Welcome to PIPA 2022 Awarded Artists Takeover! Until October 29th, the artists “open the doors of their studios” to the virtual audience of PIPA Prize, with videos, photos, and texts exclusively prepared for the takeover. Each week, one artist presents their work. From October 10th to 15th, Josi talks about her trajectory in the artistic world, what she has produced, in addition to presenting recent works.
In this 13th edition, PIPA Prize continues a format iniciated last year. It is aimed to gather artists who had their first exhibition no more than fifteen years ago. The focus of PIPA 2022 is to encourage artists at the beginning of their careers who develop a differentiated production. The material below is available in a reduced version also on the Prize’s social networks. Keep an eye out and follow us on the Instagram, Twitter and Facebook platforms.
And remember that the Awarded Artists are also ehibiting works at Paço Imperial, in Rio de Janeiro. The exhibition is open until October 29th. It will be a pleasure to receive you there!
Itamarandiba, Brazil, 1983
Lives and works in Belo Horizonte, Brazil
PIPA Prize 2022 nominee
‘I had my childhood in Carbonita-MG, in Vale do Jequitinhonha. Among other things, from there I carry pequi dust, twisted weeds and pitch dark dripped with prayers. My family left for Caeté, in the metropolitan region of Belo Horizonte, and, from the daily commute to work, I traced drawings. I graduated in Languages from UFMG, became a teacher and said so many times that occupying any stage was the right of any and all people that I ended up listening to. I then graduated in Fine Arts at the Guignard School-UEMG and I am raising a boil of joining myself whole, from a braiding of knowledge heard, witnessed and inscribed in the musculature of my hands: various crafts, painting, laundry, spinning, writing, drawing, cooking, ceramics… With these trainings I am unraveling and weaving the recipes of occupying times and spaces in the moving of my subjectivities’, says Josi about her art trajectory.
Video produced by Do Rio Filmes exclusively for PIPA 2022:
On the second day of the Takeover, Josi selected the series “Decantações, fervuras e temperamentos”, developed between 2021 and 2022. In this series, Josi uses black bean water to paint on paper, bringing an original technique to her work.
With the resources she appropriates, Josi reminds us of the reality in which many families live in Vale do Jequitinhonha, in Brazil, where she was born. In small towns and poor social classes, it is common to prepare girls for domestic work, seeing it as one of the main possibilities for livelihood and the future.
Josi learned to clean, cook, iron, and sew, and brought the teachings of craftsmanship to her paintings.
See the full series below:
Read the conversation between Luiz Camillo Osorio and Josi:
1 – Josi, I’ve noticed that you combine your academic training, first in languages (Federal University of Minas Gerais), then in art (Escola Guignard), with your personal and family experiences of growing up in Jequitinhonha Valley, a region from which you say you carry inside you the dust of pequi, twisted bush and darkness dotted with prayers. Tell me a bit about this formative process.
I’ve been thinking, my germination in Carbonita, in Jequitinhonha Valley, inhabits me in the ways I embed myself and move through the world. Like my need to have my feet on the ground, the affective touch of materials, the eternal prayers, festas and blessings interwoven in the complexity of poverty and cultural wealth. It’s a background that spreads orally, through gestures and habits, through narrated memories. In Memórias da Plantação (“Memories of the Plantation”), Grada Kilomba problematizes the way the margin is activated as a place of creativity, an almost romanticization of oppression; but then she cites bBell hHooks, who speaks of the margin as multiple places: oppression and resistance. So when I speak of the dust of pequi, twisted bush and darkness dotted with prayers, I’m talking about this combination of turning the yellow pequi round and round in your mouth, living with the thorns, the tortuous nature of the cerrado, which finds its own way of reaching equilibrium, about the faith that lights a candle in the pitch black of power cuts. My grandmother Maria Thereza de Jesus never learned to read or write. My mother, Alice Concessa Pereira, and my father, João de Souza Pereira, had five years of schooling. Josiley Francisco de Souza was the first one to clear a new path and go to university, and this was what prompted the family to migrate, kindled by the desire to be able to study. I and my sisters, Josilene Aparecida de Souza and Josimeire Lourdes de Souza, also came to think of possibilities other than the ones that had been shaped before. Because even though at home we were told how important school was, what we girls witnessed in our everyday lives was training in how to serve, whether as a domestic worker or, in the best-case scenario, at least for me, some paid craftwork or sewing jobs. The academic experience I had later, at the Faculty of Letters, ended up also being permeated by oppression and resistance, because sometimes I was called out for being void of baggage or culture, and other times I could glimpse strength and courage in the “lived-writings” burgeoning there. Before I went to Escola Guignard [the art school of the State University of Minas Gerais], what also nourished me on this journey of mine was the courage I forged and learned in my everyday work in school libraries and as a state schoolteacher in Belo Horizonte, until I felt the need to go to Escola Guignard so I could tie up an end that was still loose in me. My second academic journey was when the visualities that had been sun-bleaching inside of me came out; which took place, I should stress, in a context of great neglect by the state towards the university.
