As the winter nights draw in closer, the opportunity to attend the private view of the Brazilian artist Maria Nepomuceno was a delightful reprieve from the Autumnal gloom. The show features a number of beautiful new sculptures by Nepomuceno, whose work combines a plethora of artistic methods. Her work often starts from a small element such as a found object; think seed pods, sea shells and twigs, which then spiral out through rope weaving and straw braiding. Adding in elements of ceramics and fibreglass to create cyclical and ever-changing forms emblematic of stellar machinations, Nepomuceno takes as her inspiration the cosmic energy behind plants, animals, humans, and landscapes.
Speaking with the artist, Nepomuceno becomes visibly excited about the evolution of her work. In the first gallery one sees that many of the pieces have gravitated towards the walls, in contrast to her earlier floor-bound works. Believing that this gives them a new energy, Nepomuceno arranges the limbs of her work in-situ, but as she does so, the suction cup-like forms give the sculptures a life of their own, as if they could start crawling up the gallery walls at any moment. Indeed, many of the pieces in this room have an expansive embryonic power: spiralling and expanding until cracking and bursting out of their ceramic or fibreglass uteri. Nepomuceno clearly intends that the energy of the sculptures convey a spirit of possibility and generosity.
This spirit speaks to the viewer – the sculptures in the first gallery certainly engender a sense of rebirth and possibility, through their womb-like forms and their vibrant and warm colours. For Nepomuceno the colours in her work are close to her heart, inspired by her early experiences of painting. Indeed, here the colours enhance their intimacy; the bright reds, pinks, yellows and oranges stretch through wound limbs, reaching out to cocoon in warmth.
The eponymous work, Sim, in the second gallery, is an ode to the love story of Yoko Ono and John Lennon. The pair met at a preview evening of Ono’s own work, also in a Mayfair gallery, almost exactly 50 years to the day of the opening of Nepomuceno’s show. Lennon fell in love with the positivity of Ono’s ‘yes’, painted on the ceiling atop a ladder.
Here too, it is easy to fall in love with the positivity of Sim – meaning yes in Portuguese – which is an affirmation of the repurposing inherent in Nepomuceno’s work, from love stories to sea shells, as well as a positive affirmation to the viewer. The enduring appeal of painting to Nepomuceno can be seen in the incorporation of the medium within her work, illustrated in Sim by the paintbrushes made from twigs found in the forest near to her house. Opposite is Nepomuceno’s sculptural response to the positivity espoused by Sim, made using her more traditional methods, offering both didactic process and a framework within which to encounter her art.
The show has much to recommend; its pure aesthetic beauty, but also doused with positivity inherent in the work’s conception. For a much need punch of positivity this delightfully bright and uplifting exhibition is a must-see.
By Hannah Barton
Maria Nepomuceno, Sim, Victoria Miro, 14 St George Street, London W1S 1FE, 11 November 2016 – 7 January 2017