In Conversation with Theodore Ereira-Guyer
I send the invitation and stare at my face on the computer screen, practising smiles for when he comes in. The look of a serious journalist, the smile of a relaxed conversation the glance at the notes document without looking like I need a cheat sheet, check.
We could have had this conversation in person, but the mutual rotation between Lisbon and London favours an interview between a café in Chiado and a studio in Tower Bridge. When I went to visit the exhibition, he was at AR.CO, when I came to Lisbon, he was already in London.
Theodore Ereira-Guyer has his first solo exhibition, Thicket, with Elizabeth Xi Bauer Gallery. From an English mother and Portuguese father, we exchange experiences between the two cities when I let him into my meeting room.
Mariana Baião Santos: Tell me about the title of the exhibition, what’s a Thicket for you?
Theodore Ereira-Guyer: I think a lot of the time I’ve been making work I’ve been interested in removing the horizon line, the Western aspect of the singular perspective, the vanishing point. So, I’ve been interested in these kinds of things like the forest, the desert. In the thicket you are fully immersed in the space, there isn’t one singular thing to focus on.
MBS: I have to admit, the first few times I read the title of the exhibition, I thought it was “ticket”, as in a ticket to travel and I was trying to find the signs of a voyage, but it’s quite interesting you say that as it is the opposite, as you can feel stagnant without perspective.
TEG: Yes, there’s a sense of not knowing where to travel. It’s like the desert, there are none of those topographical signs, a ‘turn left on the supermarket’ kind of thing, no man-made phenomena in order to locate ourselves.
MBS: You talk a lot about memory and density and how that relates to the thicket…
TEG: Because there’s less to look at in some ways, less for the mind to focus on visually, I feel there’s a chance for a mental landscape, for memory to be the focus. This Finnish architect, Juhani Pallasmaa, I am quite interested in, talks about the qualities of grey and I think I’ve extended that into mono colour and low contrast images. He talks about grey as in, because there is less to focus on, it allows more expansive space for the mind.
MBS: When I first came in, what came to mind was theatre, staging, ancient greek culture and mythology, from the columns, the ruins, the setting… I liked that the drawings are two-dimensional but with the panelling they become a set, how did that come to be? How does the wood relate to the paper and the thicket?
TEG: That’s lovely to hear, I was thinking about theatre and deliberately wanting to show the back of the walls and how they are constructed, you can see the bolts, you can see the joints, I was not trying to hide anything, I wanted that prop-like quality. From one perspective, you’ve got these works that are humongous, massive, that take up all of your visual space. From another perspective, they are just thin and completely invisible. I think I wanted to use that theatre, prop-like aspect to highlight how an image can completely disappear or become total.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my landscapes how they inhabit the mental space but also how you can be physically in front of them, you as the viewer becoming that actor in space. And too about the performative qualities there are around an artwork, not from a sociological perspective but more of a ritualistic art experience.
MBS: In that perspective, something that seems important to you is material, as an integrant part of the work.
TEG: Definitely, using wood, paper, cotton, it’s not a completely ecological perspective of not wanting to use plastics, but there’s an aspect of only wanting to use timeless materials, so they can be a conversation with antiquity, in the sense that there is a longer, durational human experience. It’s not about assuming modernity but about creating a longer dialogue.
MBS: I was thinking about the conversation between the trees in the thicket, the wood and the paper, as stages of production or decomposition.
TEG: It’s not something I thought about, maybe on an unconscious level but I like that as a thought.
MBS: What’s the fascination with etchings? As they are reproducible but you make them unique.
TEG: I like the quality of the mark-making, there’s a sense of rich depth and texture which is at the same time incredibly flat. I’m doing it to achieve a specific quality, by making one and making them unique I feel it’s an extension of a painting practice.
I like the aspect of working on the etching plate for this singular moment of revelation. When you’re painting you make a mark and you can see what it is straight away, with an etching you’re not going to see what it looks like until it goes to print.
MBS: Is there a certain kind of relief in letting go of the final result?
TEG: Definitely, definitely. I’m working day in and day out, how can you keep that energy alive? One of the ways I do that is by relying on the etching print process.
MBS: I really liked this quote you mentioned “Here everything looks like it is under construction, but it is already in ruins”, Claude Lévi-Strauss declared when he visited Sao Paulo, Brazil, in the 1930s. The ambiguity and the co-existence of two conflicting realities, is this an idea that revolves in your practise? Or is it more specific to this exhibition?
TEG: There’s a Proust quote I was thinking about a lot, as I’ve been thinking about frescos, he talks about when a fresco begins to disappear, a new image is created, so I get this duality about appearing and disappearing, ruins and construction. This has definitely been a prolonged preoccupation over the years.
This is too one of the exciting things about the art object, I’m not making videos or 3D work, I love this ephemeral part of the art experience, how it changes over the years.
MBS: Finally, any upcoming exciting projects you can tell us about?
TEG: I’m going to São Paulo, I have a solo show with The Bridge Project. And then I’ll have a two person show with a Dutch artist, who makes lovely tapestries, in October in Lisbon.
We continue to discuss banalities, conjuring up a possible time when we might meet in person in one country or another. Ereira-Guyer’s exhibition is on show until 30th June.