Helena Almeida is a profoundly original artist in what concerns her production, under whatever circumstance one might want to analyze it, and this has been so from very early on. Her earliest known works are photographs of the artist dressed up as canvas, or of a canvas with arms, and legs, and a head, turned into a body.
From here on, another possibility will be explored in the following years, which derives from the play between two planes: the plane of the photographed image, the artist herself, performing an action, which gains a sense of materiality that surpasses the medium that supports the image.
The mechanism through which Helena Almeida's work creates that straightforwardness, of a space transformed into another space for the viewer is, as such, a cinematographic device. The screen's plane, which supposedly arose from painting in an earlier stage of her work, is now clearly coming from a cinematic matrix, composed by a serie of moments, sometimes body rotations. The spinning has a rhythm, marked by the small difference, which places her work as the antipode of the single work concept, meaning a work that is composed of wholly independent pieces that don't refer each other. Quite the opposite, every image by Helena Almeida clarifies the previous one and prepares the following, even if they don't follow a spatial display chronology. It is, therefore, a work defined as a series. As a matter of fact, this construction has progressively moved in the direction of almost producing micro-plots, like what happens in the works that tell of a paradoxical, or simply contradictory, situation, as for example Saída Negra [Black Exit], 1995.
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.