16 Sept – 19 Oct 2019
Rarely do we notice the core of nature. It is hidden, camouflaged, protected, and invisible to the naked eye. In order to see it, we must understand what is behind it. And in order to do so, one must use their imagination.
Camila Rocha’s first individual exhibition at the Kogan Amaro Gallery seeks to reach this deep core. By using her hands, a mysterious forest took form between the walls of the exposition area. Exotic botanical shapes, vines and haunting roots; creatures that inhabit a kingdom which is neither plant or animal, but a great web of different materials, senses and shades. Where one feeds off from the other, forming a constantly connected chain of survival.
This symbiotic and rhizomatic nature populates Camila’s watercolours, paintings and sculptures, which are at times suspended in the void, perched on the walls, or on a table, as is the case in the Amazon rainforest. She creates art from observing science. As a devotee to the plant world, she contemplates the beauty of the most diverse plants, including their shapes, rhizomes, colours and size, without forgetting the feelings and chaos.
At the beginning of the year, the artist took part in an expedition to the Amazon forest. She sailed rivers and tributaries for months on a houseboat and worked on a precious study – a sort of memory to the botanical observation practice, when observers would draw what they would encounter in the jungle. The trip resulted in the creation of the “Photosynthesis Glossary” (Glossário Fotossintetizante), which gathers images by tone, based on how the sun rays are perceived by the species of the Plantae kingdom.
Camila also reinterpreted the forest using animal forms. Animal-plants, half reptile, half amphibian, that flirt with the magical realism of the Thai movie “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” (2010), of the filmmaker-painter Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who is also a fan of spectral creatures.
The São Paulo native’s narrative is built on the translation of biology into fantastical art, a colourful visual dynamism. Such is the case of “Serpent Plants” (Plantas Serpentes), inspired by tributaries, and the subaquatic vegetation of the Amazon. The chimeric eyeless creatures that Camila paints and cuts with a velvety surface are hybrids and are neither plant or animal – stretched on the wall, 5 meters in atrophied length, and another one zigzagging down the corridor, at the peak of its development, reaching 40 meters.
“Diagram” (Diagrama) brings another element to the space, malleable steel, which represents the inflorescence of the plant. The installation satisfies the senses by using consistency, weight, temperature and roughness, be it of its own body or somebody else’s. Whereas “Tabular” (Tabulares) prefers the aesthetics to nonsense: cast-bronze fossils that mimic roots, the fundamental organs to a plant’s survival.
What the artist proposes is that the spectators take a dive into the exhibition’s space and submerge themselves into the Rio Negro on which she sailed. During her journey through the Amazonian waters, what contributed most to her sculptural observation was the “Devil’s Gardens” (Jardins do Diabo) – the region’s mystical clearings, which, unlike the forests’ abundant vegetation, are populated by a single species of tree.
This specific plant, they say, is the forest’s evil spirits’ favourite, who at night would prevent any other plant from sprouting there. This legend led to the play “Apucarana,” a Tupi-Guarani word meaning “seat made from a rough, scaly root”.
The enigmatic density that inhabits Camila Rocha’s work is reality transfigured into an immaterial landscape. Just as botanical anatomy calls the innermost and hardest part of the tree trunk its core, the artist’s paintings and sculptures are the strange and dreamlike epiphany to the core that coexists between us.