LondonMaria Helena Vieira da Silva
“I look at the street and at people walking on foot with different appearances advancing at different speeds. I think of the invisible threads which manipulate them… I try and see the machinery which organises them. I think this is in a way what I attempt to paint.”
Waddington Custot in London, Jeanne Bucher Jaeger in Paris, and Di Donna Galleries in New York present a landmark travelling exhibition of important works by the Portuguese-born painter Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, in a first-of-its-kind collaboration between the three international galleries.
Bringing together key paintings and works on paper from throughout the artist’s career, the exhibition explores Vieira da Silva’s unique approach to depicting space through poetic, semi-abstract compositions. There is a labyrinthine quality to her paintings’ imaginary grid-like structures which play with space and perspective and disorient the viewer by pulling the gaze in multiple directions, both inviting us deeper and shutting us out. As the artist described:
“Perspective is a way of playing with space. I take a lot of pleasure in looking at space and its rhythms. The architecture of a city has connections to music. There are long notes, and short notes. There are small windows, and large windows.”
Vieira da Silva became an integral member of the expressive abstract movement in Paris following the Second World War. Studying and assimilating the early Modern styles of Cubism, Geometric Abstraction and Futurism, she embraced ambiguity between lyrical and geometric form in amalgamations of illusionistic space and defined her own personal visual vocabulary.
The indistinct perspective of her compositions could be understood as revealing Vieira da Silva’s sense of dislocation as one of many émigré artists living in Paris in the post-war period. Setting down a loose convergence of lines, without any preconceived subject in mind, Vieira da Silva coaxes the eye to identify emergent images, based on her memories and an intuitive sense of rhythm and pattern. This fractured representation of reality creates a psychological space that captures how the mind recalls and distorts memory, referring to not only her life in Paris, but to the sensory experiences of her youth in Lisbon, famous for its streets of captivating tiles.
While there is an underlying structure and order beneath her works’ compositions which maintain a sense of deep space and perspective, Vieira da Silva blurs the lines between representation and abstraction so that spaces reminiscent of interior rooms or aerial city views never fully describe a single location or view. In today’s world defined by ever-accelerating speed and fluctuation, Vieira da Silva’s works remain relevant and contemporary for their evocation of a shifting and mesmerising reality.
Just a few years after Vieira da Silva’s arrival in Paris in 1928 she became acquainted with Jeanne Bucher, who was the first gallerist to show her work and with whom the artist would have a decades-long and faithful relationship until her death in 1992. Through this important exhibition the Paris gallery Jeanne Bucher Jaeger joins in collaboration with Waddington Custot and Di Donna Galleries, cementing Vieira da Silva’s position on the international stage.all images © the gallery and the artist(s)