From the Catalogue: Maria Helena Vieira da Silva
“Things must be ordered in such a way that the beholder finds himself before a being that keeps him company, tells him tales, brings him security.” (cit. Vieira da Silva, in: www.fembio.org)
Although Maria Helena Vieira da Silva was granted French nationality in 1956, she is regarded as the most prominent Portuguese artist of the 20th century. Her poetic works are built upon a labyrinthine network of lines and delicate colours made out of nothingness. The influence of Portuguese mosaics and of the grid-like structures of megacities in which she lived shape her pictures, as can be seen in the present work. Horizontal and vertical white, blue and green strokes build up a complex mesh that is continually broken by the inclusion of the paper into the composition, but which never loses its closely intertwined nature. Although abstract, the impressive composition of Vieira da Silva recalls memories of a city, which give us a birds-eye view, reduced to a system of horizontal and vertical lines.
Daughter of a diplomat, Vieira da Silva was born in Portugal in 1908, but travelled much throughout her childhood. In 1919, she began her studies at the Academia de Belas-Artes in Lisbon. In 1928, she moved to Paris in order to continue her studies. Cubism, Futurism and Constructivism, which were the predominant styles of the time, influenced the works of the young artist in an enduring manner. She managed however to create and develop her own poetic style. She fled with her husband to Brazil when the Second World War broke out and remained there until 1947.
Vieira da Silva was honoured as a human being, woman, and artist by innumerable exhibitions, prizes and distinctions that were conferred upon her, such as the Grand Prix National des Arts in 1966—which was awarded to a woman for the first time ever—and her participation in documenta 1 (1955), documenta II (1959) and documenta III (1964) in Kassel are evidence of the international recognition gained by her oeuvre. Vieira da Silva died in 1992 in Paris.