Lygia Pape: Magnetized Space

by Sue Hubbard

Book_of_Time‘All truths,’ the philosopher Alain Badiou writes, as quoted by the psychoanalyst, Adam Philips in his Five Short Talks on Excess, ‘are woven from extreme consequences’ [1]. Philips then goes on to quote the dramatist Mark Ravenhill: “art that isn’t driven by this basic impulse to create an unbalanced view of the world is probably bad or weak.”[2].‘Extreme consequences’ then, in an artistic context, might be considered to be both a drive and a passion; the very qualities that stimulate artists to make new and iconoclastic work.

Breaking moulds, disturbing structures of thought and established relationships between North and South, the New World and the Old in order to create an ‘unbalanced view of the world’ and discover who we are and what we think are the hallmarks that were brought to the burgeoning Brazilian art scene in the nineteen-fifties and sixties by the Brazilian artist, Lygia Pape (1927-2004). Through their re-reading of, and reaction to European abstraction, a group of young Brazilian artists pushed aside the boundaries of the Old World and colonial art to create an indigenous, pluralistic and democratic body of work. Neo- Concretism (as it was dubbed) is often seen as the beginning of contemporary art in Brazil and Lygia Pape’s oeuvre, with its rich mix of aesthetic, ethical and political ideas helped to form Brazil’s nascent artistic identity. This expansion from Old to New World was not only geographical. The territories that were now being explored and exploited were no longer simply the exotic terrains and lands described by the great nineteenth century travellers and writers but also those closer to home, as the relatively new ‘art’of psychoanalysis was showing. The area of exploration had become not only a physical terrain but the geography of our own psyches and internal worlds. Art was mapping a new relationship between body and mind.

Writing of the Latin American avant-garde novel, the scholar, Vicky Unruh, has suggested that a frequent characteristic has been “the artist’s lament, calling to mind once again the stresses between cosmic aspirations and the pulls of a contingent world.” This dichotomy, this switching between states is also a characteristic of Lygia Pape’s practice and “is linked with her insistence on the freedom to experiment, driven by her rebellious spirit.” [3]

Read more »