This article on Portuguese artist Monica Machado first appeared in the 5th edition of Mosaique magazine published in January 2013 and is a translation from the original French. The author, Renée Malaval is the Publisher of the magazine and a mosaic artist herself. MAN’s reprint of this article is part of our happy collaboration with Mosaique. We are grateful for the opportunity to show the work of an exciting artist we discovered through the magazine’s pages.
By Renée Malaval
The Gabrielle Laroche Gallery located in the core of the Rive Gauche (Left Bank) in Paris is prized for its specialization in furniture and sculpture dating from the Middle Ages through the 17th century. The Gallery also exhibits contemporary sculptures and recently showcased multiple works from Monica Machado – a definite departure from antique furniture!
Monica Machado’s art is unique: she creates elaborate, animated sculptures (electric motors, fountains, sonic murmurs) which are carefully lit to create an enchanted world; she excels in the principle of accumulation, piling and amassing objects and ceramic pieces in an almost frenetic way. By experiencing each mosaic-sculpture, the observer can appreciate the fertile imagination of the artist, as well as her taste for word-plays and puns. The spectator is bombarded in turn by the erotic or the sensual, by the magical world of childhood, or by everyday ordinary life, and is generally led in an endless process of discovery.
Monica Machado won first place in the Beaux-Arts School of Paris juried show when she was twenty years old, with her piece l’Ar-moir (“the closet”) She was then a student of Riccardo Licata at the school and was constantly challenging herself with her creation; one of her aims was already to elevate objects of everyday life to the rank of high art. L’Ar-moir is actually an enchanted house where every opening, every corner reveals a scene from everyday life that is going by.
The work is capped by a white, silver and copper ceramic dome which is topped by a stopper, giving it the look of an oriental palace, complete with four surrounding Gothic-looking towers. The walls are decorated with ceramic elements, in a multi-colour mosaic with vegetal and oriental designs.
At first glance, the Balai pour sept danseuses (‘‘broom for seven female dancers’’) could be highly appealing to any witch, with its apparently comfortable saddle, handlebars, and luggage rack. But a second look reveals that it is propelled with the help of pedals. The onlooker is invited to discover small details: the saddle hides a set of dentures, the handlebars dissimulate a doll’s face, and a nativity scene lurks in the tail.
L’Arbre à doudous (‘‘stuffed animal tree’’) is the only textile work created by Monica Machado. Each stuffed animal is an assemblage of elements from different creatures, and is already an original creation; collectively, the whole is a work of art. A multitude of worlds collide here, from Walt Disney to comic book superheroes, to the world of games.
La Bicoque (‘‘the tumbledown house’’) is without a doubt the most sophisticated work on display. ‘‘This house comes straight from an inexhaustible imagination and nowhere else. It is created from scattered pieces, and dreams are the only kind of adhesives used. This Bicoque enlightens and transports us: everything rejoices and is teeming with life’’, explains Gabrielle Laroche. The characters of this work spring from the fantasy world of childhood, and seem to have built the house by themselves. The result is breathtaking. With so much to take in even on the outside, one is not sure which door to use to gain access inside. With intense levels of light, even more treasures can be seen in the ‘‘Bicoque’’.
With La corde à linge (‘‘the clothes line’’), Monica Machado explores the limits of mosaic. The artist has taken each individual object from daily life and made it wholly her own, before taking advantage of the conceptual opportunity of a clothes line to hang rags, pillowcase, socks, and underwear, all laid out for our curious eyes. The artist has used glass to put more emphasis on transparency. A flower is substituted for the left breast, while a baby suckles the right. The pink lace panties are covered with glass mosaic and topped with a floral belt. Inside, two small figurines are taking off their clothes, under the benevolent gaze of St Theresa, giving an erotic undertone to an object already associated with sensuality in our minds.
The work called Mise en cène (a phonetic pun, meaning both ‘‘last supper’’ and ‘‘stage design’’) is a table. It is a mosaic, all in soft and joyful colours, made from of elements that are stuck together. There is a stack of plates that seems to melt, forming a sort of waterfall. The plate at the center of the table transforms into a cabbage from which springs a fountain hidden in its center. This fountain sports a Venus, animals and plant matter. The tablecloth is imbued with a kind of craziness which compels it to spill everything resting on it in waves of undulating gestures that serve to enliven the whole piece. An entire side of this work unfolds, with the astonishing discovery of a pair of newlyweds appearing inside a jug, while, on the other side, we can see the fruits of their love: a baby in its bathtub. The surface of a cup bears a picture of The Last Supper.
The light signals from Feu Rouge (‘‘Red Light’’) are strictly decorative, turning on and off at random, transforming the object into a dynamic work of art. There are worlds to discover in each colour. Red expresses the forbidden, the crossing of which amounts to a defiance of established limits; it also is the colour of warmth and sensuality. When the red light goes on, it illuminates a woman’s upside-down naked form, with a low relief of erotic scenes.
The green light, by contrast, signifies ‘‘go ahead’’ or ‘‘go green’’. When it comes on, we can see a country setting, with cows in green fields, a chicken run, a village, and a castle in the background.
In Provisions (Groceries), everything spills over, falls out and piles up. The cart does have four wheels, but none are in working order, and one of them is even fitted with an absurdly low mudguard that blocks it and makes it totally impossible to move the cart at all. Obviously, this object is only meant to be exhibited. The artist has included an incredible number of details, so there is a lot to observe; symbols and innuendoes abound. There is a lot of play on the function or origin of different products. A double boiler looks like a scene from marine life, and a toilet bowl cleaner squeeze bottle bears an even greater resemblance to a duck than usual. On top of the cart is exploding with details; a carton of milk has become a barn, while a sardine can is a grand piano. Erotic scenes are hidden here and there: a carton of apple juice has all the makings of a cabaret or brothel. The work seeks to awaken the desire of the onlooker, who can satisfy his or her curiosity by looking into an opening in a package of a bar of soap, where a woman with a pig’s head demonstrates a few possible uses for the soap. Monica Machado has fun with imitated or invented slogans inscribed on the objects that fill the shopping cart, such as “Faites l’amour pas la vaisselle” (‘‘make love not (do) the dishes’’) or “Papier toilette inusable” (‘‘everlasting toilet paper’’).
The exhibit at the Garbrielle Laroche Gallery has closed, but you can learn more about Monica Machado by visiting her website – it is great fun. To learn more about Mosaique magazine, click on the link below to a previous MAN covering content and ordering information.
Enjoy – Nancie