THE FALL OF THE HOUSES OF ATAFONA
which saw men die,
which saw the gold go away,
which saw the kingdom come to an end,
which saw, resaw, saw anew,
no longer see. They also die
Death of the houses of Ouro Preto - Carlos Drummond de Andrade
Perhaps it’s because her last name is Terra¹, perhaps it’s because the house where she spent her childhood years was torn down after the passing of her father, who sculpted figureheads out of wood and clay, perhaps it’s because, as a child, she used to be taken to Minas Gerais’ historic towns, whose sidewalks, houses and churches have a historic thickness, and there she was dazzled by altars and golden niches, the distant echoes of a wealth that she naively deemed solid, an impression that began to fade away as she noticed the signs of corrosion by time on everything: the wear and tear of the facades, the cracks in the joints where little plants sprout, small in the beginning, but, left unattended, growing on to take over everything, reclaiming the matter that had been taken from them, giving proof that any pact with nature, however imposing it is that we build out of it, is temporary. Could it be due to all of that, could it be due to some intimate reason, like being sure about what makes an artist do what they do? By the way, how do we know what drives us to do what we do, what motivates us to do it?
Be that as it may, this collection of works by Jeane Terra has to do with experiences rekindled by what she has seen in Atafona, a small seaside district that belongs to São João da Barra, in the northern region of Rio de Janeiro, which has been slowly encroached upon by the Atlantic Ocean. That tug-of-war (or maybe tug-of-water) started over 50 years ago and has already taken a toll of over 500 homes in Atafona. Who’s to blame? We are, naturally. We are the ones who devastated riparian forests along the course of the Paraíba do Sul River. With its silted bed and its flow becoming weaker by the year, the river can’t hold back the sea. So the latter, as sizeable and unrestrained as it is, comes in relentlessly destroying houses, sidewalks and streets. It starts with the combination of beats and intermittent infiltrations of the waves, alternating with short pauses of the tides. The sea has the gifts of time and strength. Thus it comes in, relentlessly, at the rate of 25 centimeters a year, charging from all sides and from below, hitting the foundations until the houses bend down, fall on their knees and drown; their broken walls, ripped apart by the hammering of the water, show the wretched bone structure of rusty rebar; their bricks dissolve, turning back into dirt and ground, while dyeing the water slightly red.
In the native Tupi language, Paraíba means a river or a see that is hard to invade. Atafona means grain mill. Paraíba is running dry, Atafona keeps being macerated and the artist’s name is Terra. How odd are those names that hint at destinations?
In her first solo exhibition at Simone Cadinelli Art Gallery, Jeane Terra shows works that are related, directly or indirectly, to the events in Atafona, that are about the ruins produced by the clash between the sea and the city; such events point to the fact that everything that was, is or will be built is going to turn into rubble. It’s just a matter of time, of the time that rules over all things, the materials that go into the production of our world and which ranges from the most ordinary utensils to cities, to everything that connects them: the dirt and asphalt roads, the power cables supported by iron towers, the airplanes gliding on imponderable flight routes, the satellites that collect and distribute information and that tomorrow, laid to waste, pulverized by their reentry into the atmosphere, will pass for falling stars.
Jeane Terra researches the subjectivities of memory, the nuances of the cities’ transience and the debris of a time, such as urban erasure and the unbridled growth of cities.
The artist's work unfolds in a variety of media such as painting, sculpture, photography and video art. Often self-referential, her work gravitates around the noisy power plant, whence her memory surfaces. Driven by the demolition of the house where she lived as a child and by her connection with Baroque art from Minas Gerais, the artist makes sculptures using rubble collected from all sorts of constructions, creating a kind of "relic" for those objects loaded with memories and dwellings.
In her works, Jeane uses debris and “paint skin”, a technique that she developed by mixing acrylic paint with binder and making thin layers out of that concoction, so that they resemble the human skin. The artist uses “paint skins” to make her paintings, which may be sewn – some with the cross-stitch technique - or may be cut and pasted directly on the canvas. It’s a kind of body-painting. Likewise, when she uses rubble from houses and buildings as work material and covers it with velvet skins, she creates new meanings for the body-home matter.
To quote Paulo Herkenhoff on her work with paint skins and cross-stitch: “…it is an enigma of the postmodern age and the pixel is a new paradigm of image logic. Jeane articulates two systems, knowing that the pixel is the fabric of contemporary times. At the same time, she avails herself of the long vernacular tradition of the cross-stitch. She plays with the viewer’s eyesight and its capacity to interpret signs.”
Jeane Terra was born in 1975, in Minas Gerais. She lives and works in Rio de Janeiro. In 2018, she had the solo exhibition “Inventory” at Cidade das Artes, Rio de Janeiro.
Major group exhibitions: “Me Two,” “Brasil! Works of Ernesto Esposito’s collection,” at Ettore Fico Museum, Turin, Italy, in 2019; “The Egg and the Chicken,” at Simone Cadinelli Contemporary Art, Rio de Janeiro, in 2019; “Opening Wing,” at A Gentil Carioca, Rio de Janeiro, in 2019; “Montra Project,” in Lisbon, in 2013; “New Brazilian Sculpture - Heritage and Diversity,” at Caixa Cultural, Rio de Janeiro, in 2011; Biwako Biennale, Japan, in 2010.
Her artwork is in Museu de Arte do Rio’s collection.