Speaking in Tongues, 2018

JULIANA LAPA

Carpina, PE, 1985

Juliana's works are brought from memory based on a relationship with elements of nature and fascination with human emotions. In an intuitive and archaeological process of the images and materialities produced, she reveals its own symbolism that evokes strength, spirituality and insistence. She creates drawings, paintings and notebooks that are relic objects, helping in her daily practice and investigation. Represented by Amparo 60 Gallery in Recife.

interview by Igor Furtado, published on 25/03/2021

Juliana Lapa
Juliana Lapa

Present Body and Crazy with Razor in Hand, 2018

Can you tell us a little about your childhood and how your connection with the fantastic came about?

My childhood was in Carpina, in the interior of Pernambuco. I lived in a huge house, built by my parents over the years in an Atlantic forest island in the middle of the cane fields. There, I heard many stories of Comadre Fulozinha, demons, spirits and entities from the forest, detailed reports of meetings and visions. I loved it and it was a mixture of fear and fascination. Sometimes my mother would go into the woods with me, say a prayer and leave some candies for Comadre and we could hear whistles. I lived unforgettable moments, always in contact with many animals, because my mother loved to create all sorts of species, all of them mixed and loose. I remember that from an early age I was interested in the occult, still remember writing my dreams in a diary with a key, in an environment of complete silence. Dreams have always been an indication of this world that is gradually revealed. I was never a good student, was the last in my class to learn how to write my name. But at home, my father provided all the books he could, feeding me with philosophy and literature. I had a fantastic, playful childhood and I'm always in touch with those moments.

Was it at that time that interest in drawing began?

I started my interest in drawing very small, like any child I guess. I remember that when there was cane burning, soot fell from the sky, small traces of carbon that we always collected in the air and used to create shapes on the walls outside the house. That for me is the strongest memory of drawing I have. I never felt so free, until today. Other thing that also sparked my creativity in my childhood were, as I said, some of the books my father provided, of tales and fables such as Aesop and La Fontaine. I created stories with drawings, short narratives and it was how I spent most of my time in a house in the middle of the woods.

Death's Party, 2019

You studied law and worked as a producer in films. In what ways those moments and interests still influence you?

I'm from a place where working with art is a distant thing. I had no contact with other people who liked what I liked. I felt isolated and that ended up encouraging me to other paths. I attended law school because of family pressure, but never finished the course. I'm very curious and started working with film when I dated a director from Recife. I spent a few years as an executive producer, developed several jobs and learned a lot. Now, I'm developing a script together with a friend, Valentina Homem, and knowing the path of the stones makes everything go more smoothly. This whole period gave me that freedom. Today I feel that everything I learned and lived was very good. Of course that if I had support earlier, I would have taken the course I wanted and would have another story to tell. But I like my trajectory, even full of fears, impositions and desertions from all sides. With the proper proportions, I ended up emulating who I was little, a person who draws, writes dreams and likes the occult.

How does the creation process work in your daily life?

I go on drawing and living. I don't have a method or routine, as I did once. Today I have been observing flows more as if observing a movement of nature. I realized that before I start a big drawing (which means diving into a long and exhausting process), I spend at least a few days completely inert. I can't write, talk, watch a movie, I get stumped. Recently, a few years ago, I started to meditate more often and this hiatus period became less painful. I realize how cyclical the drawings and creations are, because there are moments when I'm doing everything at the same time: painting, drawing, writing, making all sorts of projects. With regard to images, sometimes a ready-made one appears, but I can never bring it into execution. I understood, also by observing my process, that my works are time, moment, circumstance. I cannot plan, sometimes I feel that I am a mere tool of impulse, an expectant. That's why I keep writing down all thoughts and feelings that emerge in the processes.

Juliana Lapa
Juliana Lapa

Invitation and Soul's Stream, 2019

What about the visual and material research process?

My references come from a text, a walk in the forest or an image that I saw years ago, that remains somewhere within me. But I don't remember them, they are not in a folder on the computer. I never believed that everything I draw is entirely mine. One day, I opened an old book at my father's house and found a familiar image, it was Bruegel's The Fall of The Rebel Angels and that explained so many of my movements in producing images and drawing desires. That was when I started to better understand how reference and inspiration work for me. I have a technical exhaustive research with the materials, to discover new possibilities. Graphite, for example, is recurrent in my works because it prints emotion. I discovered through experimentation, a very special depth and shine.

What motivates you to keep the imagination of forests and myths alive?

The first forest that I had contact with was devastated by the monoculture of sugarcane, a green desert. The second was the Amazon, when I worked on cinema projects in indigenous villages. That was when I started to feel hope, living in harmony and respect with nature. But today, with this genocidal, annihilating government, we see how fragile the forests are to the political and financial interests of agribusiness. I'll never stop drawing Comadre Fulozinha. She is the guardian cabocla, who punishes those who enter without asking permission, hunt animals for malice and cut down trees. It is part of an imaginary that we need to maintain alive. There are symbols and forces that are present and as everything has its answers. Helena Blavatsky said that if we lost all knowledge that humanity has already acquired, it was enough to enter the forest and observe nature to learn everything again. For me, it is an enigma alien to our illusions, the greatest temple on earth. There is no one who is sensitive, who goes into a deep forest and leaves unscathed, even those who are used to it. It is an organism in constant change, non-linear, unpredictable, hiding in itself. And what intrigues me most is that the greatest mystery of life and spirits is manifested there: the subtle communication between species, between the visible and invisible kingdoms. I know that since the first time I entered, I never came back. Perhaps my shell is roaming around, and from the depths of the forest, my soul is blowing orders for this body to execute.

Juliana Lapa

We are so Small, 2015 and Anguish is a Flower, 2019

Do you feel commercial pressures and expectations regarding your work?

I do not comply with market demands, nor do I feel pressure in this regard. I understood that I am doing my job and each one follow its path. What I can do is sign up for, salons, residences, exchange ideas with others. Since I started to relate professionally with my productions, I have been opening ways for them to circulate, all on my own initiative. So it was my first exhibition and so it will be the next, in 2022, in my hometown. I will also be launching a book soon. Amid these actions, other things were happening, group exhibitions, sales and representation in a gallery in Recife. I reconcile in a simple way, because for me there is nothing more important than my practice and the time of this practice. It is not easy because it is my livelihood. I have already suffered a lot, but lately I have been able to live and work with a calmer heart.

What project do you dream of being able to do someday?

There are many projects that I want to carry out, including films. There are also many ideas that I am waiting for the most appropriate moment, without a pandemic, to put into practice. Develop performances and other areas that I am still groping for now. I can't say much about it because I know that when I do it will have changed a lot already.