‘My work is my body; my body is my work.’
Today, on 2 November Phillips presents a curated selection of works by Helena Almeida.
In a large black dress that engulfs her body, a woman appears to be hanging mid-air, grasping a long white scroll of paper, set against a black background. Denied insight into the staging of this image, we see her dangling in front of us, resisting gravity. The woman is Helena Almeida. This is not self-portraiture, but a composition of the body and how it inhabits space. Made in 1982, the same year that Almeida participated in the Venice Biennale for the first time, Ponto de Fuga (Vanishing Point) is one of two works that share this title of which the variant was shown in Venice that summer.
Since 1969, Almeida has produced photographs that are mainly in black and white. To create these painstakingly detailed works, she begins with preparatory drawings of choreography that she faithfully follows in the studio. She then films herself, observing how her body moves and explores the space. Once perfected, her private performance is photographed by her husband Arthur Rosa. Refusing to be categorized, Almeida is not just photographer, painter, sculptor or performance artist, but all of these, treating herself as the canvas and using her body to paint and draw. She maintains that her body stands for all and anybody, and is no longer her own.
The present work was included in two major solo exhibitions at the Serralves Foundation in Porto (1996) and the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea in Santiago de Compostela (2000), the latter using this image for their exhibition posters. Almeida has recently been the subject of two museum shows in 2015-2017, Helena Almeida: Corpus at the Serralves Foundation, Porto, which traveled to Jeu de Paume, Paris and Wiels, Brussels, and Helena Almeida: Work is Never Finished at the Art Institute of Chicago, her first in the United States. These highlighted not only Almeida’s international reach but the significance of her work in the narrative of 20th-century image-making.