Helena Almeida’s work could not exist anywhere else but her blunt studio. A whitewashed wall, a concrete floor, that is all Almeida allows herself. She refuses to pull in material from the outside and instead seeks a subtraction. Curious, for an artist whose canvas is the self, where materials often mean ornamentation, so readily possessed, then expressed. Though Almeida serves as her own figure, rarely do we see the flamboyant purging central to so many self-portraits. If anything, Almeida works to further conceal, not disclose.
Yet Almeida compels an undeniable presence. She is vigorous and snake-like. In Seduzir, or Seduction, a wire coils about her calf, and, in a later work, her figure curls tight on a concrete floor, her limbs indistinguishable but for her aged hands, veined and strained around the nape. It makes sense that the snake would be Almeida’s closest cousin—horrific in what it lacks, in what is not there.
From this absence arrives performance. No doubt, Almeida has something to show. Her plain compositions and adjustments of body suggest an acute awareness of audience. Perhaps Almeida craves that feeling of being watched, for she needs a point of departure, a place to initiate her regression.
Nowhere is this more subject than in O Abraço. It is a surprising image. For once, an outsider intrudes—and with remarkable discretion. The decidedly solitude snake, it appears, has found her match. Almeida and her partner embrace. This is the greatest tease, and, as if she senses our urgency to see more, to at last catch the lovers, Almeida grants us two images. Even so, the couple remains anonymous and seemingly of one body. What is it with Almeida and her secrets?
In a media determined to show it all and to show it now, Almeida’s work draws fresh attention to the power of that which is kept precious and the sanctity that coalesces around the untold.
Post by Luke Smithers, lukesmithers.com