GALERIA VERA CORTÊS is delighted to announce Gabriela Albergaria’s new solo exhibition at the gallery.
Desperdícios – or the art of looking back while going forward
It is not an overstatement to claim that the times are catching up with Gabriela Albergaria, whose work reflects a deep concern with the future of the planet. For over twenty years, the artist has been leading an inspired investigation into localised politics of ecosystems, in a specific and concrete form of eco-thinking and eco-making which has grown over time, readings and encounters. Gabriela Albergaria has followed the lives and deaths of trees, European garden paths and Amazonian plants and seeds. The flora has always been her main subject, and the way its socio-politics overlaps with our own. She has been an attentive “maker”: her work stems from her findings, and her “making” is a way to understand the impoverished relation we have with earth – life seen as a “resource”, not to say a “product”. More importantly, the artist has an ethos of communication rather than proclamation, showing rather than saying, incorporating rather than preaching. This social consciousness is reflected in the art she produces.
Take the title of the exhibition: “desperdícios” means “waste”. More importantly, this name refers to an industrial cleaning cloth made with recuperated thread, which denotes an intuitive and ancestral knowledge of repurposing (rather than recycling) within a capitalist system.In fact, currently, Gabriela Albergaria’s work also encompasses re-claimed gestures of everyday life pertaining to the re-use of fabrics and thread. During the artist’s childhood in Portugal,“desperdícios” were often found in machine repair shops to clean fossil fuels, and other toxic, greasy materials. Herein lies the strength of Gabriela Albergaria’s work: a clear vision untainted by nostalgia, and a kindness towards the human element, the economic and educational bounds of cultures around the world.
This is symbolized in the exhibition by a collage drawing of a Platane Tree the artist grew up with, which, according to her, has been “almost violently pruned, [with] a [now abandoned]common technique in European gardens. More specifically in Portugal and France". This method was not only aggressive to the plant, but it also botched the beauty of the tree.Even personal memories of nature can bear problematic choices that need to be addressed –traditions are constantly put to the test in the artist’s work.
Gabriela Albergaria explores another tradition, this time artistic: drawing. It is this practice that conveyed the story of the Platane Tree, for instance. However, the artist’s sketching style not only corresponds to a specific drawing tradition in Portugal developed by several artists since the 1980s, but also critically uses it as a form of techno-thinking that traverses all her work. Drawing is not only a means to look, but also a way to embody what is seen (by herself or her digital camera) and, to evaluate her colour palette, and her materials which are mostly(although not all because we are all participants in climate erosion), if not compostable, biodegradable. Moreover, her drawings of trees, usually collaged with photographs, now incorporate monochromatic strips, whose brown and green hues denote her more recent preoccupation with the nature, quality, and depletion of soils.
It is seldom noted that Gabriela Albergaria’s process is one of learning and listening in anon-hierarchical manner: she talks to botanists, gardeners, landscape artists, biologists, tree doctors and garden minders. She also documents herself and her studio is paved with books, from Philippe Descola to Déborah Danowski and T. J. Demos. She collects not only scientific but also vernacular knowledge and technologies. Her travels, always with the goal of studying a particular context, feed her ethos of receiving - giving. She is the sharer but also the recipient of knowledge, in a form of reciprocity.
Therefore, one of the works she brings this time to the Vera Cortês gallery, incorporates aJapanese technique of fabric recuperation, Sashiko, alongside washing machine colour mixing sheets and repurposed paper that she keeps in her “recycling” studio drawer. The fabric pieces bear abstract and linear embroidered lines composing beautiful shapes resembling fields.A superimposition of those elements hangs on the wall. Furthermore, two spheres were made with “fique”, a Colombian material from a cactus-like plant whose fibres can be dried for weaving.And, finally, she purchased online old sari fabric from a fair trade source, a part of which arrived as a “desperdício” and the other made into thread. She turned them into to spheres held by a donut shaped artefact traditionally used by women in Portugal to carry heavy loads on their heads. Both the Sashiko and the “fique” spheres were partially made with a crochet technique.This hybrid collection of materials, handmade objects and shapes is a form of earthly wisdom.
At a post-pandemic and climate conscious time, where younger generations buy thrifted clothes and refuse fast fashion, it is important to see reflected in exhibitions a work that has been painstakingly investigating the origin and the becoming of the “stuff” in our planet such as Gabriela Albergaria’s persistent ethos of caring. A floor piece presented in the exhibition talks about this attention: seeds gathered in Rio Negro and Rio Branco in Amazonia are reproduced in air drying modelling clay and integrated in a pattern of floor slabs that does not quite come together, because of the chosen material. An imperfect material, just like us.
 The artist in written conversation with the author.