A TRANSPARENT LEAF INSTEAD OF THE MOUTH, DANIEL STEEGMAN
Taking up the central gallery of the Serralves Museum, ‘A transparent leaf instead of the mouth’ (2017) presents works in various media. The whole is bathed by a green light that suggests the luminous atmosphere of a tropical forest. In the centre of the space is a curved, glass pavilion that houses a garden containing plants and animals. An ecosystem was created in the pavilion, where autochthonous trees and shrubs coexist with exotic species of stick insects and leaf insects, which feed from them in a complex web of interdependencies. These insects adopt a form of mimicry so extreme as a life strategy that they dissolve into their surrounding environment, raising philosophical questions about the boundaries between the subject and its environment in a system of consumptions, transfigurations and metamorphoses, both real and symbolic.
The curvilinear simplicity of Upsylon (2015) places this work at the intersection between drawing (and its relationship to the mental sphere) and sculpture (and its relationship to the body). A similar coming together of the mental and the physical is present in the complex web of Morfogenesis-Cripsis (2017), a wall drawing in which the repetition of a geometric cell evokes organic tissue. Tensions underlying the interactions between man, the artificial and the natural world are also addressed in Spiral Forest (2015) in which nature is captured in its isolated exuberance; or through collection, manipulation or imitation of natural elements, as in Fura Folhas (2015).
The human body is included among the subjects of this dual nature around which the different works oscillate, with the phantasmagoric hologram Mano con Hojas [Hand with Leaves] (2015), the two large ‘windows’ Systemic Grid 17 (Window 1) and Systemic Grid 17 (Window 2) (2015), that allow us to see unfocused cross-sections of the outside world and of one another, and the poems of Brazilian author Stela do Patrocínio (I didn’t want to assume human form, human flesh or human matter, 2016), in which the body fragments, dissolves and turns into air.
Author: Daniel Steegman
Detail design and construction management: depA Architects
Commission: Serralves Foundation
Photography: Andrea Rossetti