2 – Another very important aspect of your work is the combination of different crafts: painting, drawing, writing, pottery, laundering, cooking, sewing. Normally, the manual act is determinant. Which imbues the work with temporality, duration, and a connection with folk traditions from Minas Gerais and Brazil. Were these crafts fate or choice?
A bit of both. There’s a kind of propagation linked to a lineage of knowledge and training that comes in the moulding of postures and places to be occupied. But there’s also respect, desire and appreciation for knowledge that’s often disparaged in the hierarchy of values which are shared, for example, in the hegemonic version of art history. So all this is inscribed in my muscles along with subalternities I want to rid myself of and also cultivate with the utmost respect. Even knowledge from the field of drawing, for example, I absorb through the intelligence of a hand trained in craftwork, an artisan hand that knows the byways of training, whether they’re considered traditional, folk or academic. I understand that that’s the main reason why I insisted on a format of response when they didn’t pass me in the practical exam to study Fine Arts, which was my first choice when I decided to go to university. That was why I ended up studying languages, as a second option. But even so, I had a feeling that those skills weren’t innate, so I taught myself about them, often while I was on the bus, when I was living in Caeté, on the outskirts of Belo Horizonte, and working and studying in the city. Throughout this time I kept sketchbooks to investigate this strand that leads from knowledge about representation, so I set about sketching people in everyday settings, even as I jolted along on my way to and from the city on the 5504 bus. I think there are lots of ways we can elaborate our questions, and what I’m interested in is thinking what I can do with these different strands interwoven in me, collected in different contexts, with their own temperaments, and manage in my own way these different ways of being that I’m made of.
3 – It’s curious how you prepare your paints using natural processes, especially the one made from the liquid from cooked beans. You talk about different cooking times, implying different temperaments for a drawing. In my mind this temperament also has to do with the kind of support for your drawing – on paper it’s more clearly delineated, on cloth it’s more smudged. That changes the temperament a lot. Could you talk about these processes?
Yes. This research into natural pigments really took off in the company of my teacher Thereza Portes, in virtual lessons at Escola Guignard. In these experiments, I noticed a blue in the liquid that seeps out around the weight on the lid of the pressure cooker when you’re cooking beans. I do see a lot of layers of temperaments in the preparation of these paints. There are the seasonings themselves, like rock salt, vinegar, garlic, which work like alchemy as fixatives and preservatives, not to mention the symbology their presence brings. In the case of beans, these seasonings, combined with different cooking times, also lend different nuances and durations of colour, ranging through greens, purples, blues, browns… And as you mentioned, there’s the way these pigments mingle with the different supports. Sometimes the liquid is really more delineated, sometimes it spreads along the different fibres in the warps and wefts and in conversation with different pHs. My palette has also included turmeric, achiote and dirt, which I’ve been collecting from different beaten grounds, and each of these has its own specific mode of preparation. For achiote and turmeric, for example, Thereza taught me the recipe of keeping them in darkness in a sealed pot for a few days together with grain alcohol, and in this darkened hibernation the colour comes together. I’m also interested in the temperament you get from the different positions these encounters come about in, because sun-bleaching/painting/drawing on the ground, on a frame, on a table or on a wall also results in different types of seeping and percolating.
4 –Another series I’d like to hear you about is “Quara-dores” (“pain-bleacher”). Sun-bleaching is a traditional process of leaving clothes in the sun to make them lighter, which you’ve turned into a process for allowing images to appear. How much in this process is controlled and how much is the work of chance, the designs of time?
