In her first solo show in Germany the Portuguese artist Teresa Murta is displaying her most recent series of works at Uhura Basement in Berlin. With Frozen eggs and wet panties the artist portrays a very specific period of time - the time in between youth and adulthood - experienced from her perspective as a young European woman.
This is a time characterized by an exciting struggle scrutinizing what we have been taught so far and exploring things anew. In this stage of life, where we reach a more complex understanding of the world, of our bodies, our sexuality, our personality and of how we are embedded in a greater sociocultural context. We start to realize and question behavioral patterns, learned and inherited in social rites that became our identity. Old traditions and morals might become untimely and we live by new values.
Nowadays, this gap between youth and adulthood seems to be stretched to sheer infinity.
It’s a phenomenon which occurs especially in the generations following the baby boomers: generation x, the millennials and possibly generation z.
While in previous generations the way of life was largely an already given path, today many of us have the privilege to choose from a plethora of possibilities. But this privilege also has its downsides: We can lose ourselves in this abundance and it can lead to a paralyzing overload.
During this time, we not only experience the wonderful sides of previously unknown freedoms, no, we also gradually become aware of the evanescence of our youth and the restraints our bodies have over our lives. Especially as women, this is the time where we start to hear our biological clock tick. But thanks to the possibility of freezing our eggs and other rejuvenating procedures, we can silence this ticking for another while. By setting aside a safety cushion of unborn childhoods, we buy ourselves the freedom to focus on a more carefree and hedonistic lifestyle for just a little longer.
As intriguing as these new found freedoms may sound, there is also a little warning in Teresa Murtas’ exhibition: If we play for too long in this period of being undefined in between, we might lose what is most precious. If we do not remind us of our dreams- we might just flush them away like yet another bloodily exuded unfertilized egg.
Teresa Murta mainly creates series of paintings that are dedicated to one specific theme complex or time frame. There is no explicit narrative but yet a dialogue between the separate works of one series.
Her artistic practice is characterized by various antitheses. While painting she tries to merge the two different realms of the intuitive-aesthetic and the rational-intellectual – the child and the adult - to reach an elevated state of mind for creating her work.
In her paintings she is confronting realistic and figurative elements with abstract forms. Thereby her works are informed by a tension between something that seems familiar and immediately recognizable and something surreal and marvelous. These elements can change their form in whoever is laying their eyes on them, exposing our perception, which leaves us with an intriguing suspense.
Murta chooses some specific objects from her perceptual world as indirect references for the complex psychosocial and cultural structures that she is debating in her works.
So can a tent become a metaphor for the childhood or a glove in a dainty gesture, a placeholder for an old ideal that has been and is still being taught to our daughters’ hands: the good fairy of the house, keeping it clean and tidy with ease.
While working on a series, Murta also finds complementary inspirations in art history. Works that she encounters like synchronicities. For example in the painting The excommunication of Robert the Pious (le Pieux) from 1875, by Jean-Paul Laurens, where the old morals have left the room and the king is now free to pursue his own ideal of happiness.
Teresa Murta starts her painting process either with a spontaneous impulse on the canvas, or on the contrary, with one of these precise objects, that have a strong symbolic value for the artist. Each work is like a challenge that she meets with the same obsession as if solving a problem. She steps into an aesthetic dialogue with the painting until it develops into its final state. During that process, the initial form might disappear completely or reappear in an evolved form in the painting or somewhere else in the series.
In A portrait of a storm, she proceeded that practice to a climax.
What was once the starting point of the work, has been extinguished, painted over and over, changed beyond recognition into something completely new. But the meaning, the essence of the initial object has passed into the painting. It abides in the background and the work radiates its sublime aura. That what lays beyond the surface – it remains perceptible.
Judith Hofer, April 2022