Kruella d’Enfer’s “Existence Without Form”

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Kruella d’Enfer’s first solo Lisbon show in years, “Existence Without Form,” opened on Thursday and runs through Sunday, May 7th at Artroom in Príncipe Real. In her show, the Portuguese artist’s original textile pieces are paired with texts by João Almeida Santos and a soundtrack by Alberto Vierira. Although d’Enfer primarily works as a painter and illustrator, for this exhibition she has presented work on textiles: Artroom displays her pieces hanging in a circle from ceiling beams, with accompanying texts pasted to the walls. Visitors can walk into the center of the brightly-lit space to examine d’Enfer’s pieces featuring vivid scenes and emblazoned messages that resemble modern heraldic flags.

While d’Enfer is known for her use of bold colors and fantastic creatures to explore mythical worlds, this show is more focused on exploring the personal mystery of human identity. Labeled I. through X. in Roman numerals, each of her ten pieces represents a stage in personal exploration, beginning with “I. Spiritual Journey” and ending with “X. Space is the Place.” In between are the ups and downs of a voyage – “V. As Above So Below,” “VI. Necessary Evil,” “IX. Love is the Law” – that eventually result in a merging of oneself with the universe. The exhibition book opens with a quote from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson reflecting this vision: “We are part of this universe; we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts, is that the universe is in us.”

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In a brief interview on Friday, d’Enfer remarked that the shift in her artistic focus to a more internal study occurred after some personal changes earlier in the year, as well as a desire to explore deeper concepts related to the fields of mysticism and the occult that she has always been interested in. And while personal, “Existence Without Form” is also a hugely collaborative project: at the outset, she sat down with Almeida Santos and Vierira to “synchronize” the project and discuss where their first collaboration was headed. Family, too, played a role: d’Enfer’s mother sewed together satin fronts and velvet backing, and attached decorative trim to all the flags. “My mother makes flags for churches – she’s used to making things,” d’Enfer explained, recounting how her familiarity with flags and experience painting a silk jacket last year led to the textile-based design of these pieces.

d’Enfer’s work, paired with a setting that indeed resembles an “attic of the mind” (“sótão da mente”) as well as the contributions of her friends and family, creates an interesting and immersive experience that deserves contemplation – much like any worthy spiritual journey.

Jane Olin-Ammentorp 

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