I recognised the verb quarar (to sun-bleach) in relation to some natural dyes, especially the ones that come from fruits, seeds and roots. That’s because they carry the movement of a living thing, which became clear to me as soon as I began to make use of these first liquids on paper. Because you have to wait between one layer and the next – not just for them to dry, but for the colour drawing to appear, which depends on light and time, allowing forms to come forth and percolate in this confluence of durations. This reverse of bleaching, which doesn’t aim for the blanching you want for laundry, also interests me as an exercise in reversing the whitening of our beings. So the sun-bleaching works are made from this combination of an intentional brushstroke that draws on our lived memory and the way the liquids react, but always with an eye open for surprises, which you then bring into the conversation. This reverse-bleaching involves procedures that also help you think about what a palette of colours can include: a material that stains can become desirable for this very quality. I braid different crafts together in this process for the images to appear, displacing washing and starching to bring out figuration, like scrubbing, collecting the creases with a brush, starching, ironing… The quara-dores from this series you mentioned are generally artisanal clothes horses set up in back yards, which are used for sun-bleaching as part of the hand-washing process. I realised their potential when I was looking for a specific place to sun-bleach the works on cloth, when I began to think of some of them also in terms of how they would work together with the cloths, bringing times and spaces to these customs.
5 – Tell me a bit about your pottery work, which has more to do with the tradition from Jequitinhonha Valley. How do you deal with this past without it becoming too literal? There’s a work in progress from 2022 which I saw in your portfolio that combines pottery with crochet and writing. Is it about giving this folk tradition a modern twist? How much is the writing to be read or to be seen, by which I mean, is the writing text or drawing?
Clay is a material that’s formed over many years in a process of pulverising and settling. It doesn’t happen overnight in nature, and it has this ingrained memory. Perhaps that’s why contact with it is so special. You get a feeling of recognition, a maceration of dirt and roots. I’m fertilized by desires for images made of clay, but I didn’t learn how to make pottery in the valley; I began to work with it in online pottery lessons with Márcia Seo at Escola Guignard. References like Dona Noemisa, Dona Isabel, Lira Marques, Ulysses Mendes and Ulisses Chaves are all potent waters this study grew from, and the idea of modernising a tradition doesn’t interest me in the sense of changing something that’s outdated, because it isn’t. I like to cultivate myself in the way my teacher Leda Martins says, the idea of walking along paths trodden by our ancestors. She says that that way we can absorb and be nourished by their tones and footsteps, which comes from a spiralled idea of non-linear and evolving time with a dynamic return. Speaking of writing, in this work you mentioned from my portfolio, this is one of the strands I introduced into my work last year, a meeting of strands, meshes and knowledge. When you make pottery by hand, you build it up using rolls of clay, which you fashion into different shapes and sizes. So I brought together three types of strands and meshes that inhabit me: the strand of cotton, the strand of clay and the strand of writing. And those three resulted in three meshes dyed in their mutual choreography, and since writing has this air of deciphering, it can be touched by this gesture, but in the warp and weft of the conversation with the other strands everything gets mixed up and new vistas emerge. These interweaving strands also have a dimension of exchange that can be activated with other people. They took shape in Letícia Grandinetti’s classes at Escola Guignard; they were receptive to learning and exchanges with other hands in a residence with the group TeAto do Amanhã, in Belo Horizonte, and are carrying on here in this conversation, threading in an out.
6 – How is it for you to work with this manual, traditional work with its expanded time in an era that’s so fast-paced and high-tech? Do you feel noncontemporary?
No, I don’t see myself in this time, at all. but I’ve been turning my face against the direction of the worship of linearity and evolution overloaded with future. The signs of destruction from the fastce pace of production are everywhere to be seen, like the global pandemic crisis we’re all survivors of. So a lot of my procedures and research are where this time bubbles up, like cultivating the quest for more sustainable processes for working with materialities, for example, or fermenting the thinking that brews in our interactions and in listening, in returns and reversals, in respect for roots, in working together, on a low heat, letting it dry out and harden… This doesn’t mean rejecting technology, but valuing different kinds of elaborations and relationships. This conversation here with you has pixels for its warp and weft, and could be woven into the conversation together with the clay, the cotton, the writing, for example, provided there are no hierarchies. I’m still inspired by that experience of learning how to slowly turn a pequi round and round in my mouth without ever making a death-bite, which could break the spikes, and also all the flavour it brings.
