Dive into the Blue           

The Earth is blue, as the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin stated in 1961. But long before this, the ancient Hindu religion represented the essential forces of nature here on Earth in the ambiguous blue goddess Kali. A photo of this sacred entity taken in India by Vilma Slomp is the key to viewing the entire extensive exhibit of this artist’s photography at Casa Andrade Muricy. Kali represents a vital triad: creation, the preservation of life, and the end of life. Something that the indigenous pre-Colombian Andean cultures call Mother Earth, or Pachamama, a legend that also symbolizes time that heals pain, governs the seasons, and makes the land fertile.


"Every day I think about death as a way of valuing life and the moment in which I live," says Vilma. Critical cycles of being in the world are the theme of this set of images selected from the prolific photographer's last five years of production. A look that pursues the traces of light in objects, the memory of existences attached to objects, and the subtleties of intuiting how the essential can exist in the most trivial things.


A photograph that exemplifies this mode of bringing together images is the shot of a pile of trunks and boxes: all without locks, but showing signs that they have been locked in the past. Something like observing, in maturity, that our memories only have meaning if they are shared. Something like listening to a blues song that grabs your heart and squeezes, and yet you still think it was all worth it. A frequent traveler in service to her craft and her curiosity about different horizons for her lenses, Vilma Slomp does not compromise on the impeccable quality of technique she uses to capture light. I have had the opportunity in earlier texts (1) to demonstrate the aesthetic similarity between these works and 15th and 16th century Dutch paintings which results from the delicacy of the color nuances that she is able to extract from indoor environments, as well as the classic pictorial themes such as the portrait and still life. At that same time, I also alluded to the velvety tones of her beautiful black and white photos, which possess a visual voltage similar to the mezzotint technique used in metal engraving. All of this receives new resonances and additions in the works which are now displayed.


Although most of these photographs were taken in open spaces, far from the studio where the intensity of desired lighting can be controlled precisely, the artist manages to establish an equally subtle atmosphere by weaving together countless whites, greys, and blacks. "Chance is my ally", she says. We know, however, that chance is only glimpsed by those stalk it, when it appears in the right place at the right time. That is how, in Havana, Vilma discovered a pair of weather-worn chairs that sit face to face, ever and always continuing their dialog. Or the Indian boy, abandoned in the trusted embrace of complete exhaustion, lying on the great emptiness of the task he has accomplished. Or the exact moment that a boy dives, creating a tunnel on the surface of the water. Blue water, the symbol of life. Life that continues, and can be as enjoyable and refreshing as a summer swim.

Blue is also the pigment that Hindus scatter in a colored circle around the base of a tree, another sign of life. Vilma Slomp, after a career spanning several decades, still imbues her work with essence, and still causes us to reflect on the grain of eternity inhabiting the transient moment. This dive into her trunks of photos has brought us a refreshing and vital vision.

(1) Holanda em Curitiba/1993 and Olhar Interior/1998, from the book Dor

Angélica de Moraes / 2012