Executed in 1960, Le Chemin Perdu, is a wonderful example of Maria Helena Vieira da Silva’s intricate canvases, where perspective lines and vanishing points are skilfully placed at rhythmic intervals,...
Executed in 1960, Le Chemin Perdu, is a wonderful example of Maria Helena Vieira da Silva’s intricate canvases, where perspective lines and vanishing points are skilfully placed at rhythmic intervals, forming a lattice of lines, overpainted by earthy washes of colour and punctuated by intensely coloured dabs of blue pigment. The present work was executed at the artist’s return to Paris after her exile to Brazil during the Second World War. It was during this period that Vieira da Silva went through an extraordinarily creative phase, her canvases growing both in size and complexity and her dexterity and understanding of perspective and its possibilities being completely mastered. It was precisely this understanding of the possibilities that lie within the picture plane that allowed the artist to eschew them in order to question their very relevance in modern painting. Indeed, in Le Chemin Perdu the painter chooses to overpaint parts of her carefully drawn background, erasing, staining and creating thousands of smaller compositions within a whole. The result is a vibrating composition that challenges the viewer, an effect that Vieira da Silva was always after. The artist explained how “I do not want people to remain passive, I want them to come and take part in the game, go for a walk, climb up, go down” (Maria Helena Vieira da Silva cited in: Gisela Rosenthal, Vieira da Silva 1908-1992, The Quest for Unknown Space, Cologne 1998, p. 71). Born in Lisbon in 1908, Vieira da Silva was only nineteen years old when she decided to go to Paris to pursue her passion; painting. In Paris she found the excitement she was after; art seemed to be in constant evolution and development, with new movements and –isms being created almost simultaneously. She discovered Picasso’s and Cezanne’s Cubism, where reality was augmented and rendered more palpable by introducing different views into the same picture plane. A study trip to Italy, where she saw the frescoes by the masters of the Trecento and Quattrocento allowed her to fully understand the principles she was about to shatter herself. From then onwards the artist developed her own visual language, where architectural landscapes teeming with energy perfectly encapsulated the Zeitgeist of the new century in what then was the world’s artistic capital.
In Le Chemin Perdu, Vieira da Silva has delicately constructed a grid like pattern that unfolds across the canvas, echoing an aerial view of a city street plan. Over the laborious composition the artist has then re-worked the surface, slowly obliterating fragments by subtraction and by overpainting, meticulously creating a landscape of the mind. The artist dexterously allows the viewer to glimpse into her own creative process, when observing the present work it is inevitable to imagine how it was created. As the artist would explain: "In adding little stain after little stain, laboriously, like a bee, the picture makes itself. A picture should have its heart, its nervous system, its bones and its circulation. It should resemble a person in its movements" (Maria Helena Vieira da Silva cited in: Guy Weelen and Jean-François Jaeger, Vieira da Silva, Geneva 1993, p. 91).
Personnelles : 1960 - Paris, Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Vieira da Silva, Nov.- Dec., Cat. n°13, ill.1961, Mannheim, Städtische Kunsthalle, Vieira da Silva, Cat. n°21, ill. 1969 - Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Vieira da Silva 1935-1969, cat. n°50. 1969-70 - Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Vieira da Silva, Schilderijen 1935-1969, Dec 1969 - Fev 1970, Cat. n°41. 1970 - Oslo, Kunsternes Museum, Vieira da Silva, Malerei 1935-1969, Cat. n°41. 1970 - Bâle, Kunsthalle Basel, Vieira da Silva, Cat.n°36. 1970 - Lisbonne, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Vieira da Silva, p. 127, Cat. n°143, ill.
1961 - São Paulo, Museu de Arte Moderna, VIème Biennal, Cat. n°78, ill.
1962 - Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, XVIIIème Salon de Mai, Cat. n°163.
Dora Vallier, La Peinture de Vieira da Silva: Chemins d'Approche, Paris 1971, p. 180, ill. Antoine Terasse, L'univers de Vieira da Silva, Paris 1977, p. 66, ill. Jacques Lassaigne & Guy Weelen, Vieira da Silva, Paris 1978, p. 237, n°271, ill. en couleur. Dora Vallier, Chemins d'Approche: Vieira da Silva, Paris 1982, p. 23, ill. René Huyghe, Les Signes du Temps l'Art Moderne, Paris 1985, p. 119, ill. Guy Weelen and Jean-François Jaeger, Vieira da Silva Catalogue Raisonné, Geneva 1994, p. 336, no. 1669, ill. Gisela Rosenthal, Vieira da Silva: The Quest for Unknown Space, Cologne 1988, p. 62, ill. en couleur.