September 5, 2022
This week we recognize the ecological work of Renata Padovan Renata Padovan based in São Paulo, Brazil.
In the last two decades, Padovan's work has narrated the consequences of anthropogenic transformations on the landscape. Navigating between landart and art engaged with socio-environmental issues, her work has a strong denunciatory character. Captivated by what is ephemeral and transient, the artist creates memories about life’s state of impermanence, documenting the impacts of natural resource exploitation and the construction of mega-infrastructures, the foundations of neoliberal capitalism.
Returning the water to the seam, 2015 (above) is a video documentation of an action performed at the former Aral Sea in Uzbekistan. The artist walks back and forth on what was once the bottom of the sea, watering can in hand, pouring water on the sandy soil. As she walks, her footsteps mark deep into the ground of what was once the fourth largest inland lake in the world. Due to soviet policy of growing cotton in the region, waters of the two rivers that fed the sea, Syr Darya and Amu Darya, were diverted to irrigation channels. In about 20 years the rivers dried out. The Aral Sea dehydrated becoming a vast desert of polluted sand, a socioenvironmental disaster. The fishing industry collapsed and only those who had no conditions to move out still live in the inhospitable area.
Frozen at sea, 2009 (below) was developed during Padovan's Nes artist residency in Skagaströnd, Iceland. It is a large sculpture made of ice, in the shape of Iceland, set afloat in the sea where it drifts until meltdown. The work had double meanings, one concerning global warming and the melting of glaciers, and the other concerning the economic crisis Iceland was going through at the time.
The installation ‘Irreversible’ (below) presents a legacy of destruction and impunity, linked to the history of colonization of the Amazonian rivers for the production of energy, revealing the real socio-environmental cost of hydroelectric plants in the Amazon. The artist creates an immersive environment about the Balbina Dam disaster, the first in a series of large hydroelectric plants built in the Amazon basin in the 1980s. After more than thirty years, such constructions continue to be imposed by State policies, despite their devastating impact on local communities and ecosystems.
The piece “Para Saber Onde Está Pisando” (To Know Were You Stand), stems from a drawing, a graphic representation that seeks, on a macro scale, to bring a new sensitivity to the destruction of the Amazon (below). After being transferred onto canvas, the drawing was hand embroidered in wool, by artisans from the state of Pernambuco. Representing the Amazon area as a biome, the artist maps the deforested regions in red, protected forests in green and indigenous lands in ochre, while gray areas correspond to oil blocks. The white areas, shown within the external limits, refer to non-destined public forests, which are public lands susceptible to speculation, invasions and squattings. The piece establishes a counterpoint between the act of constructing the work, expressed by weaving, which is manual and feminine, with the act of destruction, which is male and mechanized.
Renata Padovan graduated from the Social Communication Department that belongs to the Faculty FAAP (Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado). In 2001, she was given a scholarship from “Virtuose” to do a masters program at Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. The artist has been participating in various residencies around the world, such as Banff Centre for the Arts, Canada; Nagasawa Art Park, Japan, Braziers international artists workshop in England and NES in Skagaströnd, Iceland. Her solos shows include: Baró Gallery, Eduardo H. Fernandes Gallery, Thomas Cohn Gallery, Centro Cultural São Paulo, Millan Gallery, Valu Oria Gallery, Brazilian Sculpture Museum in São Paulo, and in Rio de Janeiro at Espaço Cultural dos Correios, Paço Imperial e Açude Museum. Padovan's work has been exhibiting at group shows, festivals, national and international, and in Brazil. www.renatapadovan.me
Featured Images (top to bottom): ©Renata Padovan, Venal Series, Balbina, 2018, Food coloriong on tree, Intervention at the Balbina Hydroelectric Dam, Amazonas, considered one of the biggest ecological disaster in Brazil; Returning the water to the sea, 2015, action performed on what was once the bed of the Aral Sea, Uzbekistan; Frozen at sea, 2009, Ice sculpture in the shape of Iceland, launched in the sea where it floated until complete melt down, Skagaströnd, Iceland, 60 x 86 cm; Irreversível | Irreversible, 2019, Photos of dead trees at Balbina dam, one of the worst ecological disasters in Brazil, Large format prints on voile fabric. Installation at Paiol da Cultura, INPA, Manaus; Para Saber Onde Está Pisando (To Know Were You Stand), 2022 at Casa Nova Arte e Cultura Contemporanea; Portrait of the artist.