paul clemence pays homage to oscar niemeyer's pampulha ensemble with lyrical textile art

paul clemence pays homage to oscar niemeyer's pampulha ensemble with lyrical textile art

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modern mirage by paul clemence: a tribute to illusory art

 

Architectural photographer Paul Clemence expands his interpretation of the late Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer‘s work with his latest photographic essay, Modern Mirage. This time, Clemence uses the surface of the Pampulha Lake in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, to reflect both literally and metaphorically Niemeyer’s avant-garde vision conceived in the early 1940s in his UNESCO-listed Pampulha Modern Ensemble on that lake’s contouring shoreline. Semi-abstract, the series adds another layer to the perception of the architect’s iconoclastic architecture, playing with the notion of what is real or simply an optical illusion, whether that be conceptual or atmospheric. The photographic series was ultimately translated into a textile installation, celebrating the Emsemble’s illusory essence. ‘The notion of a mirage, that seductive illusion quality, I feel, translates very well the work of Niemeyer, with its dreamlike futuristic aesthetic and its fluid shapes that challenge what we are accustomed to seeing as the real world,’ writes Clemence. ‘The atmospheric conditions that generate a mirage, that interplay of time, light and reflection, are very much important elements of my work, of the layered way I see the world and architecture.’ 

paul clemence pays homage to oscar niemeyer's pampulha ensemble with lyrical textile art
Modern Mirage installation | all images © Mateus Lustosa (unless stated otherwise)

 

 

revisiting Oscar Niemeyer’s Pampulha Modern Ensemble

 

In 1940, in the heart of Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais State, Oscar Niemeyer’s visionary Pampulha Modern Ensemble emerged as the focal point of an ambitious garden city project. Set around an artificial lake, this hub of culture and recreation was designed in close collaboration with pioneering artists and designers; it houses a casino, a grand ballroom, the Golf Yacht Club, and the São Francisco de Assis church. Alongside engineer Joaquim Cardozo and a group of artists, including Cândido Portinari, Niemeyer crafted daring architectural forms that harnessed the creative possibilities of concrete while exploring plastic arts like ceramics and sculpture. Landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx, in turn, reinforced the connections between these structures and the surrounding landscapes through thoughtfully designed gardens and a network of walkable spaces, symbolizing a harmonious dialogue with nature, highlighting the buildings as distinct reflections in the adjacent lake.

paul clemence pays homage to oscar niemeyer's pampulha ensemble with lyrical textile art
paying homage to Oscar Niemeyer’s Pampulha Modern Ensemble in Brazil

 

 

Recognized in 2016 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the celebrated Pampulha Ensemble, as captured by photographer Paul Clemence (see more here), emblematizes the principles of 20th-century modern architecture, during which buildings were liberated from their rigid constructivist origins and organically adapted to encompass local traditions, the Brazilian climate, and the natural environment. Through dynamic collaborations, the project blazed a trail with its contextual approach, pairing modern architectural language with the world of plastic arts and design.

paul clemence pays homage to oscar niemeyer's pampulha ensemble with lyrical textile art
the installation is showcased at the Casa do Baile museum

 

 

turning reflections  into a luminous textile installation

 

Modern Mirage poetically depicts all of the Ensemble’s iconic buildings — from the Saint Francis Assis church to the Museum of Art and the Casa do Baile (or ‘Ballroom Hall ) — through mirrored images emerging from Pampulha Lake. The series features a reflection of the facade of the now-turned-museum Casa do Baile, whereby the water’s windblown horizontal streaks emphasize the column’s vertical shafts. On the occasion of the Pampulha Ensemble’s 80th anniversary, Paul Clemence used his Casa do Baile photograph, transforming it into a site-specific textile installation piece, measuring 2.63 x 8.40 m, for the collective exhibit ‘Place imagined, place lived: 80 Years of Casa do Baile’ held now at the Casa and curated by Guilherme Wisnick and Marina Frugoli.

paul clemence pays homage to oscar niemeyer's pampulha ensemble with lyrical textile art
part of the collective show ‘Place imagined, place lived: 80 Years of Casa do Baile

 

 

The textile piece, printed on voile, uses the image of the Casa itself and the transparency of the medium to create a new, luminous dialogue between architecture and lake, between the solid construct and its liquid context, between original architectural vision and the contemporary experience of it, between space and dream. A modern take on Impressionism’s quest for the fleeting light, the piece becomes then not just an art object but also a filter through which to gaze both inwards into the space and outwards towards the landscape. Curator Guilherme Wisnik shares his thoughts: ‘The work is lyrically diaphanous. Refusing the traditional support of photography, it turns itself into space, into a curtain, fluttering delicately with the wind. Thus, the images of the columns of the Casa do Baile, added to and mixed with those of the surrounding vegetation, reflected in the waters of the lagoon, return to the Casa itself as a dancing spectrum.‘ 

paul clemence pays homage to oscar niemeyer's pampulha ensemble with lyrical textile art
the wind from the nearby lake is an added element to Modern Mirage

 

 

Moreover, the wind from the nearby lake is an added element to the Modern Mirage piece, giving it movement and enhancing the dynamic relationship with the expansive site and with time. The liveliness and poeticism it brought to the work surprised even the artist, Paul Clemence. ‘I knew of course (and wanted) that there would be movement but did not expect that it would sway so freely as it does. But I guess it should not have been a surprise; after all, the setting is a ballroom!’ he concludes

 

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paul clemence pays homage to oscar niemeyer's pampulha ensemble with lyrical textile art
printed on voile, the textile uses the image of the Casa itself and the transparency of the medium

paul clemence pays homage to oscar niemeyer's pampulha ensemble with lyrical textile art
Paul Clemence’s Modern Mirage artwork at golden hour

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paul clemence pays homage to oscar niemeyer's pampulha ensemble with lyrical textile art
Faithful/Pampulha Chapel | image © Paul Clemence

paul clemence pays homage to oscar niemeyer's pampulha ensemble with lyrical textile art
Museu/Pampulha | image © Paul Clemence

paul clemence pays homage to oscar niemeyer's pampulha ensemble with lyrical textile art
Assis/Blue | image © Paul Clemence

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close up of the artwork printed on voile
close up of the artwork printed on voile
a modern take on Impressionism's quest for the fleeting light
a modern take on Impressionism's quest for the fleeting light
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using wind to enhance the dynamic relationship with the site and with time
using wind to enhance the dynamic relationship with the site and with time
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creating a screen-like filter
creating a screen-like filter
Sway /Casa do Baile | image © Paul Clemence
Sway /Casa do Baile | image © Paul Clemence
Museu/Stroke | image © Paul Clemence
Museu/Stroke | image © Paul Clemence

project info:

 

name: Modern Mirage

location: Casa do Baile, Pampulha Ensemble, Belo Horizonte, Brazil 

artist/photographer: Paul Clemence | @photobyclemence

curators: Guilherme Wisnick and Marina Frugoli

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