So before I start I’m going to be completely honest: I am not an art connoisseur, far from it, actually. I may live in Paris, where there are some of the most amazing art galleries and museums in the world, but I have not taken any courses in fine arts or art history. I enjoy wandering around a museum or checking out an exhibit from time to time but I do not know much about the various styles and techniques used by artists or what a canvas painted entirely blue could possibly symbolize (besides someone who wanted to test the color out or practice smooth brush strokes before painting their wall). I know what I like (and what touches me) and I know what I don’t, but that’s about it! I do, however, have huge respect for anyone who speaks and lives through their art. So, here is my rather naive review of the Helena Almeida exhibition currently at the Jeu de Paume gallery. The exhibit is named Corpus, which either refers to the Portuguese artist’s body of work (spanning over almost 50 years) or the fact that her body is featured in almost all of her creations. I had seen the poster advertising this event for several weeks in the metro stations, but it wasn’t until last week when I was walking through the Tuileries Garden and my corpus told me that I had to go pee, that I decided to enter the gallery and check it out. Seriously, you can never find a public toilet in Paris when you need one!
Surprisingly (because usually it is not the case), I was allowed to take photos, which will help me to briefly describe what I saw. Most of her work involves photos to which paint or another material is introduced, giving you the feeling that the image is coming to life and that Almeida herself is in a state of action. I loved her collection of work entitled Pinturas habitadas (inhabited paintings), that feature a splash or a layer of blue paint that can obscure her face, be handled and put in her pocket, or be inhaled like some sort of blue jelly. She comes to life in these photos with the blue paint being an extension of her feelings and her gestures.There were other pieces that I found interesting too where she uses string made from horse hair in order for the line traced by her pen to become three-dimensional. Again, what she draws in the first image appears to become palpable to her touch in the next. Another series of photos entitled ouve-me (“hear me” in English) depict the artist’s mouth with the words drawn across her lips. It is rather powerful to see the progression of the photos where the lips seem sealed shut in the majority of the shots and then a few where the mouth is open and we can imagine her screaming through the frame, trying to speak to us…so that we hear her message. The performance art video by the same name didn’t touch me as much, as it looked like someone trapped and trying to disentangle themselves from a bed sheet…but I have to admit that I don’t often understand performance art films. A second film, in which the name gives you no clue of what it represents (Sem titulo or no title…geez, thanks), films Almeida tying her right leg to the left leg of a man (her husband) with some sort of wire and then watching them painfully drag their feet as they walk together across her studio floor, to the wall and back, for what seems like an eternity. I kept waiting for something to happen but eventually lost interest and skipped off to the other side of the room. I hope there wasn’t some crazy twist at the end that I missed! In any case, I had a rather cynical interpretation of what she might be trying to say about a long-term relationships, but maybe the message was completely lost on me, once again.My favorite work of Helena’s (we’re on a first name basis now, I guess) was a beautiful black and white photo of herself with her back to the camera, one of her black pumps laying on its side, and the sole of her foot painted with a thick brush stroke of red paint. It made me think of a fashion shot showcasing a pair of gorgeous Christian Louboutins and the movement captured in the photo is truly beautiful.So there you have it: Corpus is a collection that is sure to delight, disturb, confuse and surprise as various mediums collide in some very expressive art. The exhibit runs until May 22nd, 2016, so I definitely recommend checking it out and then wandering around the Jardin des Tuileries, where you can take your own series of pretty pictures!
Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume
1 Place de la Concorde
+33 (0)1 47 03 12 50