This summer, from 1st July, The Portico Library will bring a ground-breaking installation of immersive sculptural and textile works by world-renowned Brazilian artist Maria Nepomuceno to the city of Manchester. Accompanying Maria’s joyful, spectacular pieces, exhibited under the Library’s 215-year-old original Regency-period glass dome, will be an evolving display of Library visitors’ own drawings created through posing and interacting with the original artworks, which will be included in the exhibition titled Refloresta! (Reforest!) and the resulting publication.
Maria’s expansive sculptures combine fluid, organic forms with vivid colours and traditional rope-weaving and straw-braiding techniques. They will be shown alongside natural history books and archive materials from the Library’s 19th-century collection illustrating Manchester’s international and colonial connections during the city’s formative years. With spiral patterns evoking biological and spiritual themes, Maria’s brightly-coloured artworks will bring the vibrancy of the natural world into the Library’s tranquil interior.
Visitors are welcome to come and draw themselves and their fellow visitors interacting with and posing among Maria's artworks from 2pm till 4pm on Wednesday afternoons between 7th July and 29th September. Please use the booking form on The Portico Library website to bring a group of up to 12 people. All drawing materials will be provided, and staff will be on hand to help with any enquiries, although the drawing is self-guided and there is no previous drawing experience or skill level required. Afterwards, visitors will be invited to add their completed drawings to the exhibition for other visitors to look at and take a photocopy home with them. At the end of the exhibition, a book of all the originals will be made and added to the Portico Library's collection for future generations to see.
Using traditional and new techniques, Maria Nepomuceno has, since the early 2000s, developed a process of sewing spirals of materials including rope, beads and straw to explore the innumerable permutations of this adaptable form. Her sculptures and installations incorporate beads, ceramics and found objects. Often realised in carnival-bright colours, these works are chromatically, culturally and metaphorically rich, suggesting animals, plants, the human body and landscape, and ranging from the microscopic to the macrocosmic. Nepomuceno's fluid forms articulate space in a playful way, inviting tactile exploration.
The rope as a connecting thread is as conceptual as it is literal in Nepomuceno's practice. In recent years collaboration has become a central factor in her work. She has worked with indigenous Huni Kuin people in the north of Brazil and has linked with community groups to realise projects for her exhibitions. For instance, elements of Nepomuceno’s installation Tempo para Respirar (Breathing Time) at Turner Contemporary in Margate were made in collaboration with a local artist studio group brought together by the artist specifically to learn her techniques and work on the commission.