Fernanda Carvalho's Visual Sensibility - to take place on March 19, 2016

Reviewed by Fernanda Sofio* on February 2, 2016. (Visit to the studio on January 29, 2016)                                                                                                                                                                   

            I was positively impressed by Fernanda Carvalho's work and by the NARS Foundation (New York Art Residency and Studios). There is an activist quality to both her work and to the Foundation itself. For one thing, the NARS Foundation began as a one-man show—artist Junho Lee, who found it difficult as to find adequate workspace in the expensive city of New York, created the foundation when he was more established in his career to offer art residency as well, as relatively cheap working spaces, for the younger generations. The foundation was established in 2010 and the first residency program took place in 2013.

            It is rather ironic that Fernanda Carvalho ended up where she did, even before she knew the history of NARS, as her own work also expresses resistance against a system. Fernanda Carvalho uses photographic composition and technique, but not very often does she click the camera itself, thus making a stance against the medium of photography, or at least against what it has become—"a means to countless reproductions," she says to me, very similarly to what Walter Benjamin once described. This has clearly been taken to a new level by our society since Benjamin's famous essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," published in 1936. Can we conserve what he called the "aura" of a work, in 2016?

            It seems to me that Fernanda Carvalho has found a creative way to do so. Experimenting with light and perspective, her work is poetically anachronistic and, we shall say, "reproduction-proof". It relies on photographic vision, but it does not make excessive use of the camera; Fernanda avoids capturing and developing photos of her work as much as possible. She uses a few photographs to advertise her work on Instagram and on her tumbler, but she understands that to develop photographs it is to reproduce but a tiny portion of her experience in the art room, as well as to produce another. And, she wonder, how would she choose which images to develop, if all of them form her experience?

            Fernanda's work changes constantly with the light, time of day and with the display of the room, and it should really be seen at the site of her experimentations. This happens more frequently than not in her presence: "My work is a merge of installation and photography," Fernanda explains. At times, there is a performance aspect as well, as Fernanda shows the observer how she produces her images.

            Fernanda describes her work, as minimalistic and experimental. Her atelier is a sort of light laboratory, where objects are moved around and observed, flashed with artificial light and rearranged. We might say that because she "sees" photographs rather than "shooting" them, Fernanda Carvalho ultimately challenges the bi-dimensional essence of the photographic act, as well as the death quality ascribed to it by Barthes. She succeeds in making us stop and wonder: after all, what is a photograph? Do photographs have to be palpable reproductions to exist, or may they just be seen and imagined by the photographer and his audience?

            Before embarking on this projectwhich actually initiated in a residency program in FranceFernanda Carvalho studied with Prof. Carlos Fajardo, whose work also involves space and light experiments. However, at NARS Fernanda has found her way to experiment with the theme of light. Fernanda's are mostly readymades, which she chooses not to modify, other than by decontextualizing them. Most of them are objects she finds at Materials for the Arts, in the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and they once had a very different function. For instance, one of her visual experiments/installations uses an old picture (or mirror?) frame, and she has left on it the pieces that were attached to it when the frame was used to support an actual object. Having been removed from their original function, these detached pieces are now "useless". Leaving them in the frame forces us to question their purpose, and for that matter the purpose of the empty frame (across which Fernanda projects colored lights to the corner of her studio).

            Overall, Fernanda's work is inspiring, playfully empirical, simultaneously imbibed in poetical thought and practical experimentation: as they "go back in time", both the observer and the objects in her experiments are "healed" in her process...


Fernanda Carvalho's Visual Healing is a one-time show. It will take place on March 19 at the NARS Foundation, located at 201 46th street, Brooklyn, NY, 11220


Bibliographical references:

Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida. Reflections on Photography. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Benjamin, Walter. "The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction." In: Illuminations: essays and reflections. Trans. copyright Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. New York: Schocken Books, p. 217-252

Further online resources:

A description of the work of Carlos Fajardo: http://enciclopedia.itaucultural.org.br/en/pessoa9511/carlos-fajardo

Fernanda Carvalho's page on the NARS Foundation website: http://www.narsfoundation.org/fernandacarvalho 

Materials for the Arts webpage:



* Fernanda Sofio is MA in Clinical Psychology (PUC-SP), PhD in Social Psychology (IP-USP/Fapesp). She currently pursues postdoctoral research at the University of São Paulo and Columbia University, with financing from Fapesp. She has written two books, available in Portuguese: Literacura: Psicanálise como forma literária. Fap-Unifesp/Fapesp, 2015. [Literacure: Psychoanalysis as literary form] And Psicanálise na UTI: morte, vida e possíveis da interpretação. Escuta/Fapesp, 2014. [Psychoanalysis in the ICU: death, life and the possibles of interpretation]


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(Reviewed on August, 2015).

In her recent work, the São Paulo based artist Fernanda Carvalho portraits the iconic Copan building. In her photographic series, the artist translates a certain upheaval, an interior conflict that seems masked by the serenity of black and white images. The concrete and steel construction appears to have taken life and started to dance. As if mimicking the female body, almost as the curves proposed by Niemeyer wriggled from pain taking the viewer to times that eco Dada and Futurism. It is possible to connect such production to the photograph of Metropolis (1923), by Paul Citroën, which vertiginous process of collage certainly influenced the homonymous title, the classic Fritz Lang movie from 1927.


Fernanda broadens the idea of collage. The artist overlaps projections and photographs by exposing fragments of the same place. This is an exercise that references light, space and abstraction. Using images of the everyday, images that portray experiences lived by the artist herself; Carvalho explores the possibilities of creating new spaces. The artist transforms light into the subject matter. Her visual compositions, shown in corners and walls, speculate new visual experiences. Giving life to the spaces in between, places that exist only in a blink, the works provide the spectator a glimpse into the void, into the unknown.


Priscilla Nasrallah

(Master degree at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London, England)


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(Reviewed on June, 2014).


Fernanda Carvalho photographie des images fixes

sous un angle abstrait. Le

plupart de temps, le point de

depart de ses photos est la

lumière ou juste une forme,

qu'elle peut ensuit transformer

de nombreuses façons.

Pourquoi abstrait ?  :  pour

laisser au spectateur un espace


Elle souhaite interroger la

banalité du quotidien,

mais aussi l'écart entre

la comprehension et

l'incompréhension et la

perception des choses que l'on

ne voit plus. Avec cette même

intention, elle realise des

collages, des videos et aussi des volumes.


Jean-Yves Coffre, curator and coordinator at CAMAC Centre D'Art, Marnay-Sur-Seine, France