Vintage velvet; steel poles; hanging fixtures. Dimensions variable
Total width: 9m

Cortem was conceived especially for the exhibition Metaphoria III at 104, Paris, and responds both to the intellectual theme of the exhibition and also the gallery space in which it was held. The exhibition was the third in a series developed by Silvia Guerra and responds to the writing of the late Portuguese poet Rui Costa; this third iteration takes its theme from Costa’s unpublished novel, Les Dialogues d’Adam et Ève au seuil d’un Monde Nouveau (The Dialogues of Adam and Eve on the Threshold of a New World). The story of Adam and Eve acts as the foundation for this work, too, or rather the representation of the story, most notably in the frescoes of Masolinoand Masaccio in the Brancacci Chapel, Florence, the latter painter’s most especially. In his Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Masaccio created an image that retains itssense of anguish nearly 600 years later, that of Eve as the Venus Pudica, or modest Venus, covering her body, and Adam covering his face, ashamed. It is this sense of shame, the formal qualities to be found in the chapel’s frescoes, and the enclosed and open space of the gallery that have come together to sugest the form of this commission.

The title, Cortem, comes from the Latin for ‘courtyard’, and so refers to the space — now enclosed — in which the work was shown. The height of this once-open space invited the making of a mobile, albeit one on a far larger scale to that which I have made previously. Instead of the black forms of Dürer’s Solid which made up the Melancholy Mobile (2017), Cortem borrows the rich dusky colours — and some of the compositions — of the frescoes, and recreates them using draped lengths of vintage velvet fabric. In their slow rotation, the fabrics both reveal and conceal the space and themselves, an ongoing action that in itself might be considered comparable with the emotional workings of shame. It is to be noted, also, that from ‘cortem’ we can move to the Late Latin ‘cortina’, and the Old French ‘cortine’, before we arrive at the English ‘curtain’, the use for which these lengths of fabric were originally put. From the sixteenth century ‘to draw the curtain’ has had opposite meanings, both to reveal and to conceal, and it is both these senses, and the related sense of a representation — a making public — of shame, that one finds in this new work, too.