Of the numerous images Agnès Varda regales us with in The Gleaners and I, her film from 2000, two catch my attention in particular: Her hand trying to trap lorries in a game of perspectives from the car in which she travels and the heart-shaped potatoes rejected by the food industry because they do not fulfil the aesthetic norms imposed on the consumer. A curious, fractal hand, full of folds and stories, that occasionally becomes monstrous on account of an almost microscopic-like zoom on it, and the fields of the remains of a tuber, whose fundamental function has been denied it due to its imperfection. Not fearing the passage of time, nor constructed functionality, the cineaste discovers beauty and power in these and other remnants and with her camera becomes herself a tireless gleaner of fragments and stories.
Whether in the vicinity of her native Castelo de Paiva or in the different cities through which she passes, for years Dalila Gonçalves has been collecting objects and fragments – in which she intuits a new life – from her immediate environment. They are subject to a persistent labour of experimentation with a variety of techniques and materials, evidencing not only the omnipresence of human intervention, even in the processes that appear most organic, but also how local small industry is facing the same risk of extinction that affects artisanal practices.
This exhibition transmits to us a certain notion of a territory and the problems that affect it: the works speak to us of a social, familiar reality, of a common force that is woven through valuable networks of support. The artist tautens the limits between bodies in order to take them to a new state: sandpaper sand made into a rock; wood knots are a starry sky; skin of bark and blood from a tree; wrinkles of ceramic, error and memory, or a pelvis born from a panel. The nostalgia of a time of decadence, such as we perceive it, is shaken off in favour of a suggestion of a new landscape by means of colour, textures, touch, and trompe l’oeil, appearances that are not fixed and distinct scales that take us from very intimate works to others that envelope us.
Just like water wears down stone, Dalila Gonçalves is not content with surfaces, scratching them to see what is below an object’s first visible layer. It is in this wearing away, always manual, in the decomposition and transposition of the material, where she enables an encounter with universes that were previously disassociated: where ultimately the artificial and the natural coexist in restless harmony. Like that great vase of orchids on an discarded billiard table that used to stand in her family’s home when she was a child. A powerful image, perhaps even a bit absurd, that invites us to an unabashed game with objects, generates tension in the forms of the awaited, evokes the potential of the useless, or the beauty of the defect.