Ro­sa Ma­ria Un­da Sou­ki In the Frames of the In­vi­sible

Art Press - - HOMING IN -

Ro­sa Ma­ria Un­da Sou­ki, win­ner of the spe­cial ju­ry prize at the 2011 Sa­lon de Mon­trouge, is cur­rent­ly sho­wing her most recent work at the Ins­ti­tut Fran­çais Ma­drid ( Es­qui­na Londres y Al­lende, De­cem­ber 11, 2013-18 Ja­nua­ry, 2014). This is a se­ries of pain­tings about Fri­da Kah­lo’s blue house in Mexi­co, a space th­rough which the artist re­veals her own worlds.


Ro­sa Ma­ria Un­da Sou­ki was born in Ve­ne­zue­la and at­ten­ded art school in Bra­zil. Af­ter a ten-year stay in France, she re­tur­ned to Bra­zil, set­tling in Be­lo Ho­ri­zonte, where she now lives. Her pain­tings and dra­wings are of home in­ter­iors, trea­ting the home like a uni­verse to be ex­plo­red, spaces that ac­cu­mu­late in layers in her work over time. She re­pre­sents all sorts of homes: places she has li­ved, like her fa­ther’s co­lo­nial-style house where she grew up, la­ter ex­pro­pria­ted by the go­vern­ment, and other people’s homes, such as Fe­de­ri­co Gar­cia Lor­ca’s house in Gre­na­da and Fri­da Kah­lo’s re­si­dence in Mexi­co. One thing they have in com­mon is that these are spaces that don’t exist. They are ima­gi­ned ra­ther than ta­ken from me­mo­ry. Her work seems mar­ked by the ten­sion bet­ween two ap­proaches, an at­trac­tion to a naïve and ob­ses­sive po­pu­lar art, and a more con­cep­tual but still high­ly ins­tinc­tive orien­ta­tion.


When she first be­gan at­ten­ding art school in Ca­ra­cas, Un­da Sou­ki pho­to­gra­phed and made pain­tings of her child­hood home. These pieces bring to mind a film by Ch­ris­tian Bol­tans­ki (and an artist’s book of the same name), L’Appartement de la rue de Vau­gi­rard (1973), in which an off-screen voice (a text in the book) des­cribes a li­ving apart­ment whe­reas the images show no­thing but de­ser­ted rooms. In ano­ther example, with no for­mal si­mi­la­ri­ties this time, her approach could al­so be com­pa­red to Étienne-Mar­tin’s sculp­tu­ral re­pre­sen­ta­tions of his house. A more recent com­pa­ri­son would be to Ma­thieu Cher­kit, whose pain­tings al­so show his fa­mi­ly home, an ob­ses­sion that has haun­ted him for years.(1) With their warm brown tones, se­ve­ral of her sketch­books show emp­ty rooms in her fa­ther’s co­lo­nial-style house, spaces on­to which any­thing can be pro­jec­ted. In her se­ries Es­paces in­times (2006), each can­vas com­bines se­ve­ral dif­ferent fo­cal points, pro­du­cing pa­no­ra­mic vi­sions where me­mo­ries seem to float bet­ween the old­fa­shio­ned fur­ni­ture and the plants dan­gling from bowls on high. Du­ring her years in Pa­ris Un­da Sou­ki al­so pain­ted her first apart­ment, cor­ner by cor­ner, and then did the same for her flat in Mon­treuil. Un­like the pre­ce­ding se­ries, each room seems about to ex­plode, as if de­for­med by a ma­gni­fying glass and seen from too close up, and yet there is no fee­ling of claus­tro­pho­bia. It seems as if she were per­ched on the cei­ling to ob­serve the scene be­low with a pro­tec­tive eye. The ob­ses­sio­nal cha­rac­ter of her approach re­calls the lo­gics of Art Brut, but she has ne­ver real­ly ta­ken an in­te­rest in pri­vate uni­verses. Ra­ther her cu­rio­si­ty seems to concern mo­der­nism and folk arts. There is an en­ti­re­ly dif­ferent at­mos­phere in the cycle Ex­pro­pria­tion (2011), re­vi­si­ting her fa­mi­ly home re­qui­si­tio­ned by the Hu­go Cha­vez go­vern­ment a few years ago.(2) The un­fur­ni­shed rooms look aban­do­ned and spec­tral. The walls are pain­ted a red that, des­pite re­cal­ling Édouard Vuillard’s hot hues, ac­tual­ly references the co­lor Ve­ne­zue­lan go­vern­ment ci­vil ser­vants are sup­po­sed to wear on na­tio­nal ho­li­days to show their sup­port for the go­ver­ning ideo­lo­gy. Va­gue­ly me­na­cing green plants crawl across the floor. Some of the se­ries of dra­wings ac­com­pa­nying these pain­tings were done on me­di­cal com­presses. These spaces are self-por­traits. Since 2011, Un­da Sou­ki has made two se­ries of pain­tings, each with a dif­ferent approach, one of Gar­cia Lor­ca’s house in Gra­na­da and the other of Fri­da Kah­lo’s

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