From solitary surrealism to collective realism
I first came to São Miguel in October 2007, following three years of writing my novel La Faille (The Fault). I explored the island, enough to fall in love with it, looking for its magnetic connection with the imaginary world that was becoming The Volcano Project. When I returned in the Autumn of 2008, I had already created a set of paintings in red lacquer using violin varnish as my medium, had drafted an art manifesto for the project, and was moving deeper into my own volcano, driven by the power of a vision rather than a mere artist fantasy.
My surrealistic novel created the fictional character of a sculptor who isolates himself for three years inside a volcanic fault in search of the meaning of art creation, ultimately challenging his own strength. This character’s pursuit engaged me more powerfully over time. It became a lead, a comfort, a presence in my steps. Aware of my mounting obsession, my husband, himself a musician resolved to find a place that would replicate the setting of my novel. One morning at sunrise, we drove to Ferraria.
I keep returning to Ferraria — the disappeared island, Ilha Sabrina — with fascination. There, at the end of a winding road, lays a desolate field of volcanic stones and a hot spring surging into the seawater. At mid-tide, between rocks, one can bathe in secluded warm water while wild ocean waves break close by. Early morning or after sunset, the area is back to complete isolation; ruins of a house stand, strange solace. The place is stone for stone, wave for wave, the landscape that my novel had depicted.
This wild volcanic field pouring into the sea merges with my vision and artwork in cumulating strengths. It is more than a metaphor: rather than describing a feeling, it engages a process of ongoing creation. Reality cranks in with my imagination to haul the water and whirl the wind of unsuspected energies — as if nature intensifies its presence.
I started drawing the black lava, looking for a proper scale. I hunted for stones there, spending entire days to find a rock which meaning would be striking. When I retumed to Boston, I carried back some stones, resuming with an old temptation for sculpture. Already, the figures in the paintings were carved rather than painted. At the studio, I experienced the strength of the basalt: I could endlessly draw a fragment that my eyes would magnify differently every day. As we were preparing the installation for the Academia das Artes, these drawings took momentum.
I have always wondered how degrees of personal intensity and life hardship play into art creation. One commonly hears that he who embraces art does not live at a “normal” pace. I believe that the creative process encompasses all human dimensions, at both the individual and the global scale; it reflects on their fragments. At times, the intensity of the inner self is such that one seeks extreme experiences in hope of finding balance; I go to the sea and stones that once were lava and fire. The violin varnish now stands in my work as a substitute for cooling lava. The images, in vibrant shades of red, have an organic quality. Given the complex layering, they are never static for the viewer. The violin varnish adds on to the many references to music in my work and life.