Graça Pereira Coutinho was nominated by Cristina Ataíde to join ProjectoMap. After a course in Sculpture at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Lisbon, in 1971 Graça Pereira Coutinho won a scholarship to study at the Saint Martin School of Arts. Here she finds a studio, located near the English artists, in the same area called Berry Street, where the Portuguese artist Paula Rego had a studio.

ProjectoMap team went to the studio of Graça Pereira Coutinho, located in a historical Manueline architecture from the XVI century, to know a little bit more about her life and artistic experiences, between Portugal and worldwide. In an old horse stable, the artist finds inside the farm her studio, filled with objects and installations.


Where did you studied?

I studied at the School of Fine Arts in Lisbon, and then I went to London with 21 years old, where I did a Post-graduation course of three years at Saint Martin School of Arts. London at that time was the newest scene in contemporary art. The Government had a system where after we graduated we could get a studio in an old warehouse. I had various studios in London, one of them was at Berry Street where it was also working Portuguese artist Paula Rego.

We could say Portugal is just a working platform, because truly you only work in the international market?

I mean, right now I work here. Because Todd Gallery was my gallery. So, I've worked with Módulo, Graça Fonseca Gallery, Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art, and then as an independent artist. It has been fantastic for me as an artist and has a person. I built my studio here and then started to work, so my husband and I thought we could live here. As a kid I only came here on vacations. 

We started to talk about traveling. Has India influenced you work? When did you first go to India?

Of course, years ago I was unable to work with colours. It was all white, grey, and beige. I started to go to India in the year 86. A place I also love is America, the Canyon, the deserts and petrified flowers. I had been thinking to go there living with Manel. The side I love more is Los Angeles, the Death Valley. 

When you work with installations and sculpture, what are the things that concern you the most? Matter?

The passage of time. We could say the subject “death” is in fact a thing that has always concerned me until a certain point. Thinking about death, and not the fact of being afraid to die, but thinking about the meaning persons can attribute to dust, ashes. We all came from ashes, and we someday will go back there, so what is concerning me is the fragile aspect of humankind. 

That’s why these works are very fragile. There is always a gesture, which implies the body.

Exactly, because I don't paint. Matter, bodily dimension, but also our connection. I remember very well my concern when I went to London, was to understand what it was about things. We acknowledge that there exists something we don't have direct access to, but we can get there. It is in the end, something we are blocking. 

Why do we assist this big step from sculpture to installation art? You do installation for specific places?

We can say installation art is the princess of contemporary art world. Installation art is made in relation with the space and an idea.

You have made installations, video, and sculpture, but drawing is something you have done since the beginning?

It is an easy medium, until a certain point, because it has a small scale. I believe that when you enter into a creative state, there is a tunnel receiving the ideas. Poets and musicians talks a lot about that, isn't it?

Why do you use various plans? Why is the paper mounted in layers and why do you use so many of them?

They are layers, of course. The collection of papers is almost like our skin, which I'm incorporating.

So the body is the central element. The body receives and gives and giving is the creative act?

One thing I have learned years ago is not to critique my work. My job is receiving and making, and the making is where being artist is a wonderful thing. When a work is finished, it has its own path, and by that time we have already cut the umbilical cord.

Does it upset you when a work leaves the studio?


More information about the artist here. 

Photography credits: Joana Portela
Interview and image rights: Cultural Association Collective Curators

  • Date: 14-12-2016
  • Local: Camarate, Lisboa