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  • Silent Landscapes:A comparative approach to José Leonilson and Louise Bourgeois
  • Ana Lúcia Beck

So the piece is the product of a challenge. It is so many other things, by the way.

—Louise Bourgeois (170)

Essa luta mostra suficientemente a força da escritura, isto é, as palavras que escrevemos, sem aviso, diria, sugerem ao escritor outra coisa e forçam o scriptor a deslizar sobre outros sentidos e reorientar sua história.

—Philippe Willemart (92)1

Criar não é imaginação, é correr o grande risco de se ter a realidade.

—Clarice Lispector (19)2

One of the most characteristic features of Comparative Literature in terms of methodological practice is that of operating "in between" spaces. Not only does this feature suggest the comparative approach as something that originates through movement, thus making it imperative for the researcher to deal with the notion of mobility, it also characterizes many of the concepts with which it operates. Considering the possibility, as well as the fertility, of practicing this methodology in the analysis and critique of contemporary visual art, we understand that it fits the analysis of any enterprise regarding the in-betweens of visual and verbal texts. This paper employs these fundamental aspects in a comparison of the works of two visual artists whose œuvres operate in in-between spaces between the visual and the verbal as much as between the self and the Other. Comparing the works of José Leonilson (Brazil, 1957-93)3 and Louise Bourgeois (France/USA, 1911-2010) reveals creative and constitutive activity in a space that can best be described via the metaphor of a seaside landscape [End Page 317] in which the line we try to draw to divide salt water from sand never stands. In what manners, however, could the poetic space these artists create be significant for a broader spectrum than literary interests? In our understanding, Leonilson's and Bourgeois's poetics operate through a silent hearing of the Other, whether that be loved ones, stone, or cloth. This conceptual notion, required for creative action, thus establishes a particular notion of balance between them and the Other. It is this precise aspect that also operates the mobility of the notion of love through their œuvres, and through the selection of personal emotional narratives as the thriving force for creation. What could be more needed nowadays, here as elsewhere, than considering, together with Leonilson's and Bourgeois's images, love as the perpetual moving space that at times brings us together, and at times distances the self from the other?

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Ana Lúcia Beck, from the series Desenhando ontem (Drawing Yesterday), 2013, drawing on paper.

Accessed Aug. 2016.

Engaging Comparatively

Comparative Literature has evolved from comparing literatures from different countries and places into a fertile methodology that enables a critic to place productions from distinct fields, such as visual art and literature, in relation with one another, as Carvalhal indicates. Nevertheless, if the notion of comparing by establishing relations between works from different fields is possible, it would also be possible to establish a relation between the critical understanding of literature and the understanding of related aspects in the visual arts. [End Page 318]

On the one hand, a reflection on creation in literature can be associated with that of art as a creative practice. From the shared use of the idea of both art and literary works as constituting a poetics, a comparative analysis of art allows for the mobility of gaze and thought in the in-between space that grounds expressions of all kinds. What I refer to here is something that is at times perceived as distance, other times as proximity: the tension that holds together images and words, that also holds together the critical effort of commenting on and analyzing visual productions such as artworks. If Italo Calvino understood that he needed to operate on visual images in order to create literary pieces, his Six Memos for the Next Millennium does indeed develop from the tension between images and literary forms. Such literary operation in images does not, however, as Calvino himself acknowledges...


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pp. 317-335
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