Tunga: From “La Voie Humide”, Pilar Corrias London

The enigmatic, almost totemic, structures currently on view at Pilar Corrias in London, are the new body of work by Brazilian artist Tunga. Entitled From “La Voie Humide” (translated The Humid Way), this is his second solo show at the gallery. Encompassing six mixed media sculptures and six works on paper and linen, the exhibition spans across the ground floor and lower ground floor areas.

Tunga utilises an array of materials including ceramics, glass, pearls, crystals, leather and gypsum intertwined with iron, bronze and rubber. His creations are not conventional sculptures but convoluted systems of objects, assembled to depict notions of human nature and existence. Solid iron tripods support like spines an array of curious devices evoking body parts and their function. The mysterious presence of human-like forms such as ears, lips, fingers and genitals is affixed with the multifaceted hypostasis of the body, incorporating physical and sensual interaction.

Tunga’s almost abstract biomorphism is reminiscent of the Kandiskian and Mirónian aesthetics whereas his compositional elements recall the surreal iconography of Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dalí and Yves Tanguy. In a domain of non-geographical coordinates, perplexing and unorthodox creatures in many shapes and sizes synthesise a concealed network of a perpetual life cycle.

The alchemy of the body is one of Tunga’s main areas of interest. Earthly elements such as minerals and terracotta appear as substitutes of bodily components. Human organs emerge as allegorical cornucopias overflowing with the riches of the earth and are parallelised with the fluids of the human body. For him, the human organism is a miniature version of the natural world; it represents the clockwork operation of nature.

While Tunga’s works render the quintessential systemic construction of living organisms, he concurrently conceals a state of deconstruction that permeates every single aspect of life. His research places emphasis on the Lacanian psychoanalytic theories. Investigating Lacan’s mirror stage in particular, who initially suggested that infants initially begin recognising themselves when looking in a mirror from the age of six months, Tunga focuses on that particular period of time preceding Lacan’s mirror stage. This occurs when the human figure is identified and decoded not by visual reaction but via inherent impulses and instinctual desire. The omnipresent sexual constituent in the artist’s work manifests the process of transformation through physical stimuli and energy reciprocity.

His group of drawings on handmade Himalayan paper and on suspended linen, incorporates one continuous line that forms one or more nude bodies. This is a study of human physiology and anatomy not in a medical modus operandi but conceived through a vivid idealism and romanticism. Analogously to the visual language and elegance of Hans Bellmer, Tunga’s figures are imbued with feelings and emotions. Mapping human bodies and engaging a single continuous line evinces a musical and rhythmic situation. Placing drawings and sculptures together, activates a palpable and intense dialogue between the two.

Tunga is a visionary whose survey involves not just a corpus of static works but also explores the definition of an underlying motion as well as the performative factor of his narrative. Having developed a deep interest in the energy flow and its interchange, he often demonstrates the relationship between live human bodies and his sculptures through performative enactment. For him, activating the body through esoteric processing is a journey in its own right. It is a journey of poetic expression and uncontainable energy embracing only one protagonist, the frail human body and its pathos.

Tunga: From “La Voie Humide”, Pilar Corrias, 54 Eastcastle Street, London, W1W 8EF.

Kostas Prapoglou

1. Performance still: Tunga, Untitled, 2014, Performed during Private View at Pilar Corrias, London, November 2014. Photo: Mark Blower.