Hauser & Wirth London presents an exhibition of Mira Schendel’s Monotypes. The show examines a body of work that formed an essential and enduring part of Schendel’s wider practice. ‘Monotypes’ follows acclaimed presentations of Schendel’s work at Tate Modern, in 2013. The Monotypes were initiated as a direct response to the materiality of Japanese rice paper that the artist worked on; attempting to create works on paper using traditional methods, but the artist found the paper’s thinness unsuited to drawing and painting so adapted conventional printmaking techniques.
Schendel’s monotypes, unlike those produced using the traditional method, are made by hand and are considered ‘printed drawings’, or ‘transfer drawings’, as opposed to prints. The artist’s practice requires discipline, whilst also allowing for a great deal of spontaneity, since the smallest mark on the paper instantly becomes permanent. Her intuitive and sensitive series explores the qualities and possibilities of the monotype technique. These works are key to understanding Schendel’s larger poetics, as the artist experiments with language and symbols, and draws on sources as diverse as Zen Buddhism, Concrete Poetry and Bergsonian theories of time and space in the development of this oeuvre of work.
After spending her early life in Europe, she emigrated to Brazil in 1949 and settled in Sao Paulo in 1953, a city in the midst of postwar artistic and social revolution. This desire for innovation and expansion encouraged Schendel to develop an experimental attitude towards her work, and her practice soon evolved from painting and drawing to the more conceptual works on paper that form part of the Monotypes series.
The Monotypes series started in 1964 and are divided into several ‘families’ and given nicknames. Schendel connects interrupted lines to build mini architectural structures that seem to delicately balance on the plane of paper. At the end of 1964 the artist began the ‘Writings/Escritas’ group, focused on the materiality of language and its origin. These works are inspired by Stockhausen and are renowned for their use of several languages, including German, French, Portuguese, Croatian and Italian.
The artist’s preoccupation with language as a self-analysing structure continues throughout the Monotypes, including the use of sequences of patterned dots that resemble morse code or brail, overlaid with individual Letraset letters, which begin to articulate themselves as if communicating in a semi-abstract language.
The Monotype works occupy a realm between opacity and translucency, and accident and deliberation, with an effect of shifting meanings and experiences. These calligraphic marks recall a musical score or poetic verse, calling attention to principles of time, space and movement within a static work.
The exhibition will include two hanging installations, ‘Variantes’ (1965) and ‘Trenzinho (Little Train)’ (ca. 1965), as well as an important paper sculpture, ‘Untitled (Droguinha)’ (1960s). Both installations are created by suspending sheets of paper from the gallery ceiling and walls. In ‘Untitled (Droguinha)’, the paper is twisted, knotted and braided to create an object that borders drawn line and sculpture. Bringing these sculptural works together with the Monotypes offers an in-depth study of an experimental period of Schendel’s career, and invites closer inspection into the ethereal and complex nature of the artist’s Monotypes.
Mira Schendel Monotypes – Hauser & Wirth London – 28 Jan to 7 Mar 2015