© Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro, Sem título (Untitled) – 11.07.12, from Flora. Negative in chromogenic paper, chromogenic process, unique print 12x9cm.
© Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro, Sem título (Untitled) – 20.07.12, from Flora. Negative in chromogenic paper, chromogenic process, unique print 12x9cm.
© Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro, 215 Horas (215 Hours), from Flora, 2013. Diasec Print, 90x60cm.
Sofia Raquel Silva: Given your training at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Lisbon, to what extent are your painting studies reflected in your work?
Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro: I could talk about the influence of painting in terms of the construction of the photographic image at a formal level, but there are other aspects that have been important in the development of my work. […] I consider that the key aspect is the constant persistence of the gaze, a trained perspective that I have progressively developed through the discipline of drawing. The act of looking and grasping that which stands in front of us, confrontation with the mirror, daily recording, drawing as an instrument for thinking — and as a record of memory — have all been important within my working methodology: providing important (or unimportant) notes about the images compiled in my notebooks. […]
© Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro, Sem título (Untitled) – 10.07.12 to 20.07.12, from Flora. Silver paper negatives with Sabatier effect, gelatine and silver, unique prints 12x9cm each.
© Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro, Sem título (Untitled) – 10.07.12 (15h30? to 16.07.12 (13h10), from Flora. Silver contact prints of infrared film, unique prints, 12x9cm each.
SRS: The project that you are presenting within the framework of the BES Revelação Award constitutes a kind of treatise on photographic morphology, intimately related to temporal aspects, such as photographic exposure and processing times. Your knowledge of this area has derived primarily from Paula Lourenço and Luís Pavão, who taught you alternative processes during your photography course in Tomar. When I asked Paula to describe this project in technical terms, she said: ‘The project is constituted by silver paper negatives, chromogenic negatives, silver paper negatives with application of the Sabatier effect, silver contact sheets, silver contact sheets obtained from infrared-sensitive, chromogenic contract sheets and cross-processed contract sheets.’ Could this painstaking attention to detail reveal a superhuman dimension, that ‘hides’ the artist’s sensitive gesture, leaving less room for error and anomalies, elements that establish a bridge between the beautiful and the sublime?
Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro: I know what you mean when you refer to extreme attention to detail and the quasi-eradication of margin of error and the manner in which this can conceal the artist’s ‘sensitive gesture’. Error and anomaly are essential in any artistic practice. I believe that they are always present, although they’re sometimes not visible. Errors will occur throughout the artistic process that lead to a moment of reflection and sometimes a reformulation of a work. In my case (and I’m not solely talking about this specific project, but my work in general) I develop an intense laboratory practice, not only in the sense of regularity, but also involving a certain element of exhaustion — even, physical exhaustion, although I often don’t realize my own fatigue — perhaps it’s a question of love.
[…] error and anomaly and sometimes the related process of discovery constitute an integral part of my working process. I’m aware of the risk of paying excessive attention to form, that’s why you talk about Kantian greatness and smallness, in the passage from the beautiful to the sublime. The trajectory that is attained through practice, with continuous learning, with constant reshaping and restructuring of the work, or the artist, in a maturation process… is also attained with time.
© Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro, Sem título (Untitled) – Test Pannel #1 front and back, 2013. Photographs by Flávio Nuno Joaquim.
SRS: Your work testifies to a strong desire to structure that which is apparently obvious — nature — as if this organizational gesture underpinned the construction of your own identity. There’s a curious tension between the simplicity of the represented object (such as a vase of flowers, a leaf or an animal skeleton) and the fragility of the individual that presents it. What do you think?
Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro: Several questions arise during development of the work. However, there isn’t an overriding concern to find answers to everything. I try to ensure that this doesn’t become an obstacle during the process that is I avoid extreme
rationalization or justification for each step, and make sure that this doesn’t become an attempt to insert biographical or hereditary aspects as a justification.
My goal is to establish a relationship of confrontation with my work, to understand what interests me, think about the recurrent approach to nature, death and as a consequence to repetition and memory, perhaps thereby enabling this rooting of identity.
Behind my organized and methodical approach, perhaps there’s another chaotic and somewhat unstructured method, which explains the fragility of the individual that you referred to.
SRS: We’ve used some terminologies that provide a link to the work Autenticità Riflessiva, by the Italian philosopher Alessandro Ferrara, who, in the search for a definition of authenticity suggests four attributes that must be present in a work of art: coherence, maturity, depth and vitality. It seems to me that the first three can be fairly easily located in your work, so I suggest that you think about vitality as the ability to enhance new associations and other perceptions of reality. Considering this project and others, such as Herbarium (in which you present plants through various forms of contact printing), how do you think that a mimetic representation of reality can make room for the imagination?
Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro: I don’t believe that humans have the ability to create from nothing, or from a void. Thinking about mimesis and its relationship with art, I think that however much representation has been associated with the idea of copying or imitating reality, it’s not actually a question of a relationship between art and reality (in the sense of representation), but rather of a practice that mediates them and that has more to do with a question of proximity or remoteness of the individual in relation to reality. This degree of distancing is related to the degree of familiarity or oddness that reality will have for the viewer.
excerpt from a conversation between Sofia Silva and Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro, published in Bes Revelação 2013, cat.exp., Porto: Fundação de Serralves, 2013.