‘I think we should pray a little each time we drink something,’ Ernesto Neto suggested to a columnist at The Telegraph in 2010. As Neto describes the significance of liquids within his work, he does give some insight into the imaginative process and effect of an installation by this Brazilian artist. In the same way that certain liquids have the ability to soften one’s inhibitions, Neto’s environments have the power to take adults back into a child-like state.
Today Ernesto Neto is one of the best-known Brazilian artists in the world; and yet, unlike so many contemporary artists, international art world domination has not always been the plan. Neto studied engineering at university and seriously considered a career in astrology before – on the suggestion of a girlfriend – popping into an adult art class and ‘realising his destiny’.
A piece by Ernesto Neto, by the way, is generally large and welcoming enough to sit in, walk on and jump through. It’s not made with any theoretical or intellectual dogma behind it, although neoconcretists Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica are cited as key influencers – it’s made for you, for everyone. Themes of universality constantly occur in his work. Pieces are often likened to organisms, membranes – the body turned inside out. Drooping cocoons filled with fragrant spices slump lower over time, colours fill the space and noises – inevitably of movement and joy – punctuate the slightly paradoxical feeling of being in a playground when in fact you’re in a gallery ‘white cube’.
For example, in 2010 visitors to the Hayward Gallery were led through a series of sensory installations and ultimately into a swimming pool on the gallery’s roof – the liquid theme also in evidence…
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