(essay written for the solo show Presente passado at Boavista Gallery, Lisbon, Portugal)

Memory has as much past as it has present. It is a type of awareness of time that produces meanings wittingly and unwittingly (as Proust tells us), by the occupation of that interstitial place of the before in the now. It occurs both of a predisposed effort of taking back something (that we think is) lost, as the passive acceptance of remembrance as a new past.  

It is this memory, subjective and dynamic, that constitutes AnaMary Bilbao’s intervention field. Her practice always comes from the memory of a past gesture, always exceeded by its replicas in their flawed mimetic efforts. The work now presented at Boavista gallery, her first solo show, explores what the artist designates as “movement of return”: the way the (re)intervention on a surface that has been plastically worked on before, allows discussion and reproduction of the mnemonic system. Through the thorough repetition of the same plastic procedures, a visual equivalent of the ratio between remembrance and forgetfulness is found.               

Almost all of the different works here presented, that belong to the series Presente Passado [Past present] (also the title of the exhibition), went through the same creative path. To a first intervention on the paper (lines drawn in graphite or coloured pencils), another follows – a layer of plaster is applied – that is meant to erase the one before, acting as a sort of induced obliteration. In a third moment, the artist tries to reproduce the first lines (only the ones that are still visible) through the cracks of the plaster. This attempt is an act of revision, of retrieval of an early vision, that does not find a previous conformity, just as the past never complies with what we do to it in the present. The three moments that the exhibition comprises – the continuous drawings that show distinct results in similar procedures; the triptych. Sobre/sob a superfície [On/under the surface], that evokes the discontinuity in the act of remembrance; Presente passado I [Past present I], the only work that uses coloured pencils and pigments - compete for an understanding of memory as a territory of reinvention of what once was.

The work involved, the repetition, the endurance that we can find in AnaMary Bilbao’s work dilutes what there is of illusory in a prophylaxis of forgetfulness. 

Ana Cristina Cachola, Dec. 2013
Translated by Susana Pomba

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