Chapada Challenge – Paola de Ramos

Butterfly 2020

I am from Brazil, from Curitiba, South Brazil. I have wanted to be an artist since I learnt the word “artist”, drawing and making things always was part of my childhood and my play. My mom and my aunts used to draw and paint in their free time, but just as a hobby, they didn’t have the culture to go to museums or to take part in the cultural life in my city. Luckily, by chance, when I was seven years old, I began going to an afternoon school, Centro Juvenil de Artes Plasticas, once a week for 3 hours. They were the best in the week for me. This school was my safe place until I was 14 years old, and I did painting, drawing, engraving, theatre and sculpture there.

Charcoal drawings 2020

When, I entered adult life, because of social and family pressure I did Graphic Design and not Fine Art, at the end of the course my father passed away, which made me think about what I had been doing with my life, if I was becoming what I wanted to be. I left Brazil when I was 22 years old, went to London, trying to figure this all out and find myself.

In London, I went to Art and Design Foundation at Chelsea Art School and after BFA Fine Art at Slade School of Art. My art practice before doing the Foundation was mainly drawing, painting and collage. There I had space to try out big sculptures, installation and performance art.

It was my dream to go to a university, have an academic training. It was very challenging, because of the cultural clash and because I am very romantic in relation to my art practice, and at university there was pressure to professionalize it. At the universities, I had the opportunity to meet friends and hold several exhibitions. Afterwards my art became more political and I made mostly installation and performance art.

In 2016, I had the opportunity to go to Finland to study a MA in Visual Culture and Contemporary Art; there I had space and time to work further in my work on masks. Nowadays, I continue with my drawings and paintings, but I have focused on making masks, costumes and performances, which usually begin as a subjective enquiry and, through the process of making art, become more engaged in social and political matters.    

Madonna Vagina presentation for Radio Izolat Slovenia 2020, mixed media

At the moment, it is not just Corona, which has changed my life. My partner and I made a big move from London to a small village in the countryside, called Andarai, in Bahia, Brazil, two weeks before the Corona epidemic began in the UK and other parts of Europe. We were lucky as we left before airports closed and flights were cancelled. I had been living in London for almost 12 years, and my partner for 18. So, I am getting used to this new life and dealing with the Corona epidemic. My art was already political before, but here I have done some art about the Corona situation and its consequences, mainly drawings. I feel that I am so overwhelmed by this epidemic and the move; at the moment I am embracing my privilege of living in a beautiful area and am reconnecting with nature. I have done videos and several sketches of nature in the area, which helps me to find balance and keep going. I am still making masks, but none of them are ready yet, perhaps because I don’t have a studio it is easier to do smaller things, like drawings. Hopefully I will finish my masks, I can photograph them in this beautiful landscape where I live.    

Unfinished mask using natural recycled materials without glue

Making art is my life, so in a way I am glad to be able to have this time to work on my art and make things that I wouldn’t be making if I weren’t so immersed in the environment that I live in now. The hardest thing is not visiting my family and friends because they live in another state, most of the states, cities and villages are closed, and I cannot travel. Money has been a problem as I used to give online one-to-one art and graphic design classes, but the students cancelled because of money issues. I have mixed feelings and emotions about the situation; it is great to have a break from the world but not because of such a tragic thing. In a way, I am happy because I am living a dream; my partner and I have been planning this move for five years. I am in the middle of nature and enjoying having time to make art. But, the political scenery in Brazil and some countries is so sad and sadistic, in terms of policies to halt contamination and Corona deaths, so I feel helpless and deeply sad. Most of the people in power value money more than people’s lives; I think this epidemic made this very clear. Brazil is even worse; we have genocide. The Brazilian president is a murderer, with no policies against Corona. He is making it harder for some mayors and governors to apply WHO recommendations. So, my daily life veers between heaven and hell.    

Screenshot of Lost Remote video shown in Finland May 2020

Making work is therapeutic. I cannot see and recognise myself without making art, actually I am making more art, because I have more time and space. Art helps me to try to make sense of all this mess. The biggest change is performance art, which, at the moment, is impossible to do. The ones I have done were streamed online. I think being an artist helps because we have such an uncertain and chaotic lives that we are kind of trained by our profession and lack of financial security, as everything is impermanent. Also, most of us have a solitary work routine and are self-driven, we are used to working alone. Unfortunately, I am not very positive about the future. Even before Corona virus and lockdown, our profession was always undervalued. I feel that after lockdown, it will be even worse in some countries, because people will want to invest more in health, hospitals and impose stricter country/city borders. So, I feel that post-lockdown money will not go to artists and their financial recovery. I believe that the creative industries will take 5 years to make a full recovery, especially if policies don’t create a specific fund for them and artists.     

Recycled Meat Cutting Boards gouache, wood varnish May 2020

I think this event will leave a cloud of fear about travelling and reconnecting with foreigners. Also, I don’t believe that the world will change the way we want and needs to. I think we will continue to pollute, consume more than we need and have a mind-set very similar to the one we had before, in regards to the environment and social justice. Humankind is depressed, traumatised and fearful, it is not going to be a pandemic that will change our bad habits and heal what needs to be healed to become a fair and kind human community.     

Writer, poet, working on expanded novel, making poetry with artists, putting work in unusual public places

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