Ana Maria Pacheco Sculpture
17 March – 25 April 2015
Four separate but simultaneous exhibitions, in four different Norwich locations, bring major sculptural work from Brazilian-born artist, Ana Maria Pacheco, to Norwich for the first time.
Gallery open Tuesday – Saturday, 12 – 5pm
Gallery closed Friday 3 April – Wednesday 8 April inclusive
Curated for Norfolk Contemporary Art Society, in association with Pratt Contemporary and in partnership with Norwich University of the Arts, Norwich Cathedral, Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery and The Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Norwich, these four major exhibitions will explore the sculpture of Ana Maria Pacheco produced over the last four decades.
Although she has strong local connections to Norwich, the sculptor, Ana Maria Pacheco, was born in Brazil. Following degrees in both Art and Music, she taught and lectured for several years at Universities in Goiás before coming to London in 1973 on a British Council Scholarship to the Slade School of Fine Art. Since 1973 she has lived and worked in England and she has dual nationality.
From 1985 – 1989 she was Head of Fine Art at Norwich School of Art (now NUA), the first woman to hold such a post in the UK. In 1999 she received the prestigious Ordem do Rio Branco from the Brazilian Government. She received an Honorary Degree from the University of East Anglia and in 2003 was made a Fellow of University College London. From 1997 to 2000 she was Associate Artist at the National Gallery, London (the first sculptor to hold the post), a residency that culminated in a major exhibition of her work that toured on to further venues in the UK. She currently lives and works in London and Kent.
The variety of Pacheco’s sculptural work is remarkable and with its tough humanist core, her project constantly provokes us to seriously question the true extent of our own humanity, and of our uses and abuses of power. Ana has said that her ‘art shows how vulnerable we are’. Large and enduring themes; violence, journeys, death, love, transformation and metamorphosis reflect her high seriousness, but at the same time her work is neither pompous nor devoid of humour. With a cast of characters that are betrayed, tortured, ecstatic, seductive, grotesque, bestial or divine; her work can arouse extreme emotions, a process that some concluded art no longer has the power to elicit. The key works that have been selected for these four exhibitions, and their locations, are described briefly below.
At The Gallery, at Norwich University of the Arts The Banquet (1985) is a large polychrome wood sculpture, completed the same year the artist moved to Norwich, when she was appointed by Bill English to succeed Ed Middleditch as Head of Fine Art at what was Norwich School of Art, now NUA. Pacheco was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University in 2002 for her services to Fine Art and the University is very pleased to welcome her back to Norwich, especially as we celebrate our 170th anniversary this year.
The Banquet has not previously been exhibited here in the City and is shown with related contextual work: Box of Heads (1983) – a loan from the Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne. The other half of the gallery is dedicated to more recent large-scale graphic works including Dark Event I-VII (2007) which makes a connection to the sculpture in the Cathedral, An Ancient Dark Night Descended Upon My Soul I & II, drypoint, 2010-12 and Burial, 2014. Smaller works include a new portfolio of ten drypoints The Miraculous Journey of a Little Vixen (2014), with accompanying text by Marius Kociejowski.
The enormous seated black figures in The Banquet, taller than the standing viewers, compel them to join in, complicit in completing the circle around the defenceless offering lying on the table. With their sharp teeth and without necks, these are formidable, dark and threatening figures. And yet there is still a playfulness and a dry sense of humour about the work that reflects on the contradictions that the artist feels about her migration, and her mixed cultural references.
Pacheco left Brazil in 1973, some while after the military regime had taken power in 1964, and many years before democracy was restored in the late ‘80s. The totalitarian repression affected artists, journalists and other civilian occupations. Vivian Schelling has written about the background to The Banquet:
‘The Banquet figures have been equipped with a set of real teeth which are sharp and jut out from under the lips in a bestial manner. This virtual coming-to-life of the figure blurs the boundary between art and life and renders the vision of human relationships as a mutual devouring particularly disturbing. Cannibalism as a metaphor for human relationships is a central theme in Brazilian cultural history. It was originally developed in the ‘Cannibalist Manifesto’ in the 1920s by the Modernist poet Oswald de Andrade. Using the image of the ‘cannibalist’ Indian as a metaphor for the relationship between the coloniser and the colonised, it proposed that Brazil overcame its perennial cultural dependence on Europe by ‘devouring’ what Europe had to offer but in the process adapting to its local conditions.’