Deanna Havas: Into The Woods

Galeria Madragoa

Rua do Machadinho 45, Lisbon

March 23 – May 6, 2017

MADRAGOA is deligthed to present Into the Woods, the first exhibition of Deanna Havas in Portugal. The entire concept of the show is originated by an analysis on the subject of the Forest that, apart from being a natural asset, represents a cultural heritage: the history of western thinking seems to be deeply rooted in the Forest. The act of going “into the woods” runs through the modern philosophical speculation, from Thoreau’s Walden pond and Heidegger’s hut in the Black Forest Mountains, until its more generic idea of a spiritual retreat; it acts as a metaphor of a travel towards a more profound self-knowledge, towards wisdom and a more human-oriented, essential way of feeling. The Forest topic is also an foundamental element in literary tradition, especially in the chivalric romance, as the woods represent the realm of adventure, of the unknown, where the knight has to prove himself. Troughout history, a very ambivalent relationship has been established with the forest: on one side, it has been negated and antagonized because seen in contradiction with civilization and progess, as every human settlement starts from a deforestation; on the other, it is connected with nostalgia, where this environment is thought as an authentic experience, where it is possible to find our own true self through isolation from society, a manifestation of modern individualism. The trope of the Forest, apart from constituting the philosophical substrate of Deanna Havas’ project, offers a whole vocabulary of lingusting elements, material ones like the wood and earth, as well as forms, like the one of the tree, which symoblizes a logical and schematic organization of knowledge, on which the show unfolds and metalinguistically resonates. The artist extrapolated these elements, and sabotaged them in order to feature the disorder, the wildness that is deeply present in the forest, where irrational forces arise, beyond the will of transforming the woods into a place for knowledge.

The project is presented in the form of a painting show, as in the art form that most deals with subjectivity. A series of canvases seem to be smeared with a natural element, looking like mud, in contrast with the presencence of an industrial-looking fluorescent orange. The measurements for these canvases are taken for the standard formats of French landscape paintings, with the aim to resonate, order and confront through a specific genre that set a logic for the respresentation of nature. The two works that start from a print on canvas seem to share deranged elements with the previous: in one, a series of horizontal stripes, although looking regular, present a some flaws and seem to be on the verge of collapsing, smashed by the green borders that surround it; in the other, an image from the news where both nature, human organization and chaos are depicted, loses its clarity and definition, its embedded tension reinforced by the artist’s intervention on the canvas with studs. The show is completed by the presence of trifolds that are normally used in schools or for scientific presentations where in this case a laughter appears, seemingly negating a logic organization of knowledge and visualizing the mysterious side of the Forest, where we can hear sounds without understanding the origins of them, where we might end up getting lost in fear.