Teresa Esgaio draws. It's her life, as an artist and beyond. It wasn't always going to be that way though. She liked exact things - numbers, figures. Maths and science seemed to resonate more until one day she realized, in an abrupt manner, that her heart belonged elsewhere.
When her books were covered in drawings, it was the manifestation of something that had been bubbling subliminally for a while. She enjoyed it, kept at it and she's now rather good. In her latest show at Underdog's Gallery, Lisbon, Esgaio has built a concept around an experience from work she has previously done.
During an artistic residency at the Underdogs store, her main piece was a detailed depiction of a very large animal. The elephant took quite some time, roughly a year and by the end Esgaio had been torn apart by two conflicting feelings; this is going somewhere but it's going there slowly.
There was an underlining sense within herself that, despite working day-to-day on the large piece, she wasn't actually finishing anything. People say the hardest part is when the page is blank, but that's not true. The hardest part is when you're too consumed in something to quit, but you're so far from the end that the task at hand feel unmanageable. She had a solution.
Every day she'd draw a ticket, one of those that you get when you're waiting in line. Whether or not it was intended that way, it's poignant and funny - a critical combination of emotions. These tickets were her escape from the everyday task at hand, they offered her a sense of ease, that she could begin and end something on the same day. The imagery is also of frustration. Waiting in a queue is something that nobody likes to do, but we know that if we stick around, we'll finally get to where we desire to go.
It was with this origin that the idea formed into something more complete. Time, beyond the philosophical connotations it can be imbued with, was something she felt in a very real and everyday manner. It's clear that the process of time is one that builds and erodes, depending how far along the slider you are. There are points that, once passed, are unable to be recovered. Time is omnipresent and cruel. It's a scapegoat for the natural decaying effects of life on organic matter. The often negative connotations are combatted by Esgaio's natural predisposition for grace and delicacy.
By her hand, time still presents the adverse effects like growing old and wearing away, but when considered as part of the larger driving force behind the show - it is above all transformative. In pastel and charcoal she depicts objects in a state of flux, relating time to more tangible concepts like weather.
In Portuguese, these two phenomena are tied by the same word, tempo. Esgaio, taking this into consideration, begins to explore the spaces between the two; of geography, geology and their consolidation in maps. Alongside the tickets and maps are a queue of dogs, without owners and all facing in a uniform direction. It seems that these animals are also waiting for something.
In a more sensitive and introspective reflection on time a large piece showing a messy bed brings us all back to lazier times. When we could lie about all day, free of commitments, knowing that (at least as children) there'd be someone there to make it for us and as adults, someone sharing it with us that we love. It's a nostalgic and beautifully rendered look at what the implications of time are; what it leaves behind and takes with it.
The precise nature of her art lends it less to interpretation and more to the very personal relationship the artist has with her work. Teresa Esgaio, having left a career in advertising to pursue the thing that always wanted to be pursued, has managed to grab the tiny voice asking her to scribble and given it a stage. It doesn't scream for attention, but that voice of her youth has grown into a unique artistic one. So, what's next for Teresa Esgaio? Only time will tell.
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