Mira Schendel: Monotypes – Fluttering Between Fragility And Permanence

Mira Schendel

Hauser & Wirth London presents an exhibition of Mira Schendel’s Monotypes, curated by Taisa Palhares and organised with Olivier Renaud-Clément, this presentation examines a body of work that formed an essential and enduring part of Schendel’s wider practice. ‘Monotypes’ follows presentations of Schendel’s work at Tate Modern, London, England (2013), Fundação de Serralves, Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Porto, Portugal (2014) and Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, Brazil (2014).

Schendel is one of the most significant artists to emerge from South America during the last century. The artist spent her early life in Europe, she then emigrated to Brazil in 1949 and settled in Sao Paulo in 1953, at a time when the city in the midst of postwar artistic and social revolution. This desire for innovation and expansion encouraged Schendel to develop an experimental practice, and her methods soon evolved from painting and drawing to the more conceptual works on paper that form part of the Monotypes series.

Mira Schendel’s Monotypes are the result of an experimental approach to printmaking which results in images that flutter between fragility and permanence. Traditional monotypes are made by drawing an image onto a plate with a greasy substance such as printer’s ink or oil paint. This drawing is then pressed by hand onto a sheet of absorbent paper or is printed on an etching press. Monotypes are stand out from other methods of printmaking because each prepared plate generally yields only one good impression, and they are prized for their textural qualities. Schendel has developed a distinctive approach to the monotype, covering the plate with oil paint before laying a sheet of rice paper over the top and tracing her image with her fingertip, the side of her hand or a tool. The finished works are considered ‘printed drawings’; a bridge between two categories, a position entirely appropriate for these deceptively simple images.

Schendel is quoted describing how the fine Japanese rice paper, a gift that at first sat unused in her studio, was the catalyst in her production of the monotypes. Its translucence intensifies the delicate yet decisive quality of the works, which both speak to direct experience and constitute an exploration of a broader language of signs and symbols. The many works on show here are displayed according to type. The first grouping, ‘writings’, experiments with words and often involves repetition. We then move through to ‘letters’, which breaks down into ‘minimal lines’ and then slowly builds back up to ‘architectures’, in which fine, boxy forms are comparatively solid yet still as fragile as the paper they are printed on.
The materiality of the paper is probed further in two hanging installations and a sculpture. ‘Variantes’ (1965) and ‘Trenzinho (Little Train)'(c. 1965) hang images from the gallery ceiling and walls, emphasising the paper’s lightness and translucence; while the paper sculpture ‘Untitled (Droguinha)’ (1960s) transforms it into something hard and twisted. Straddling drawing and sculpture, this piece sums up Schendel’s work in its effortless exploration of new territory.

Mira Schendel Monotypes – Hauser & Wirth London – until 7 March 2015

Read Fiona Robinson’s opinion of Mira Schendel’s Monotypes here

Words: Laura Purseglove photo: Untitled (from the series Religious writings/Escritas cheias religiosas), 1965. Photo: Genevieve Hanson © Artlyst 2015 Artlyst all rights reserved

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