On the fourth day of the Takeover, Josi shares with PIPA’s virtual audience an exclusive video, recorded especially for the weekly action. In the video, the artist shows how the process of creating her works takes place, by filming the cooking of pieces of wood that are transformed into the paint for her draws, in addition to braiding and clay techniques. Josi also tells a little about the exhibitions she participated in this year.
In addition to the series of fabric paintings presented above, Josi also uses other supports to carry out her works. Some of them are the sieve, in the series called “What doesn’t pass”; the quaradors; in addition to clay and ceramics, which Josi uses to make sculptures. With these elements, the artist reveres wisdom passed down from generation to generation in her family and also resignifies the function of domestic objects, in an act of creative empowerment.
See some of these series below:
Read the critical texts by Clarissa Diniz about Josi’s work:
A SMALL LEXICON TO JOSI
by Clarissa Diniz
ACTION | The words seeded by Josi in the world are marked by action. It is even unnecessary to notice them: they pronounce themselves in a constellation of acts that point to a continuous action – the act of washing, the act of making, the act of slaying, the act of starching and ironing, the act of cleaning.
Before being a linguistic resource, Josi’s action has existed since a childhood, one filledpregnant with activities directed to a body, a gender, and a raciality “trained,” as the artist herself tells us, to “learn how to serve.”
Just like in other parts of Brazil, for families from poor regions such as Vale do Jequitinhonha, in whose capital, Carbonita, Josi was born and raised, training girls for domestic labor is still one of the main wayspossibilities to make a living and, therefore, to assure some kind of future.
This is what happened to Josi, whose plays, moves, and responsibilities led her to learn how to clean, cook, starch and iron, and sew in an endless action which, years later, already as an artist, she will name through sound and accurate action.
Her work will therefore constitute another layer of action, honoring the movement that also inhabitsconstitutes the creation.
MUSCULARITY | The domestic training that marked Josi’s life strengthened a specific kind of body. With skillful hands, short, accurate and silent movements, and sharp eyes which notice even what is barely visible, the corporeity developed by the artist produced a sort of presence capable of camouflaging, wriggling through the spaces trying not to “disturb them”.
Coined in social, racial, and gender invisibility, the body of the black woman whose future project seemed inexorable servitude enhanced a “musculature” that Josi identified and, in its turn, politically inflected towards artistic practice.
For years the precision of her hands – disciplined to needlework and sharp knife – faced the jotted tremor of hours spent on the bus to discreetly draw on it, like those who enter an unknown house for a day’s cleaning.
In the slender space of a bus seat, with aher notebook on her lap, the musculature of the artist’s hands meets with her eyes’, witnessing ordinary scenes lived on square benches, at bus stops, at traffic lights, on supermarket cashiers, on the seat in front of her, at the school entrance, on the windows, on the corners.
On countless notebooks, her disciplined corporeity produced an inventory of these fleeting scenes that, if it were not for her unique musculature, perhaps would have escaped her.
This repertoire of images will be, in its turn, redrawn on painting to which, over the last two years, Josi has dedicated her action.
DIRT | Caring and cleaning are some of the biggest duties patriarchally placed on women, made responsible – with no recognition or compensation – for the preservation of life on both public and private levels.
In this context, the invisible work of cleaning, which holds the singularity of leaving no traces, sinceonce it consists of erasing the signs of its own making, remains as a token of the millenary oppression over the female bodies, trained to counteract dirt as if it were subject to full elimination.
As a black woman whose story overlays not only patriarchal but also racial oppression, Josi knows, however, that “dirt is matter out of place”.
In her work, the artist produces places for the presence, impregnation, and beauty of this matter which, in the action of her domestic training, she was taught to annihilate.
BLACK BLUE | In the muscular routine of the kitchen, Josi noticed a blue that comes from black. Taken away from the cooking protocol’s place and time, the black of the beans becomes indigo.
Other blues, in turn, become gray. Some greens transmute into browns, other reds follow the same path.
The muscular eye observes a small stain on the dishcloth used to open the pressure pan lid, from which valve emerges the color that, renouncing to eradicate iteradication, Josi will dare try as a dye.
