Friday, 2. August 2013
It was late May when I visited the studio of the so often called “the youngest artist selected for the 30th Bienal de São Paulo”: Sofia Borges, 29 years old. This “title” was present in several articles about her work, but when we met, I found out that it could be misleading as Sofia’s ideas and her practice do not bear any trace of her young age or starting career. Sofia is not a prodigy kid nor a young artist in a hurry of creating. In fact, she appears to be quite the opposite, being one of those people who take their time into unfolding and watching the world carefully. The impression I had after chatting with her is that she is an artist who creates through research, an artist moved by her curiosity and will to query the world and how things are seen, understood and classified.
Her studio / home - a one floor house in a quiet street in Lapa, São Paulo, with plenty of sun coming in, is shelter for her impressive photos that cover the walls. “This is the place my pieces come to rest”, says Sofia. According to the artist, her creative practice is composed in various steps, starting from the intuition that tells her what she wants to photograph, to the busy and instinctive period of capturing images, then the “rest period’, when the enormous amount of images lay at her place so she can carefully select those that will be part of a piece and the final stage, the exhibition itself.
Sofia has a particular relation to her shows playing what could be described as an almost self-curatorial role, since the artist herself has always selected the works that are to be part of all her exhibitions, including the selection of her room at the 30th Bienal de São Paulo. “My work is not constituted by series, but exposed sets. The way the images are exhibited is what makes my work complete - each show presents one kind of problem, a tension that comes up from the relation between the images in the space”, explains her.
Born and raised in Ribeirão Preto, away from the Contemporary World scene, Sofia Borges went to São Paulo to study Fashion ten years ago, course that she dropped almost instantly, right after seeing a contemporary art exhibition that made her realise the freedom this field would allow her work. She then went studying Visual Arts at USP (São Paulo University), where she started to explore, at first, drawing, sculpture and writing.
The Photography came up to her attention later, when she started taking unpretentious low technical quality pictures of her own family and noticed the transformation that the real scene went through to become an image: how the photo could subvert, erase and shift the meaning of anything. And it is exploring this “space” between the so called real world and photography that Sofia works, nowadays exploring language, depiction, anti-narrative, surface, to resume: exploring the nature of image itself to play with this power of photography.
“I reckon my work tries to depose the Photography of the so called photographic instant, of this idea that Photography has a magical power of capturing reality and freezing a moment. When stuck to this vision, the photo occupies a place that doesn’t belong exclusively to it, but also to other kinds of language and, of course, to memory. Photography is only one of the languages that represent the reality. But a photo is not just that, it is actually part of a much more elastic concept. I often hear very dangerous reductions of the understanding of what a photo is and I’m interested in creating spaces in which the threshold between what is and what is not a photo stretches until it becomes a place itself.”
And with this premises Sofia goes to different venues to capture her images. From her family’s house portrayed on her firsts works, to her own house in her self-portraits and the more recent visits to Natural History museums, Zoos and Natural Research centres, Sofia photographs to question the way that the process of creating an image can work. When these images are seen on the final stage of her creative process, the exhibition, they create a strange atmosphere of discomfort and doubt. “I would say my work, nowadays is more about how to ask a question than to raise any possible answers. What is really an image? I search for photos that can’t present solutions, I search for their questions”.
Sofia Borges’ body of work carries a mysterious aspect, and, likewise most of truly transforming works, tries to escape any classificatory movements. When the artist feels her work is starting to be trapped in any kind of formal structure or classification she feels uncomfortable and starts chasing different ways of working that can escape from fixed forms.
The way Sofia talks about her work practice reminds me the work of a philosopher, always raising questions and looking for different views of the same old things that surround us. It is an unceasing search for questioning. As stated by artist, the logic is: “when I fully understand what I am doing, I no longer want to do that anymore”.
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