Inspired by important figures in the realm of creation in the 20th century, and often influenced by female protagonists such as Anni Albers, Mary Martin and Eileen Gray, Antunes’s work begins by measuring features of architecture and design that interest her. She then uses these measurements as units which can be translated into sculpture. Embracing traditional craftsmanship from around the world, she employs materials such as rope, leather, cork, wood, brass, and rubber to create new and repetitive forms. Her new sculptures will unfold on both floors of the gallery, thus creating a dialogue with the architecture of the space. Thoroughly and systematically, Antunes immerses herself in the history and cultural heritage of the place where her work is exhibited, thereby offering a unique tribute to a specific environment through her poetic, fragile and complex structures. This exhibition can be seen as a continuation of her recent presentation at the Whitechapel Gallery, entitled “the frisson of the togetherness".
On the ground floor of the gallery, Antunes will conceive a sculptural path in six different parts, entitled alterated climbing form, which was initially based on a relief made by British artist Mary Martin (1907-1969). Here, sculpture will take the form of a monumental screen, acting as a partition, fragmented in different sections. Made of brass, the elements of the structure will be attached by cables, fixed from the ceiling to the cork floor, which will be specifically built for the exhibition. A series of hanging rope sculptures will be presented alongside suspended brass and glass lamps, which will recall a drawing by Anni Albers (1899-1994). Albers’s drawings were made around the same time as Mary Martin’s “climbing form”, and parts of the drawings have been enlarged by Antunes, who kept their exact measurements and volumes. Despite having never met, Mary Martin’s and Anni Albers’s practices were connected through their use of textiles and forms. A continuous flow of lines and twisting shapes is central to both of their practices, as well as Antunes’s.
On the first floor of the gallery, Antunes will present sculptures made of polycarbonate and brass in the form of combined and free-standing panels, which have been shaped prior to their assembly, during the fabrication process. Each screen will correspond to the exact measurements of one of the glass panels of British architects Alison and Peter Smithson’s (1928-1993 and 1923-2003) Upper Lawn Pavilion in Wiltshire, built between 1959 and 1962, which the artist extensively researched in view of her exhibition at the gallery, in an effort to render the distinctive transparency of the site. Alongside the panels, Antunes will present a selection of sculptures made of leather which will hang from the ceiling of the gallery, echoing the rope sculptures on the ground floor.
The title of the exhibition is a poetic allusion to a text by Alison Smithson, published in a book entitled Upper lawn: solar pavilion folly. It refers to Smithson’s relationship to the medium of polythene (which was later replaced by glass in the structure of the Wiltshire pavilion), and how this material affected her perception of the outside world, as though she were looking through lenses.
Leonor Antunes’s works exist as new artistic entities, which quote, in a moving manner, luminaries of the past in a continuing study. In a singular approach to the organic and natural world, she attempts to preserve the ancestral artisanal techniques of the materials she uses with the introduction of a new contemporary discourse on the possibilities of sculpture.