Lucia Nogueira’s exhibition at Annely Juda Fine Art is comprised of works made between 1989 and 1997. The dense exhibition provides an insightful overview of Nogueira’s practice during those years and the space is packed with her sculptures, installations and drawings. Nogueira was born in Brazil and studied journalism in Brasilia but in 1975 she came to London to visit her brother and never left, going on to study photography and painting. Early on in her career, Nogueira focused on painting but her practice shifted toward making sculpture, installation and film and video. Drawing remained a constant throughout her work and this solo exhibition focuses on the sculptural elements of her practice, interspersed with examples of drawings made up until her death in 1998.
Nogueira’s working practice is rooted in the finding and collecting of objects from the street, at junk shops and at army surplus stores. These were combined and arranged, transforming the objects into something otherworldly and a little dangerous. Her knack for re-appropriating objects in a way that shifts the viewer’s perspective is noteworthy: a piece of fabric becomes a bird or a piece plastic deftly becomes a veil. She described her process of collecting things as very Brazilian yet her work does not fit neatly alongside that of her contemporaries. Nogueira had a singular voice and vision.
Particular highlights are two sculptures, both ‘Untitled’ from 1989, one of which is made from metal, grate and gauze and the other made from fur, lead and latex tubing. Both works are slight but powerful. They allude to the corporeal, to violence and to bondage. You could stare at them endlessly and read them in multiple different ways. In both sculptures, as in most of the work on view, negative space is as important an element of the sculpture as any of the physical components. This gives the work a sense of deliberate rhythm as well as an ethereal and surreal quality.
‘One + Three’ (1994) is another work that stayed with me long after I left the show. The work appears as a pair of earrings made out of glass, silver, mercury and phosphorus. Nogueira made jewellery from found objects before she even made sculpture. ‘One + Three’ is delicate and beautiful and again a little menacing – the glass vessels are reminiscent of bullets and filled with mercury. It is this tension between the body, the sculptural materials and the form and possible function of the works that make them captivating.
The few drawings displayed here are also sublime. Nogueira drew obsessively throughout her career. The drawings are not preparatory sketches for the sculptures but instead seem to be thoughts captured directly on the page. Dancing between abstraction and figuration, the sharing of these drawings and of her practice more widely gives us a privileged glimpse into her amazing and unique mind.