Ana Elisa Egreja‘s work is tinged with nostalgia: she depicts ‘parallel worlds’ that look like dreams, though they are rooted in actual places that are dear to her, such as the empty house of her late grandparents. The painted interior is a stage for her to ‘freeze time’, at least on canvas: seeking to ‘catch’ time’s immateriality in the visible marks it leaves as it passes through a house, in those “cracks and infiltrations on the walls; invading insects that transform a complete, furnished house into an abandoned one”.
Shown as it deteriorates, the house signifies decay, bearing traces of the past, of what is left behind – the furnishings being but a memory. The intriguing spaces we see hint at transience. They appear to us, ghostlike, filled with a nostalgic air.
This sense of nostalgia can also take us further, somewhere rather uncanny: ‘objects within a scene have the power to “travel in time”, and it’s not incidental that I chose to include these within my compositions. [..] the house was becoming a storage place for things that my relatives didn’t want anymore, which made the decoration almost creepy.’
A slightly eerie atmosphere can be felt in her series Jacarezinho, 92 for instance: animals, lighting, fruit, vegetation and water are dotted around the domestic space, shot by the artist in photographs, then painted. The accuracy and precision of her brush rivals that of a camera. The artist’s skill at verisimilitude creates an optical illusion – the ambiguity of a painting that resembles a photograph. Toying with our perception, the painting elicits a sense of enigma, a disorientating yet curiously seductive feel. Egreja indeed blurs the line between reality and fiction, pushing boundaries of what we see – or believe we see.
Ana Elisa Egreja re-enacts a fantastic past, re-creating snapshots through the lens of the house and the childhood memories that she connects it with. Her eclectic style is a peculiar mix – in the artist’s own words, “kitsch and familiar and nonsense at the same time”. The nostalgic tint of her work reaches a personal level of subjectivity, whereby she pieces together her own memories. These collage-like reveries invite us to tread a private territory, of the artist’s own realm of experiences. Nonetheless, her personal reflections are also a gateway to a kind of collective unconscious – a springboard for us to re-connect with the past, to spark our wildest imaginations and mirror ourselves in it in fragments.
Quite cinematically, Egreja turns her memories into images, and extracts something fanciful from her nostalgia: this alchemy in paint is utterly strange but beautiful: her paintings translate the metamorphosis of a place, a touch sensorial and infused with emotion. Like a perfume, each painting encapsulates a whiff of intimacy – of a memory that shifts its guise from person to person. The mystery inherent to Ana Elisa Egreja’s works calls for a poetic interpretation: these paintings are stimuli to activate memories, to think beyond reality. In the artist’s own words, “life lacks the capacity to see beyond the concrete”.