Innovative Art: Joana Vasconcelos

portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos

As you hopefully know by now, one of our magazine´s most important missions is to explore all things beautiful and to empower women all over the world. So let us introduce to you Joana Vasconcelos and her work, an exquisite Portuguese artist with a unique view of the world and society, one like you have never experienced before.

Born in Paris in 1971, daughter of Portuguese political exiles, it was in her early years as a child that Joana first got in touch with the world of art not only as an admirer but as an educational path choice. It all started in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, where the family moved to when she was just three years old, and where she lives and works still today.

Twenty-five years and dozens of extraordinary works of art later we can fairly confidently say Joana Vasconcelos is one of the greatest artists of her time. The international recognition of her work began in 2005 with a very controversial piece called “A Noiva” (The Bride) [2001-2005] exhibited in Italy at La Biennale di Venezia. From a distance, a majestic chandelier exhibiting a sequenced cascade of amazing brilliant pendants, which once you get closer you realize are simply women’s tampons. At 20ft high and made with approximately 14,000 OB’s, this expansive work is a strong criticism and exposure of a repressed and hypocritical imposition by society on feminine sexuality from the point of view of the artist.

By exploring scale, color, and non-traditional materials, as well as performance and video, Joana Vasconcelos defies established contemporary notions or programmed daily routines offering an intimate yet critical vision of our contemporary society. Especially issues that concern female status, class differentiation, or national identity.

Joana Vasconcelos is all this and so much more. She rejects labels and yet is capable of communicating, inspiring and even entertaining spectators from all over the world and different cultural backgrounds. She accepts nothing less than grandeur, she is not afraid to speak her mind while at the same time explores traditional ancient Portuguese arts and crafts through her astonishing artistic creations. And perhaps it was this care and love for Portuguese traditions allied with out-of-this-world interpretations of such pertinent contemporary issues that gave her her greatest achievement of all time so far: to be the first woman and youngest artist to exhibit at Versailles Palace in 2012 – which became the most visited exhibition in Paris in the last 50 years, welcoming over 1.6 million people. And this is why Joana Vasconcelos’ work has a special place in our “Love Happens” world, and why we are so thrilled to share her with you!

Lilicoptère, 2012

Lilicoptère, 2012 by Joana Vasconcelos
Lilicoptère, 2012
Bell 47 helicopter, ostrich feathers, Swarovski crystals, gold leaf, industrial paint, dyed leather upholstery embossed with fine gold, Arraiolos rugs, walnut wood, wood grain painting, passementerie. 300 x 274 x 1265 cm

This is the “pièce de résistance” of Joana Vasconcelos’ work. The delicacy and elegance of beautiful pink feathers carefully applied one by one on the rough structure of a Bell 47 helicopter covered with gold leaf and crystals. In this piece, the artist explores several traditional Portuguese arts and crafts such as the Arraiolos rugs placed inside the helicopter, often used in cars, the woodgrain painting and the sumptuous embroidered upholstery featuring Marie Antoinette’s initials. From a different perspective, the viewer can also appreciate the underlying homage to the real inspirations behind mankind’s ambition to fly—animals with wings and feathers– and the future meets the past.

Coração Independente Dourado (Golden Independent Heart), 2004

Coração Independente Dourado (Golden Independent Heart), 2004 by Joana Vasconcelos
Coração Independente Dourado (Golden Independent Heart), 2004
Translucid plastic cutlery, painted iron, metal chain, motor, power supply unit, sound installation. 385 x 225 x 50 cm

One of Joana Vasconcelos’s most famous works, this piece beautifully portrays the “portugality” concept she loves to explore. From ordinary plastic cutlery to the most beautiful Coração de Viana (heart of Viana)—an iconic piece of traditional Portuguese filigree—Joana exposes here the artificiality of the fragile boundaries that separate luxury and banality.

Solitário, (Solitaire) 2018

Solitário, (Solitaire) 2018 sculpture made of gold rims and crystal whiskey glasses
Solitário, (Solitaire) 2018
18” light alloy golden wheel rims, crystal whiskey glasses, metalized and thermo-lacquered iron, stainless steel, tempered and laminated glass. 720 x 604 x 209 cm

The more we look at this piece the more messages we seem to interpret. For the most innocent eye, it would seem Solitário is simply a symbol of love and commitment represented here as a giant engagement ring. Conversely, if you look closely you could easily spot two of the seven sins: gluttony and lust. For the artist, however, this piece presents two of the most stereotyped symbols of a female and male desire—diamonds and luxury cars—also provoking the viewer to reflect on social consumption.

I’ll Be Your Mirror, 2018

I'll Be Your Mirror, 2018 sculpture of a mask made up of individual bronze mirrors
I’ll Be Your Mirror, 2018
Bronze, mirrors. 356 x 682 x 537 c
m

The title of this piece is taken from the homonymous song written by Lou Reed and interpreted by the Velvet Underground & Nico, and perhaps one of Joana’s most unpretentious works of all: it intends to induce the viewer to reflect, like a mirror, on one’s true “self”.


Words by Sara Almeida

Article Originally Appeared in Love Happens Volume 4


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