Ana Elisa Egreja

Traces Room, 2019

Oil on Canvas

200 × 200 cm

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Part of the ‘Campo Verde’ series, ‘Traces Room’ portrays a room almost in ruin, showing large cracks on the walls and wildlife roaming about. For this series, Ana Elisa Egreja took over a Rino Levi-designed Modernist house in São Paulo, which was about to be demolished, and used it to stage scenes reminiscent of Fantastic Realist tales. Interspersing her own touches with the vestiges of life left in the house, the artist evokes a time that is both contemporary and mythical, real and imagined.

Subverting the viewer’s expectations about what a depiction of an interior should look like, Egreja literally gives life back to the abandoned room. The lower portion of the walls presents an anachronistic fresco, which is in fact an adaptation of the painting ‘Wild Geese in Flight’ (1897) by the American painter Winslow Homer. As the artist remarked about other paintings in this series, she is calling attention to the importance that art reproductions have in Brazil, where, as most art historical treasures are either in Europe or North America, these are the main means through which students learn about the History of Art. Interestingly though, while her roomscapes are 1:1 scale, the featured reproductions always alter the original proportions; in this case, a medium sized painting becomes an all-around wall fresco, as in a painterly game of Chinese Whispers. As if in a fairy tale, the geese portrayed in the fresco come to life and storm the room with a fluttering of feathers and insistent quacking. The boundaries between fiction and reality become as blurred as ever: did the birds really come to life? Were there ever any animals in this room otherwise so devoid of movement? The timelessness of this displaced bucolic scene is jarred by a security camera hiding in the top right corner. Who is it observing and why?

the artist

Ana Elisa Egreja (b. 1983, São Paulo) is a Brazilian artist who graduated from the FAAP (Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado), São Paulo, in 2005. She currently lives and works in São Paulo. Most recently she featured in the online ARTUNER exhibition STUDIOSCAPES: 2021 and her works were shown in a solo show at Galeria Leme in 2021. In 2022 she published a compilation of her series on soap dishes titled "Saboneteiras". Between 2014 and 2019, Egreja featured in several prestigious institutional exhibitions in Brazil, including, notably the solo show Fabulações at Museu de Arte Moderna da Bahia (MAM) and the newly refurbished art institution in Salvador (Autumn 2019). Today her works are part of the Franks-Suss Collection, London, in addition to Brazilian collections. To date she has been the recipient of three prizes: MARP’s Acquisition Prize in 2007 for ‘Sarp’ at Ribeirao Preto; MAM’s Acquisition Prize for the 15th Salão da Bahia in 2008; and last but not least in 2009, the Incentive Prize awarded by Tomie Ohtake for Premio Energias na arte. 

Ana Elisa Egreja’s practice gravitates towards both painting and architecture. Her creative process is transformative and poetic: in the past, she constructed unexpected settings to syncopate different surroundings. These peculiar environments range from illusive utopian spaces to painted interiors of ghost-like houses or other inhospitable places. Each ‘set’ is dotted with objects like clues for us to fill in the gaps in the story. The implicit narrative here is seductively strange, scattered traces call for us to inspect the work closely. There is indeed an enigmatic aura to her work, something palpably bizarre yet harmonic, a poetic wit in some pieces, fragmented realities, and subtle play with light in others.

In her most recent exhibition with SP-ARTE she showed her series of soap dishes that were painted during the pandemic. The series of soap dishes was inspired by her older domestic interior paintings that were on a much larger scale, but because of the pandemic she had to adjust the scale of her work to fit working at home.  This meant she started to focus in on this specific architectural feature, and used the compositions to incorporate many different visual elements she had collected over the years, including an extensive collection of Brazilian and European tiles. She also recently worked on a collaboration with Louis Vuitton on a set of customised travel cases and trunks on which she painted migratory birds; a project which she named "flyways". The trunks are currently on view in the Louis Vuitton flagship in Brazil.

Egreja’s works tread a fine line between balance and chaos, rational perspective and spontaneity. At times delightfully calm or eerily devoid of human life, at others totally delirious and kitsch, each work encapsulates an atmosphere and world of its own. Like a whirlpool that draws us in, sets the eye in motion with a swirl of colour, characteristically illusive, almost dizzyingly so. Infused with an eclectic touch of Op Art, Brazilian flora, rococo and perhaps Matisse, the paintings also remarkably demonstrate the artist’s operatic style that is both exuberant and uncanny; quite cryptic but uniquely beautiful.

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Ana Elisa Egreja’s works tread a fine line between balance and chaos; rational perspective and spontaneity. At times delightfully calm or eerily devoid of human life, at others totally delirious and kitsch, each work encapsulates an atmosphere and world of its own. 

Ana Elisa Egreja
on Artuner

Part of the

October 12th, 2019 until
October 30th, 2019
Curated by ARTUNER