For artist Selva de Carvalho, the act of embroidering has always prompted her to look at the “body of things”. In the works, presented by the Brazilian art gallery Karla Osorio at the fair, it feels like she is bringing out the inner worlds located within the body through her textile works. “I look at the fabric, the way it is criss-crossed by the needle, at the line that penetrates and draws, at the reliefs and creases formed. I also look at my own body while I am embroidering—my breathing, the cadence of movements, the adjustments, the necessary distance between that and the fabric,” says Carvalho.
In a way, the process of creating the works becomes a performative act for her. She observes the timing that the body needs to express itself, crumble and recompose in the process. The lag between each stitch and embroidery is like a dance, which engages every part of her being. “This act is something I have dedicated myself to for years. It is one of pleasure, a ritual, a necessity and a form of self-investigation,” says the Brazilian artist.
This intersection between performance and textile art has gained a more cohesive body over the years. “Selecting the fabric and experimenting with possibilities of matter and movement has created layers of perception of my own work, which are still unfolding,” she adds. Carvalho’s works usually start with a contemplative look at both nature and the body. Through this exercise, she tries to observe the relationship and dialogues between the two.
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For instance, when she looked at the bromeliads—a family of monocot flowering plants—she realised that they were an ecosystem in themselves, often sheltering and nourishing other beings. “...just like a galaxy, with orbiting bodies in it. The small waterholes that accumulate between its leaves are, in fact, a home for larvae, insects and amphibians. They also serve as a watering hole for birds and many others. This multiplicity of visible bodies that inhabit a single bromeliad also reflects on the invisible diversity that composes us,” elaborates Carvalho.
She prompts the viewer to look beyond matter at the single life force that inhabits all beings, from humans and birds to trees and insects. Carvalho uses the thread as a metaphor of this energy, infusing her textiles with it as she embroiders. “It is this entanglement of nature that I seek to express, these crossings of life forces, this diversity of shapes, this intercourse of bodies, visible and invisible,” she adds.