The Brazilian artist talks about her fascination with hammocks, her novel way of amalgamating painting and sculpture, and the power of ancestral connections. By Angeria Rigamonti di Cutò
The sculptor and installation artist Maria Nepomuceno (b1976 Rio de Janeiro) presents her visceral, pulsating, voluptuous assemblages at Victoria Miro Mayfair. Permeated with an abundance of cultural references, her hallucinatory creations are suggestive of animal and human body parts, outlandish plants, and extraterrestrial landscapes. She spoke to Studio International about the myriad sources she draws on, in keeping with Brazil’s remarkable cultural diversity, as well as the fundamental importance of crafting an enveloping atmosphere of vital energy in her work.
Angeria Rigamonti di Cutò: You studied industrial design at the University of Rio. Although you do use some industrial materials in your work, it seems surprising that you chose that particular type of training considering that your sculptures almost seem the antithesis of the industrial, and use traditional, handmade techniques such as straw weaving?
Maria Nepomuceno: I had an interest in objects, and perhaps a sculptural way of thinking that I didn’t immediately recognise. At the time, I used to paint rather than make three-dimensional objects but I thought that learning about the materials of industrial design would be interesting and I decided I’d like to do product design. But during the process of studying I realised it wasn’t for me, though having access to workshops and tools gave me an opportunity to work with wood, steel and acrylic. I then decided to pursue theatre design and that, too, was interesting in the way it allowed me to understand space and light. Even though I knew it wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I think I gained something from both these strands in my later work.
ARC: Can we talk about some of your Carioca influences, who include Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Pape and, later, Tunga and Ernesto Neto? I find it interesting that some of the older of those artists began in the initially quite cerebral realm of concrete and constructivist art and then evolved into something radically more participatory and body-centred. Do you think the mind had become too privileged, and was that shift something that appealed to you about some of those artists?
MP: I think that neo-concretism turned into a desire to talk about feelings, sensations and the relationship with the body and nature rather than thinking only about the shapes and colour that concrete art was concerned with. I think that I have certainly been influenced by many Carioca artists. As you said, Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica and Ernesto Neto, but at the same time my influences are very varied. From the moment I got into the School of Visual Arts [at Parque Lage, Rio] at the age of 14, painting influenced me a lot. At 15, I had the opportunity to travel and see work by Matisse, Yves Klein and many other European artists.