Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos plucks banal items from reality and repeats them on an unprecedented scale to form the bones of something utterly different. She sees our belongings—everything from pots and pans to wheel rims, fabrics, and tampons—as personal, ready-made building blocks for publicly attuned art. With their spirited playfulness and virtuoso inventiveness, her dramatic installations and sculptures skillfully translate high and low, private and public, into unanticipated social statements. They assault the senses with luxe gigantism and operatic overtones, but they also resonate with something deeper than contemporary culture. In many ways, Vasconcelos’s working method celebrates Carl Jung’s observation that “the creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by the play of instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.” Flipping between aggregate and detail, her works take us on a wild ride of perception and emotion, in and out of reality, into and out of our own minds.
Rajesh Punj: At the opening of “Beyond,” your current show at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, you spoke about the inside coming out, about the private and personal becoming public, and the need for that to happen, as distressing as it might sound. How do you explain that as a motive for your work?
Joana Vasconcelos: When you have no shame about exhibiting your private life; there are many things we are ashamed of. People are sometimes uncomfortable with their bodies, their pasts, their traditions—especially women . . .
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