/ 23 March 2024

Laura Lima’s work taps into time and change

Laura Lima Photo Credit Line Courtesy The Artists And A Gentil Carioca. Photo By Maria Baigur 2 (1)
Earth, moon and stars: Contemporary artist Laura Lima, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, has a show on at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg. (Maria Baigur/Courtesy of the artist)

One of the major themes Brazilian contemporary artist Laura Lima emphasises is time — and how important it is to her work. 

Her interest in the natural world is represented materially through the use of dyes extracted from vegetables and other plants.

“We spent a lot of time cooking each of those threads — cutting lots of blue cabbage — we used turmeric, wine and coffee. We spent a lot of time blending these elements to see what colour we could formulate,” says the Rio de Janeiro-based artist. 

She is talking about the work on her Goodman Gallery exhibition in Johannesburg, beguilingly titled How To Eat The Sun and The Moon

Her first solo show on the African continent, it is a testament to her profound exploration of Brazilian mythology, the beauty of nature and the ever-evolving journey of materials through time.

Upon entering the gallery, visitors are greeted by a mesmerising array of large-scale textile pieces, each a tapestry of colours, patterns and narratives. Lima, along with her dedicated team, has intricately woven these textiles, infusing them with stories that delve deep into the heart of Brazilian culture.

The nine woven works each tell a story and, for some visitors, it translates to whatever their spirit moves them to see. One of them, looking at a piece titled Anhanguá, remarks, “Those are eyes … if I look longer, I feel like they are protecting me.”

The piece is described in the gallery notes as “a spirit from Tupi mythology that protects animals, especially females and puppies. 

“It usually appears as a white deer with red eyes, but can take any form.” 

This confirms what Lima says about the exhibition being deeply spiritual and meditative and that our perceptions of the work would not be too far off.  

Drawing on her research on Brazilian folklore and her upbringing in the countryside, Lima uses natural dyes and organic matter in her works.

Amid Johannesburg art enthusiasts on a walkabout in the gallery, Lima reflects on the significance of time in her work. “This is a very precise work,” she says, “however, there is a continuation from the work I have done before.”

For Lima, it’s not merely about when the work is created but rather when it truly becomes what it is meant to be. 

The 52-year-old began making art  over two decades ago, at the age of 29. Since then, she has tirelessly pursued her vision, using fabric as her primary medium of expression.

“Fabric is such an easy thing for me to find, fold — or even do a very ugly thing,” Lima shares, “but I could have the image that I wanted.”

Through her unconventional techniques and raw creativity, Lima has carved a niche for herself in the world of contemporary art. 

As visitors meander through the gallery, they are invited to engage with her ideas on a deeper level. 

“I hope they take time and see that something can continue,” Lima says. “That you can miss the beginning and the end and stay for a while.”

Lima’s work is not meant to be hastily consumed; it beckons viewers to linger, explore and contemplate. 

She says there is a possibility that the colours and forms of her work will change over time, becoming different in the future. 

Lima’s multidisciplinary practice, which incorporates living organisms and long-duration performances, explores the ways human behaviour shapes our perception of the everyday.

During the walkabout, Lima points at one of her pieces titled Charía and tells visitors: “This piece is about a bluish jaguar that eats the sun and moon in eclipses.” 

She says that by observing the art, the viewer could be encouraged to think of the mythology of their country — it is meant to evoke tales in those who engage with it. 

Lima often reflects that much of her subject matter is heavy, delving into the political and philosophical issues rooted in her educational background in philosophy.

She says her works’ mission is to retell a language that was written by men through the thoughts and creativity of a woman. 

For Lima, collaboration is key. “I realised very early on that I had to work with people,” she says. “There is a certain collectivity that happens and I needed that.”

By embracing the contributions of others, Lima opens herself up to new possibilities, allowing her art to transcend the limitations of individuality. 

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The Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg. (A Gentil Carioca)

Any errors which are made are celebrated as integral elements of the creative process. 

“This is a deconstruction of the language, so the mistakes in weaving are important,” Lima explains. 

“If we didn’t make mistakes, then we wouldn’t have created something this crazy”.

Through her work, Lima challenges conventional notions of perfection, embracing the beauty of imperfection as a metaphor for the complexities of life itself.

How To Eat The Sun and The Moon explores creativity and invites contemplation. In a world that often moves too quickly, Lima’s art encourages us to pause, to reflect and to find beauty in the passage of time.

The show will run until 24 April at the Goodman Gallery in Joburg.