In another moment, it is the blot itself, for years accumulated at the hem of a dress, that she uses as a palette.
Between the acts of washing and cooking, a chromatic project is created, whose paradigm is not to produce color, but to wait for it to happen through generalized action.
WAITING | Waiting is also a part of Josi’s action. Between the cooking time and the life times, the artist has learned to wait in many ways.
She waited, for example, to authorize herself to “become an artist”, since she failed her first university entrance exam to the Arts Program due to alleged technical unskilfulness.
Meanwhile, sitting on the bus, she spent years drawing and developing her graphic musculature.
It was also while she waited for the pandemic time to find its way and create a social sense that Josi found time to enter her usual action using another door.
As an undergraduate student at the Guignard School of Plastic Arts, in Belo Horizonte, under the guidance of professor Thereza Portes, she transformed her actionCONFERIR into a lab; her kitchen into a studio; her cleaning into a method.
REVERSE BLEACHING| Not without racial implications, white has been socially stipulated as the cleanness paradigm. Whitening – a verb containing the ambivalent memory of the whitening that is, at the same time, color, and racial violence – has therefore been an old acquaintance of the cleaning action.
Out of the many methods of whitening washing, bleaching stands out as an ancestral wisdom which, joining time and light, is capable of brightening what, because it is not white enough, seems unsatisfactorily clean.
Methodologically aware of all the action, Josi politically and racially reverses the bleaching whitening technology, experimenting with her temporal and physical device – the bleachground – not as a whitening place, but as a way of producing a space-time for dirt, for stains, for the blot that creates color and drawing.
In the middle of the action, the bleachground becomes an easel capable of intersecting aesthetics, raciality, and gender.
DECANT| In the bleachground and other surfaces, waiting for the color demands decanting. It may also require drainage, drying, condensation, and evaporation.
While waiting for the long cooking of the color, Josi realized that itshe, too, the color which is matter – which is water, dye, stain –, draws. With time, she began awaiting not only the birth of the color but also of the lines and shapes that come from its own action.
With a resiliently prepared musculature for the length of time, Josi began waiting for the color and drawing times to retro-produce themselves.
In the meantime, she learned the creative capability of light (just like the heat of starching and ironing) and its double, the pitch, summoned in different moments to make molecules react to turn themselves into paintmake themselves dye.
WATER | The action of cleaning the house, the clothes, or the body is raw material to water poetics, which draws the very Kalunga line to the sea: an ancestral and ongoing watering that brings and takes people, memories, and secrets.
This is how, in the hued cooking and cleaning water that creates drawings and shapes, Josi’s recent painting imagery comes to sight, inhabited by black women who are always in action, similar to those who teach and learn amongst the eldest and those who start from now on.
Drawn again by the action of time and other actions, the drawings captured by the artist through bus windows and jots are reconstituted in the very materiality and corporeity they portray. Josi’s work holds then the singularity of depicting the actions of black women’s lives through itselfherself.
Far from and opposite to the Eurocentric tradition of conceptual reiteration, it is about the very intentionality and subjectivity of the matter, whose black bean’s blue water makes the dye and the drawing of the woman who cooks beside her youngest childbesides her younger self.
Made into one, image, gesture, matter, device, and subject become inseparable, like the water that impregnates everything because it vivifies everything.
MYSTERY | Josi knows the importance of “trusting the mystery.”
Her recent work is an extreme bet on the ancestral and mysterious wisdom, those that at timestime and again protect themselves through brooms, soaps, and irons.
Her dying and shaping trust in the agency of all materiality summoned by her and in the knowledge of gestures taught to her. Being trained to serve, Josi is aware that, through the domestic action to which she was destined, she learned respectful ways of touching the body of the matter, perceiving the time, respecting the wait.
In the Shamanism typical ofproper to those who trust in the mystery of materiality, Josi has learned to intend together with them. After so much dust gatheredgathered dust, she understood its type of presence and started seeing the images kept within the very dust, which are delivered delivering it to those who allow themselves to be touched by it. Dusty, she has learned that earth intends to become dust to keep inhabiting and transforming places.
Strengthened by the musculature of her action, Josi now allows herself to be made vulnerable by it. One step away from running pans, spoons, dustpans, and dusters, it is nowshe is now the very dust, dirt, stain, or blot that leads herleading it. Mysteriously.