Tamara Alves has a particular way of working and looking at the world - it's similar to how she talks. There's passion there, restrained, almost melancholic, but a passion that prizes an aspect of human nature we've all too readily forgotten - that of the animal within us and the risks involved with losing touch with it.
In her latest exhibition at Lisbon's Underdogs Gallery, titled When the Rest of the World Has Gone to Sleep, Alves seems less content with speaking in hushed tones or with any kind of formal restraint. Capturing the essence of her mindset, as well as the artistic direction of her latest show, the official communication reads:
"…starving hysterical naked…Repeating over and over this line from the poem “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg in her mind while she works, like some sort of mantra, Tamara Alves has been weaving a narrative that celebrates in a raw, poetic way the primeval vitality of strong sensations, of an animal becoming, of brute passion, as opposed to rational
The statement then goes on to add that the overarching narrative comes from the 'idea that our instincts are what defines us.' It seems that, given more scope and scale than a wall (Alves' usual medium being murals on walls) she has better been able to examine a concept and allow it to embody her working process and evolving vision of the animal within us that makes us all human.
It's not only what the artist is saying, but how she's choosing to say it - the wildness symbolised by the recurring animal motifs, and now full realised as a conceptual driver for this exhibition arrive as a manifestation of some sort of chaos. Our own world is, in many ways, a battle against the natural order and it is, in turn, our way of imparting order onto it.
Alves bucks the continuity often favoured by artists in their shows by working in various mediums - the overwhelming sense coming across that there was no rhyme, nor reason, yet a poetry of disorder running throughout her approach. Wild didn't just occur in the finished product, but in the whole process of creating it.
There is acrylic on canvas, watercolours and sketches with coloured pencils featuring in amongst the repertoire of the visually compelling and visceral narrative being woven by the Portuguese artist, featuring themes that are steeped in her own language as well as ones with deep symbolic meaning.
Besides the animal as a theme, we also have the night - imbued with the fear and ferocity of the possibility of ambush, of attack, yet the freedom of late drives, the ecstatic joy of campside fires and revelry. Alves herself tells her own story in a similarly poetic manner when contemplating what the show means to her:
"The story I want to tell starts with the night…The city lights fall and everyone returns home. The
We need the noise of the night… need to contemplate the full moon, to get into the car and accelerate… The blood flows down my hands and our warm bodies shine together in the dark. Once we have nothing else to burn we’ll carry the fire within us. Take a deep breath. Give me your hand and call the wolves… They eat the rest."
This is a different Alves, one that has been given the freedom to realise what appears as a culmination of visions and ideas - composites of her own personal and artistic history deftly sewn together in a new way, emboldened by the new set of confines she has been given.
Underlining everything, every stroke, sentence and statement is that of love. It isn't about animals as wild and angry, but as wild and passionate. Her voice is of hope but also concern. How long can we subdue this side of ourselves until it is completely gone? What will be left of love if we forget the animal that resides within us all?
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