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Learning from others

Since I was a kid, I have been deeply captivated with ancient cultural practices. Through reading about scientific expeditions, I learned about the genius and ability of great past sailors, inventors and artists. I dwelled into the powerful spiritual and symbolic connection of artistic representations of nature, created by ancient wisdom traditions. These seemed to be embedded in meanings that transcended the Western art I was familiarised with. These art practices spoke to me about a harmonic relationship with nature, a profound sense of calm that I longed for but also felt a natural, innate expectation to have, despite what I would witness in my surroundings.

During my sabbatical, as I looked with attentive eyes into nature’s manifestations – its patterns and shapes, compositions and geometry -, I came to a deeper appreciation of those past references and the meanings behind their work. More even so, due to the challenges we currently face regarding the environment, that sensibility and integration is essential.

Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa talked about how until his forties, he used to divide his library by separating architecture and non-architecture books - until he came to the realisation that, fundamentally, there is no difference between those: all is the work with and about humankind. I came to deal with my own library and body of work in the same way: any study comes to the aid of a more complete understanding of our common humanity. Each book read and landscape felt contributes to the understanding of aesthetics, colour theory, sensibility and the functioning of the human mind and life - a knowledge I bring into the different facets of my work.

One of the things I loved the most when studying urban design was the observation of the multiple elements that define a physical city. Once we think we can explain an urban transformation through the understanding of the law and policies, we see we have to lift the veil and study the social, economical and cultural processes; the technological, and quite often, environmental. Each discipline is tied to another in a never-ending chain of events, perspectives and scales. It’s also a captivating mystery, how all these actions and consequences eventually end up making remarkable places of extraordinary beauty and meaning. These convey underlying qualities of a myriad of aesthetical aspects, materials, skill and the profound revelation of intangible forces of an atmosphere, appealing to our sensory experience as if reminding us of an innate language, long forgotten: we just know. That wider lenses, working with different scales and the intangible forces of place are treasured qualities I keep in my current practice.

By bringing this approach into my work, I am able to share nature and its benefits in a more complete way; so many are disconnected from nature, and don't value it enough. There isn't enough work touching and reaching people about these critical subjects for their own wellbeing.

sustainable art, seeds, Portuguese contemporary artist
Bloom in Red, from the series Undeniable (2021).

Behind my practice there is a life-long dedication to the study of art history, in its fascinating large scope: the several meanings art-making has held throughout time, specially those committed to environment and community; the historical role of women in the arts, from their creations related to the measurement of time and its cycles, to their representation in art history and their own biographies, throughout the ages. The inquiry to understand the individual paths of creative genius, their choices of materials and techniques. There’s something mysterious and incredibly grounding in connecting to different moments of our collective ancestry; a tremendous sense of curiosity and peace. I aim to bring that wonder into my work, with the timeless feeling and rhythm of nature for people to remember.

The science of perception has been unveiling how abstract representations can conform qualities perceived by the human mind as relating to natural ones, producing calming, nurturing effects. All the elements of an artwork, from colours to textures, have the power to touch our senses in ways that can have a strong impact into our wellbeing.

I perform specific research into the subjects of each series - an intensive reading into what makes each place, landscape, subject, unique; what are the challenges, and what are the solutions currently presented by science. This was very present in my series Between the Sea and the Shore, for which I read United Nation’s official reports on the environment and specifically on seagrass meadows, while learned about specialist’s arduous work of bringing these incredible habitats into the public eye, the need and benefits of its regeneration. I also performed fieldwork expeditions, going where seagrass meadows are to observe directly its shapes, colours and rich atmosphere. The learning about each subject is performed by direct observation and by reading many sources of documentation - academic and institutional, across the disciplines of architecture, neuroscience, design, psychology, economy, policy-making, geography, biology and other related environmental sciences, in a constant update of state-of-the-art knowledge and insight.

Storytelling has been a central part of every culture since the beginning of humankind. Telling the stories of natural subjects allows for its beauty to be shared, and to forge its connection with us, both individually and collectively.

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