Helena Almeida

Lisbon, Portugal (1934 - 2018)

The importance of Helena Almeida’s oeuvre lies in the fact that it is impossible to confine the formal traits of her personal language within the fixed bounds of artistic disciplines and classifying labels. While it is true that the Portuguese artist expresses herself chiefly through photography—usually in a large-scale format and a sober black and white, and a sophisticated economy of compositional elements, the truth is that the photographic shot—taken by her husband Artur Rosa, is the last act in a long and rigorous work process involving a large number of preparatory drawings, diagrams and video recordings.

In point of fact her approach to the work of art is characterised by a complex plastic conception born out of an intimate desire to express herself in a “spatial” order—i.e., a need to transcend the limits of the picture. Photography, painting, drawing and performance come together in the unified field of self-representation, where Almeida’s body becomes the instrument used to intervene, communicate and create space—both pictorial and architectural—in phenomenological terms.

In this sense we should recall her beginnings as an apprentice in the atelier of her father—Portuguese sculptor Leopoldo Neves de Almeida—and the fact that in her first exhibitions she displayed paintings that revealed the influence of Lucio Fontana and his spatial concepts. Similarly, many of the works she has produced over the past four decades betray a profound sensitivity for the symbolism of colour, as we see in the key pictorial interventions that form a sharp contrast with the black and white base of the photographs.