You may know Maria Nepomuceno’s large-scale sculptures better than you know her name. Her brightly coloured works—often crafted from reused objects like rope, beads and bricks—have been installed in New York, Miami, and last year in London at the Barbican.
Born in Rio, where she still lives and works, the Brazilian artist has been developing a process of sewing coloured rope into coils since the early 2000s, a practice she is synonymous with today. The colour, shape and overall beauty of her work challenges our notion of trash and, in 2012, she earnt a place in Turner Contemporary’s list of artists to watch. Amuse caught up Nepomuceno ahead of her new exhibition, Sim (meaning yes in Portuguese) at Victoria Miro, Mayfair.
On growing up in Brazil
Brazil is a very heterogeneous country. Within Brazil you can find many countries. In my city, Rio de Janeiro, nature is exuberant. It was always important to me to live close to the forest, to the rivers, to the beach. I have always had a very strong relationship with nature. I learnt how to swim in a waterfall and my favourite game as a child was to pick up clay from the forest floor when it was raining to make ceramic pottery.
At the same time we have a lot of poverty in Brazil and access to education is limited to few people. Yet even with so many problems in our society I have never wanted to live elsewhere. Maybe for few months but not for more than that.
On artistic influences
So many artists influence my work: Celeida Tostes, Eva Hesse, Henri Matisse, Mestre Didi, and many others. At the moment my main influence comes from observing the boundaries between free nature and urban cities, hybrid spaces where nature and urbanity have developed a unique relationship. These are the spaces that exist in a certain level of chaos, which is a big inspiration for me.
On her perception of reuse and waste
It’s part of my practice to work with materials that have a history. My process of reusing old pieces of ceramics that have broken during the firing process is symbolically important to me. It’s about the power of transformation, showing that life is continuous. I also like to use old ropes that are have already changed through time and use. Sometimes I offer truck drivers or sailors new ropes in place of their old ones.
Maria Nepomuceno: Sim runs from 11 November to 7 January at Victoria Miro, Mayfair.