What I see from where I stand
Quartel da Arte Contemporânea de Abrantes, Figueiredo Ribeiro Collection
(Por Hugo Dinis)
Inês Norton (Lisbon, 1982) presents a number of recent works, some of them previously unseen, in her exhibition Do meu lugar, o que eu vejo [What I see from where I stand]. The artist employs a panoply of artistic techniques and media to pertinently address, in a tone somewhere between political and poetical, the controversies and consonances of the concepts of natural and artificial, both of them taken in their broader sense. On the one hand, ‘natural’ can be defined as the essence of nature, in other words: the life of things and the universe at large. This category comprises plants, animals, water, natural landscapes, etc. On the other hand, the ‘artificial’ can be seen as that which was man-made, which is to say: the mark of man, the degree of artificiality man has added to the empirical world. This other category includes buildings, synthetic materials, objects, etc. Even though these two worlds stand in inconvertible opposition to one another – what is natural is not artificial, and vice-versa –, they always engage in dialogue whenever they meet. Accordingly, Inês Norton’s works reflect the possibility of that clash, which enhances our sensory and emotional, as well as intellectual and conceptual, experience of her pieces. Looking at the world in a close relationship with her surroundings, the artist uses her hands-on experience of the place to create structures that control and tame wild nature. These artificial structures, the products of human actions, acculturate natural things. The transformation of nature into construction and the relationship of both with this process of acculturation through visual devices possess an irony and humour that question various preconceived dogmatic systems, namely certain notions of ecological policy and the objects they bring about. Thus the works contain in themselves a privileged place that mediates between a personal, but not unequivocal, vision and perceived, felt reality.
The concepts of natural and artificial can be respectively aligned with the concepts of nature and architecture. The word ‘nature’ comes from the Latin natura, meaning to be born in the future; in other words: the generating force. Natura is the Latin translation of the Greek word physis, which stands for the innate way plants and animals spontaneously grow. In this regard, it can be considered that, when dealing with the subject of nature in art, the latter must be seen as the possibility of creating new sights or new worlds, that will allow the possibility of something happening. But this search must understand that there is something natural or specific in the objects, through which that specific quality manages to shine. That concealed, mysterious space, like some sort of dense forest, needs an architecture, even if only a symbolic one, to make it emerge. The word ‘architecture’ comes from the Greek words arkhé, which means first or principal, and tékhton, which means construction, primary construction. Thus the work of art will manifest once the possibility of a meeting between nature and architecture materialises.