Contemporary art has already shown that the old distinction between high-art and low-art belongs to the past. Artists such as Beatriz Milhazes, Richard Wright and Chris Ofili brought the lexical of the ornament to the world’s most important art institutions and galleries. The work of Carolina Ponte indicates that the new generation of artists who will make the 21st century art remains interested in the reawakening of ornamental popular references.
More than a fashion, this return to ornament is the trademark of an age that seeks to integrate basic values, such as the appraisal of ways of life guided by simplicity and union to nature, to a refined aesthetic sense and respect for good intellectual production. Contradiction? No, integration. There is something highly inclusive in ornament. It has already been said that, for its universality, it is a kind of visual Esperanto, something that can be understood by several cultures (and several ages). Carolina Ponte takes another step towards the synthesis of high-art and low-art, like in the alternation between single crochet and double crochet stitches.
The drawings and soft sculptures by Carolina Ponte offer us a time that was almost lost: the duration one experiences while knitting crochet. For those of us living in the time of instant message exchanges via broadband, it is a relief to remember that time can assume other shapes, less fleeting, less pointy, and pass slowly, building intricate knots with colorful lines. The sculptures are born from the stitches on crochet hooks, combining flat shapes with colorful three-dimensional tubes that hang from the ceiling. The drawings show concentric figures (crochet is very prone to circles) made of tiny units, like the loops that are made by the crochet hook. When colorful, these drawings start with a stain of acrylic paint on paper. To this informal background, Carolina Ponte superimposes lines with a black pen, drawing stitches, crochet puff, crochet popcorn, and creating a complex ornamented net.
Carolina Ponte’s Artwork
Carolina Ponte exercises art as a state of extension for bodies in the world. Departing from the use of lines or arabesque forms, she composes tangled, endless forms. By almost instinctively observing the associations between colours and webs, volutes come to create presences, jewels and embellishments, which simultaneously remind us of the gestures of building up and throwing away, just like in everyday life and its banalities, such as the mundane act of removing the petals from a rose, opening up a newspaper, or peeling fruit.
The use of perpetual motion, perpetuum mobile and of machines which will never stop working is one of industrial civilisation’s reveries. Never stopping working would produce a kind of infinite slave, a servant who would never take any time off. Obviously we are aware of the ethical implications of this understanding. If we consider machines instead of human beings, we would be faced with another question: why? Why not turn them off? Or, to reply with one of Marcel Duchamp’s axioms: “why not sneeze?”
Carolina Ponte’s actions in perpetual motion, drawing of endless arabesques and weaving of overflowing webs therefore seem to direct us towards these tasks, which paradoxically make the perpetual into a point of arrival, a goal which rather makes us, right at the beginning, conscious of the impossible. Our fate is thus to challenge the body through these tasks, exhausting it until we gush fluid, milk and honey.
In terms of arabesques, Carolina Ponte’s drawings are directly linked to calligraphy. It is not just an act of creating compositional images: repetition, the use of labyrinth-like lines and the plethora of colours create writings and deeds. Ponte performs the role of an artist-enlightener who has harnessed the potential to adorn pages, constructing sacred deeds. Hybrid exercises are now published without a destination.
What we now witness taking over the space is woolen sculptures. In the history of material culture, Carolina Ponte’s sculpture strives for sinuosity, the lazy accommodation of the net, the web which adapts to the orthogonal planes of architecture. Her sculpture produces reliefs and counter-reliefs such as those of Vladimir Tatlin, assuming dependency and the subordination of the form to the resources of tightening and extending.
Carolina Ponte thus leads us to these revelations, looking at imprecise yet excessive gestures, drawing and adorning, creating almost random combinations, removing from forms what makes them familiar or desecrated, and ultimately goes beyond. Vanity cases, toys, paths, regalia – all of these embrace us – but the artist observes the exact point where we make the domestic more complex. And she extends it to the ground, stretching it across the walls, as though willing to erect monuments, reach the Earth’s highest summit and its innermost layer. What we are left with nevertheless is our body, a mundane and sacred condition, which may be tossed in the gutter or transcended, mysteriously, through the gestation of other beings.