Transcending the limits of the picture

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Pink Canvas for Wearing (1969) is the first photograph in Helena Almeida’s (b. in Lisbon 1934) career, after working for more than a decade as a painter since graduating from the Faculty of Fine Arts of Lisbon in 1955.

Through this playful work, Almeida seems to discover the possibility of functioning as a painting through the medium of photography. Almeida’s wearable canvases enable a literal embodiment of the painting and the transformation of the artist’s own body into the support and its medium.

A concern with drawing also informs much of Almeida’s work, and she treats the surfaces of drawings or photographs as portals for crossing from the domain of representation into the realm of physical space.

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In her series of drawings Inhabited Drawing (1975–77), she makes a line materialize (actually a piece of horsehair) and physically snake its way through the space of the image. As the artist described the process in 2006: “I passed to photography through drawing. The drawings with strings [the collages with horsehair] made me use photography. I wanted to grab the string with my own fingers to demonstrate that the line in the paper had become solid.”

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