Bela Silva: “Despierta Corazón Dormido”
The vibrant colours of Bela Silva’s newest series give Spazio Nobile’s space a Spring awakening. Inspired by the artist’s recent trip to Mexico, the show celebrates Latin-American culture, its history and diverse craftsmanship in a cycle of drawings, ceramic works and a Codex Mexico.
Born in Portugal and based in both Lisbon and Brussels, the colour practice of visual artist Bela Silva has always been a celebration of the cultures and aesthetics that she comes into contact with. Where, in her earlier work, Bela took inspiration from her travels to Asia by implementing major artistic movements from the 16th century – such as Chinoiserie and Japonisme — into her practice, her most recent work draws a picture of her experiences visiting Mexico. In a conversation held right before the opening of her solo show, Despierta Corazon Dormido (Literally translated: Awaken Sleeping Heart or Soul), at TLmag’s sister gallery Spazio Nobile — TLmag spoke to Bela about the experiences that led to these new works.
Having been told to go to Mexico since she was a student in the School of The Art Institute of Chicago in the USA, Bela finally made the move to visit the country just a few months ago. “One of my colleagues, who was from Mexico, kept insisting that I should visit his home country. He told me that it would be an inspirational experience for developing my art, but it was a long time before I actually took his advice. I decided to go at a moment in my life where I needed to experience vibrant colours, a new type of light — a change.”
The visit to Mexico had, as her colleague had predicted, awakened new passions and interests: “I came into contact with Oaxaca architecture and crafts, which is wonderful, and I find Luis Barragan’s architectural practice equally fabulous. It’s everythingI like: from its proportions, furniture and objects to its use of the colour. It was a highly emotional trip, anexperience that transcends words — and there wasn’t just “one” highlight. It was a true connection, as though I belong there. I love South America, it makes me feel happy”. Upon her visits to many of the Mexico City’s museums (there are over 150), Bela spent time with her Mexican friends and explored it’s historical and cultural quarters. Upon a visit to muralist Diego Rivera and surrealist painter Frida Kahlo’s La Casa Azul, she found similarities between herself and the country’s (arguably) most famous painter: “I found new ways to relate to her work, and I see my interests in drawing objects in her own collection of objects”. Moreover, she sees her visits to the Anahuacali museum created by Rivera (which was constructed with the help of Frank Lloyd Wright) and the country’s National Museum for Archeology as important spots of interest for this work. “Furthermore, looking back at the materials that the Aztecs and Maia made, I’ve come to think that they were more advanced aesthetically than we are now.”
The trip inspired Silva to work with the colour pink, after years of avoiding it. “I feltonce more the need to draw withdifferent materials”, she insisted. The trip also seems to have, interestingly enough, also inspired a new look at the Japanese traditions that she was already so keen on. Seeing a similarity between Japanese Orihon publications (a book made from a long strip of paper which is written on one side and then compacted by folding in zig-zag fashion. It originates from the Tang dynasty — A.D. 618-908) and the Maya and Aztec Codices (long folded sheets, typically made from stretched deerskin or from the fibres of the agave plant, which mostly consist of images andpictograms). Her admiration for both these aesthetics and their influence on her work is most palpable in her Codex Mexico: “I found the similar traditions fascinating, and came to the decision to make my own personalcodex a visual travel book that’s similar to a journal.It’s a“tableau vivant”, a Leporello publication of the series of images that I made during my travels.”
“Despierta Corazon Dormido” will be on view at Spazio Nobile from March 13th until May 24th, 2020.
Cover Photo: Bela Silva. Photo: Piet Janssens. Courtesy of the artist and Spazio Nobile.