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Origins of my practice

Ligia Oliveira

Growing up in the Mediterranean landscapes of Southern Portugal, I was deeply influenced by its calm, warm colours and by the diversity of its ancestry: Cynetes, Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Arabs and many others who have brought knowledge, cultural and artistic practices that we can witness to this day. This immersion in cultural heritage, along with the close contact with the ocean has come to define much of my ethos and aesthetics; of my life choices in general. Representational forms of flora and fauna, embedded in our traditional art forms, have left me with a strong inclination towards inserting these subjects in art, as part of an intention to rekindling people's relationship to nature. I draw and create since I can remember, and representing natural elements has been a pivotal part of my practice.

Portuguese typical cobblestone pavement, nearby Faro's cathedral
Botanical element in Portuguese typical cobblestone pavement, nearby Faro's cathedral

My curiosity towards culture and different ways of thinking and working across disciplines led me to a direct entry into a PhD in Urban Design, in Barcelona. Integrating different aspects of the surrounding landscape into my work, on different scales, was something that resulted from this academic practice - with a strong focus on the possibilities of cultural manifestations for social transformation, something I now bring into my work directed towards sustainability.

Ocean atmosphere, Algarve Portugal beach
A contemplative pause in ocean's many atmospheres and textures, in Southern Portugal.

As I grew closer in my relationship to nature, I also became aware of the environmental challenges resulting from our actions. Learning so much about the land where I was in and benefiting immensely from its nature made me more sensitive to its protection. It was impossible to deny the felt experience of rising ocean temperatures and drought, while looking at invasive species and disappearing ones. I started to research across disciplines on these factors, and because of this, I redirected my professional practice to the environmental challenges we're currently having, as well as the benefits nature has for our wellbeing.

Seashell at the beach in Algarve, Portugal
Reflecting on a tiny shell, on local & global phenomena

In Western society, we often are faced with the discomfort arising from difficult emotions such as fear, depression and loneliness. The competitive streak and the many demands we have to deal with in our personal lives and careers take us out of our connection to ourselves, to others and to the natural world. We may have brief moments of re-connecting, of a deep intimacy with all things: when we listen to a beautiful concert, when we feel awe in natural surroundings, in places of great beauty. That intimacy related to the essence of things is pivotal to my practice. When we feel grounded and in our bodies - physical and emotional -, in all its innate force, we're in a better position to deal with the catastrophe of living. Intimacy with all the aspects of ourselves, the different facets we share – comfortable and uncomfortable, the ones we enjoy and the ones we don’t -; and intimacy with the world outside of our bodies, the beauty and the challenges, resting in our own awareness and in nature’s calmness, can contribute to restore fundamental parts of our individual and collective wellbeing. This is an essential part of what I want to bring with my work: the remembrance of an innate connection that is ours to enjoy, through the beauty of nature. That is in our time to protect, for the enjoyment and wellbeing of the next generations to come.

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