Ana Maria Pacheco, ‘Comedia 1’, 2016, Pratt Contemporary

Ana Maria Pacheco was born in Brazil. Following degrees in both art and music - at the Pontifical Catholic University of Goiás and the Federal University of Goiás - she went on to complete a postgraduate course in music and education at the Federal University of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. She taught and lectured for several years in Brazil before coming to London in 1973 on a British Council Scholarship to the Slade School of Fine Art and she has continued to live and work in the UK since then.

From 1985-9 she was Head of Fine Art at Norwich School of Art (now Norwich University of the Arts). She has lectured widely and has been on various educational boards.

Pacheco was the first non-European and the first sculptor to be appointed Associate Artist at the National Gallery, London (1997-2000), a residency that culminated in a major exhibition of her work. As early as 1991 John McEwen, then art critic of the The Sunday Telegraph, said that she was “. . . as powerful a figurative artist as we have seen in this country.”

Pacheco’s work has been widely exhibited and she has had notable exhibitions in many cities including London, Edinburgh, Kyiv, Oslo, Dakar, New York, Boston, Miami and São Paulo.

Public ollections include the British Museum; British Library; Victoria & Albert Museum; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery; New York Public Library; Fogg Museum at Harvard University; Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo; Trondhjems Kunstforening, Trondheim, Norway; Itaú Cultural, São Paulo, Brazil.

Series: Series of four woodcuts, printed in editions of 25

Signature: Signed, titled and numbered

Image rights: Pratt Contemporary

Publisher: Pratt Contemporary

Comedia 1-4
The scenes of Pacheco’s most recently completed series, Comedia 1-4, were inspired by the dances and songs of colonial Peru such as the Son de los diablos. Performed by black dancers during the Catholic Feast of Quasimodo, the Son featured devils, some in the guise of monsters with horns and claws, others wearing grotesque masks, animal skins and feathers. Under the cover of carnival, these transformations and role-reversals (suggested in Pacheco’s prints by the wielding of a whip) represented spirited defiance of an imposed colonial culture and assertion of an independent identity.
The prints also represent a remarkable combination of contemporary and traditional technology. Where German artists of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries normally employed the services of a specialist craftsman to cut their drawn designs into the woodblock, Pacheco has experimented with laser technology to perform the same task. Her drawings were scanned into a computer that then directed laser beams to cut the design.
Of the five images in the series one is purely linear [and hand-coloured] while Comedia 1-4 have gradations of tone and colour. For this Pacheco turned to a long-neglected traditional technique and to the expertise and inventiveness of Martin Saull, with whom she has collaborated on many print projects over the years. The Royal Academy’s 2014 exhibition Chiaroscuro, Renaissance Woodcuts from the Collections of Georg Baselitz and the Albertina, Vienna showed coloured, tonal woodcut prints created by the chiaroscuro process which is thought to have been invented in Germany in the early sixteenth century. As well as one woodblock carrying the lines of the image, additional blocks were used, each carrying a different tone and colour that enhanced the modelling of forms and the illusion of pictorial space. Pacheco and Saull have revived the technique but with significant modifications. Rather than printing the blocks on a platen press with relief inks that often exhibit a shine, Saull has captured a depth and intensity of colour by using intaglio inks and printing the blocks on a specially adapted intaglio press. As a result, Pacheco’s figures pursue their defiantly subversive behaviour in a luminous glow rarely seen in any form of relief print.
Robert Bush © 2016
Text extract fom The Role of Prints and Drawings in the Work of Ana Maria Pacheco, Robert Bush, 2016. Online publication:

About Ana Maria Pacheco