Rosana Paulino

1967 | São Paulo, Brésil
Rosana Paulino — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Portrait of Rosana Paulino, Photo Ed Junior, Courtesy of the artist

Brazilian artist, educator and researcher.

Rosana Paulino began her artistic career in 1993 in São Paulo. Since then, she has contributed to some of the most important conversations about Brazil, its art and its people. One of her most eloquent pieces is Parede da memória [Wall of Memory, 1994-2015], which she began while studying for her bachelor’s degree in the arts at the Universidade de São Paulo (USP, 1991-1995), where she also obtained her doctorate in 2011. This work is made of little patuás, talismans containing amulets hidden inside them so that they are effectively reliquaries, with printouts of portraits of her Black men and women family members. Eleven photos repeated as many as 1,500 times are arranged to make up a wall of faces that gaze out at and interrogate the viewer.
The black lines of stitches, a basic element in R. Paulino’s poetics, covering the eyes, mouths and minds of women of colour represented in her photo series Bastidores [Embroidery frames, 1997] – and also found in work such as Tecido social [Social fabric, 2010] and Atlântico vermelho [Red Atlantic, 2017] – serve as metaphors for the silencing of Black participation in Brazilian society. Representations taken from natural-science works produced from the viewpoint of the European coloniser constitute an enormous, inherited stockpile of images for R. Paulino’s work. Her fascination with the violent encounter between history, race, gender and biology forms an integral part of the immense poetic repertory she draws on in her installations, drawings, artist’s books and videos.

In her installation Assentamento [Settlement, 2013], the body of the enslaved woman – as seen in the typology of classical scientific investigation – is presented frontally, in profile and from the back, evoking the treatises that sought to inventory reified existences. Using a procedure associated with embroidery, R. Paulino overprints onto these images a heart, a foetus and a series of outflowing lines. These lines are simultaneously like roots and like veins, exposing the foundations from which arise the existence and resistance of the descendants of enslaved people. This artist restores to the nameless Black woman slave the right to be considered a human being. Small iPads provide a looped video image of the Atlantic Ocean, referencing the repeating cycle of birth and life of the Kalunga (the name given to the descendants of escaped or emancipated slaves), shot from the same standpoint throughout the course of the day, thus also introducing the dimension of time, another constant in R. Paulino’s work. The exhibition room also contains a series of wooden platforms with papier mâché hands and arms next to piles of firewood, evoking the driving force of colonial exploitation, based on extraction and the use of the Black body to power its enterprises. R. Paulino’s art draws the link between bodies and existences conjured up by images that escape the usual representations of Black subjects in Brazilian and Latin American visual repertories, marked by the essentialisation or privileging of images of pain.

The artist’s book ¿História natural? (2016) assembles a synthesis of the artist’s journey in terms of her interrogation of the role science has played. In this publication, historic visuals are juxtaposed or superimposed with phrases that confront the scientific and biological principles that forged the history of colonial domination. All these elements are linked together by a line of stitches. The latter signify both experimental procedures in the pursuit of a visuality incorporating the temporal dimension, and the symbolic and physical scars conveyed by the book’s images and words.
A Brazil that aspired to modernism imported an idea of modernity ruled by rational principles, represented by an emphasis on the formalism of the geometric matrix. Art is one of its principal representations. In the series A Geometria à brasileira chega ao paraíso tropical [Brazilian-style geometry comes to the tropical paradise, 2018], the (white) history of Brazilian art becomes a contested space where this artist contrasts the narrative of “progress” with the history of slavery.
Throughout her career, R. Paulino has continued to play an important role as an educator and mentor to younger artists, and in the conversation about contemporary art, with her affection and disaffection for Brazilian culture based on the Black presence. As she powerfully puts it: “I never stop thinking about my country.”

Igor Simões

Translated from Spanish by Leo Stephen Torgoff.

A notice produced as part of the TEAM international academic network: Teaching, E-learning, Agency and Mentoring

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