be a spiral of artistic experiences. Quite often, in retrospective exhibitions, you are aware of the linear evolution of the artist from the first rooms containing early and immature works to the last ones representing the height of the artist`s career. Mira Shendel`s artistic trajectory, however, seems to be spiral rather than linear. As a matter of fact, the spiral, together with circles and arrows, is one her recurrent figures throughout her oeuvre, suggesting the concept of permanent change. And it was that constant shift in her work that I felt during my visit to her exhibition. Utterly different aesthetic and sensorial experiences at the same level of maturity and intellectual complexity are awaiting for you in every single room.
The visual silence of ‘Still Waves of Probability’
Her work appears to be strongly inspired or influenced by philosophy, both Western and Eastern, but even if you lack such a background, as it is my case, you can absolutely appreciate the extreme beauty of the mattery textures, subtle transparencies, restrained palette, fragile materials, ethereal and mesmerizing installations, sheer geometry, impeccable graphic compositions. She experimented with the possibilities of Japanese rice paper, pushing its transparent properties to the limit; with acrylic stone, in which she fossilized letters, those symbols that she turned into individual graphic entities, devoid of context and, consequently, meaning; with coarse and cheap materials such as jute instead of canvas; and with notebooks. Her spectacular notebooks are not conventional sketchbooks but delicate objects to experience and feel as a whole, as an individual work of art. Each transparent page contains a stunning graphical composition which needs what is partially seen in other pages to be complete.
Simple in its complexity, delicate, restrained, exquisite, Mira Schendel work is just sublime, a pure delight.
‘It is a way of saying other softer things – or saying nothing…’ Mira Schendel