Secrets and Whispers

The leaves pass and with them life and her writings

What do words do to the body? This is one of the questions that may arise when faced with the production of Anna Paola Protasio. All of her works, in one way or another, explore the complex relationship between the materials used and the narrative and symbolic meanings of the work, and the inseparable link between making and the subject of making. On the one hand, Protasio employs cold, hard materials over and over again – metals such as brass, iron and steel; stones like marble and granite; plastic, acrylic, glass. On the other hand, it also reiterates the use of softer and softer elements such as wood, rubber, felt, fabric, carpet, thread and paper. It is in the poetic articulation of these ingredients that she embodies her compositions, whose integrity is completed with the intrinsic titles she creates. Therefore, language plays a fundamental role within its trajectory and writing, therefore, goes hand in hand with the collection of diverse materials she explores.

In “Secrets and Whispers”, the artist presents a series of recent and unpublished works, punctuated side by side with some works that had a significant role in her career. The show is organized in three moments, like an opera – a light introduction, which reveals the motto of this story; a second dense act, which develops the power of the narrative and establishes plots and tensions; and a final act that offers us a sweet, poetic breath, the smooth ending of an intense course. In the prelude to the exhibition, two small works set the tone – in “Arm Wrestling”, Protasio creates sculptures that translate the words of the title into heavy bodies. Wooden blocks are attached to stone blocks by means of metal hinges. Floating in the exhibition space, the pieces defy their own materiality with an unbelievable lightness.

Upon entering the first room, we find an unprecedented series that starts from an ordinary and impersonal material – the industrialized carpets used in fairs and conventions or standard offices. When cut, painted and manipulated, they became an affective layer of composition and sewing.

Fastened with staples, the carpet strips were accumulated in layers manually – this is the first time that the artist imposes herself the challenge of executing a project alone, from start to finish, without the expertise of artisans or technicians who help her. certain parts. Assuming the role of tapestry for herself, she organized the strips, organized the graphic alignment of the staples, elaborated the figurative images and built the laborious volumes, making these works more intimate. Each of the works has its own description, working like little stories: the head on the foot, which is anchored to the ground with a 5kg washer; Cleopatra’s lotus, which evokes a feminine force; crying confused with rain (or is it the other way around?); the punch in the stomach that deforms the work inward, without breathing. In this room the works speak loudly, there is no silence. Even if we try to isolate ourselves, it will still be possible to hear the heartbeat, the blood running through the veins.

In the second room, conversely, we approach more of a stillness – even though we continue to listen to the body. Two stairs suggest the ascent, the ascent and, under a more careful look, they reveal to us through words,  words of equal strength and delicacy. Between these two works is the unpublished series of works made with letters written at the invitation of the artist and never read, frozen and fixed at the seams of Protasio. In “Interconnected Secrets”, 15 people from the artist’s family and affective circle wrote letters telling her secrets and intimacies, difficult memories or stories from which they wished to be free. In “Two Brothers”, the drawing of the hill of the same name ties the letters of Protasio’s father to her uncle, and of the uncle to his father. In view of the works, the voices of these letters that will never be read can almost be heard. The missives only know each other and know each other, they are connected by the warp of a web entangled by the artist herself, who handles this material loaded with energy, releasing the secrets and weight of the past through the perforations of the embroidery.

Julia Lima, curator, researcher and translator, São Paulo 2020