For the fourth exhibition since its opening, La Patinoire Royale gets into the heart of the extro- verted and baroque world of sculptor Joana Vasconcelos. This huge retrospective, the first ever organized in Belgium, brings face to face the vastness of the gallery’s space and the work of this protean artist.
Joana Vasconcelos, a Portuguese born in France, was the first woman – and still the only one – invited in Versailles in 2012 for a magical and festive exhibition. The youngest artist ever pre- sented in Versailles, now moves into all spaces of La Patinoire in Brussels : beneath the nave’s wooden framework, under the gallery’s glass roof, as well as the gallery’s lab and additional spaces on the ground and first floors.
Inspired by a world full of octopuses and huge sprawling creatures from Jules Vernes Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, this exhibition submerges us into the fairyland of colours, forms, and matters of the artist. Juggling with embroideries, laces, crochet-works, patchworks and sparkles directly derived from the Applied Arts and from the traditional Portuguese practice of needlework, Joana Vasconcelos invites the audience to a generous banquet of sculptures and painted textiles, without moderation from the gargantuan artistic avarice which characterizes her artwork.
If the world of fashion designers working for famous houses of haute couture has been in- tentionally qualified as a “smile industry” thanks to its ability to bring light, creativity and joy to artwork to which it gives brilliance then it’s also with a broad smile that we broach this exhi- bition, paying tribute to such a feminine creation, personified into monumental works, as well into more intimate productions.
Joana Vasconcelos has transformed this needle technique into a pure artistic expression, so- metimes monumental, where lavishness meets quirkiness, in an approach not at all refuting eccentricity or excess, without foregoing delicacy and excellence.
Animals and statues modestly covered in lace mantillas, awarding to their forms such fami- liarity, with an emphasis especially soft and delicate, sometimes troubling, but always refined.
The exhibition, of which several works have been especially produced by the artist’s studio for this occasion, intentionally titled “De fil(s) en aiguille(s)”, invites the spectator to weave in and out between an octopus’s legs - larger than 25 meters - and then to confront oneself with the artwork ”Douches”, a curious assembly of textiled sculptures and mirrors. Finally, we get sucked in by a textile painting titled “Crochet Painting”, an uncontrolled crochet-work overflowing the frame and breaking o in front of the monumental sculpture “Petit Gâteau”, established with a myriad of little baking pans.
An exhibition such as this one is an explosion of colours and forms, an eruption of good mood and lack of concern, inviting the spectator to a vast celebration of perception, which is as well a research about art’s vital ideas: forms, colours, lines, surface area, and texture. Taking the visitor into an exuberant pirouette, Joana Vasconcelos brings warmth to your heart as all the tragic creativity of a Portuguese fado does.
Joana Vasconcelos was born in Paris in 1971. Lives and works in Lisbon. She has exhibited re- gularly since the mid-1990s. After her participation in the 51st International Art Exhibition– la Biennale di Venezia in 2005, her work became known internationally. Recent highlights of her career include Trafaria Praia, project for the Pavilion of Portugal at the 55th International Art Exhibition– la Biennale di Venezia (2013); a solo exhibition at the Château de Versailles, France (2012); participation in the group exhibition 'The World Belongs to You' at the Palazzo Grassi/ François Pinault Foundation, Venice (2011); and her first retrospective, held at the Museu Cole- ção Berardo, Lisbon (2010).
Vasconcelos has had solo exhibitions and projects at the 56th International Art Exhibition– la Biennale di Venezia (2015); Waddesdon Manor - The Rothschild Foundation, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom (2015); Manchester Art Gallery (2014); Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2013); Palácio Nacional da Ajuda, Lisbon (2013); CENTQUATRE, Paris (2012); Kunsthallen Brandts, Odense, Denmark (2011); Es Baluard, Palma de Mallorca, Spain (2009); Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo (2008); Palazzo Nani Bernardo Lucheschi, Venice (2007); The New Art Gallery Walsall, United Kingdom (2007); CaixaForum, Barcelona (2006); Passage du Désir/BETC EURO RSCG, Paris (2005), Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Seville, Spain (2003); Museu da Eletri- cidade, Lisbon (2001); and the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto, Portugal (2000).
Vasconcelos has participated in numerous group exhibitions in venues such as Museo Thys- sen-Bornemisza, Madrid (2015); Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, Stockholm (2014); FRAC Bourgogne, Dijon, France (2013); ARTIUM, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain (2012); the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC (2011); Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon (2010); Garage Cen- ter for Contemporary Culture, Moscow (2009); FRAC Île-de-France/Le Plateau, Paris (2008), MUDAM, Luxembourg City (2007); Istanbul Modern (2006); MUSAC, Léon, Spain (2005); Ste- nersenmuseet, Oslo (2004); MARCO, Vigo, Spain (2003); Mucsarnok, Budapest (2002); and the XXVI Bienal de Arte de Pontevedra, Spain (2000).
Vasconcelos’s work has been featured in many books. Recent highlights include Joana Vasconcelos: Material World (Thames & Hudson, 2015); Nature Morte by Michael Petry (Thames & Hudson, 2013); Sculpture Now by Anna Moszynska (Thames & Hudson, 2013); The Naked Nude by Frances Borzello (Thames & Hudson, 2012); Arte Portuguesa: História Essencial by Paulo Pereira (Temas e Debates and Círculo de Leitores, 2011), 2010); Tactile: High Touch Vi- suals, edited by Sven Ehmann, Matthias Huebner, and Robert Klanten (Gestalten, 2009); and Regard sur la sculpture contemporaine by Gérard Xuriguera (FVW, 2008).
Vasconcelos’s work has been featured in the journals Architectural Digest (Madrid, Milan); Art Actuel (Stains, France); Art+Auction (New York), Artforum (New York); Art Press (Paris); Beaux Arts (Issy-les-Moulineaux, France); Contemporary (London); Flash Art (Milan); Tema Celeste (Milan); and The Art Newspaper (London). Her work has also been featured in various news- papers, including El Mundo (Madrid); El País (Madrid); Financial Times (London); International Herald Tribune (Paris); L’Express (Paris); Le Figaro (Paris), Le Monde (Paris); Libération (Paris); The Daily Telegraph (London); The Guardian (London); The Independent (London); and The New York Times (New York).