Fernanda Gomes



Not on display
Fernanda Gomes born 1960
Wood, paint and lacquer
Displayed: 1980 x 2000 x 100 mm
Lent by the Tate Americas Foundation, courtesy of the Latin American Acquisitions Committee 2013
On long term loan


Untitled 2013 is a single work composed of multiple parts. Five elements are displayed spread apart on the wall and a single element is displayed on the floor, a small distance away the wall. Four unpainted brown wooden battens, which were once parts of larger pieces of furniture or frames and have been salvaged by the artist, are fixed to the wall; to the left a batten is displayed horizontally, in the centre two are shown at different heights in a vertical arrangement and to the right another is shown in a horizontal orientation. Two small cubes of wood, painted white, are also fixed to the wall, one sitting directly on top of the other to constitute a fifth element, positioned between the left hand horizontal and the first of the verticals; while the front and top of these are painted white, viewed from the left the side of both cubes has been left unpainted, but viewed from the right, only the side of the upper cube has been left unpainted. The element on the floor is a white painted shallow box. The piece was made for an exhibition of new work by Gomes at the Alison Jacques Gallery, London in April 2013.

While this particular work can be seen as an arrangement of humble discarded objects that almost fortuitously combine into a cohesive whole, in fact it betrays a subtle and deliberate use of carefully chosen materials and elements. The positioning of the elements turns the wall and gallery space into an expanded or deconstructed abstract white monochrome painting. Such a reading might show Gomes’s assimilation of concrete and neo-concrete art but also of an avant-garde tradition that extends back to the constructivist work of Kasimir Malevich (1878–1935) and El Lissitzky (1890–1941).

Gomes frequently works with found, broken or abandoned objects which are subtly manipulated, then arranged, hung or propped, in casually suggestive combinations. Often she works in a way that responds directly to the display context, creating total environments out of combinations of numerous disparate elements and/or individual sculptural units, therefore making her works site sensitive and site specific. For instance, for the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003, in a section called Structures for Survival curated by Carlos Basualdo, Gomes created a large installation in the Arsenale building, which involved placing numerous glasses filled with water, as well as other objects, throughout the space, evoking a sense of instability, transience and fragility. Through her work, Gomes enacts a minimal yet poetic metamorphosis of quotidian materials and objects, but which often evokes a sense of volatility and danger. Thus Gomes’s complex ‘mises-en-scene’ seem to embody a delicate, easily shattered stillness, or the calm after the storm.

Since the early 2000s, her work has explored aspects of the white monochrome through similarly discarded and humble materials. However in 2008 Gomes made an exhibition at the Galeria Luisa Strina in São Paulo that initiated the use of white canvases in her work and included a number of canvases with various kinds of aged paper attached to the surface. Since that exhibition, Gomes’s inclusion of the white monochrome has become more minimal, though still employing elements of a sculptural language. Thus Untitled 2013 epitomizes the recent developments within her practice and yet also retains its sculptural heritage – it is at once both painting and sculpture and not simply either one or the other.

Fernanda Gomes’s work can be seen as epitomising a tendency within Brazilian art to use dematerialisation, the fragment and organic or impoverished abstraction to deal with themes of precariousness, human ontology, nostalgia and the everyday. Her work can be seen as forming part of a trajectory that began with Helio Oiticica (1937–1980) and Mira Schendel (1919–1988), and included the work of Leonilson (1957–1993), Jac Leirner (born 1961), the British-based Brazilian artist Lucia Nogueira (1950–1998), and artists such as Rivane Neuenschwander (born 1967) and Brigida Baltar (born 1959).

Further reading
Joao Fernandes et al., Fernanda Gomes, exhibition catalogue, Museu de Arte Contemporanea de Serralves, Porto 2006.
Luis Pérez-Oramas, The Imminence of Poetics, exhibition catalogue, 30th Bienal de São Paulo 2012.

Tanya Barson
April 2013

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.


You might like