For as long as she can remember, Roberta Fernandes has been obsessed with the date of her birth in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on September 30, 1983 at 5:29 p.m. Maybe because, at that precise moment, she began to be aware of the inheritance she was about to receive from her country of birth. For both good and bad, Brazil has been an enormous inspiration and inherent part of her career and art.
She arrived in New York not more than two years ago to work as a producer in a theater company, but despite being far from her home country, Brazil has never left her. Roberta works as an executive producer of the BR Group, which focuses on the dissemination of Brazilian culture, but she never abandons her work as a visual artist from which she explores the memories of her childhood and teenager years in Rio de Janeiro.
Roberta has always been inspired by the written word and the need to give it form through the body and different material, whether through theater or visual arts. In her latest project, Roberta presents us with what she calls "invisible words.” “Using the pyro-graph as my main tool, I use burn words on transparent surfaces, especially fabrics where the airflow gives this sense of nonexistence and lightness to something that can contain really strong stories." Roberta loves pyro-engravery for the delicacy required to write on the piece without burning it all. Her artwork and the care required to do it, is a meditative and calm process for her.
Roberta does not use this technique only for aesthetics, but because she believes pyro-engravery expresses a philosophy of life rooted in Brazilian social problems. "My neighborhood was very popular and, although my parents were more economically prosperous than the rest of the neighborhood, I lived among street artists and was surrounded by local communities, like the favelas, who suffered drug trafficking. Throughout my childhood, the death of someone close to my age by guns, was not common."
Her artistic manifesto is based on the idea of "Nossa Verdade Ninguém vê" (Our truth can’t be seen) and her work represents the lack of awareness of the difficulties of others, and, more importantly, the lack of dedication in knowing each other. With this phrase in mind, her work recreates the difficulty of understanding and being understood. "When writing with the pyro-graph on canvas, I create a level of difficulty to read that I compare with our difficulties to understand each other. In turn the time and effort one puts in to understand my work makes direct reference to my manifesto (as well as the time and effort needed to understand one another).”
Roberta chooses to exhibit her work in places where the audience must circulate. In one of her exhibitions, her pieces went completely unnoticed, even the staff of the gallery ignored them, pushed them away as if they were curtains. “In that specific piece, which nobody read, the details were written about a murder I observed as a child and still effects my life today." These traumatic events marked her deeply and will always be present in her life as well of her art. "I owe these people my work as a producer as a way of giving life to the projects of others, and as an artist, as a way to honor my chance to survive and to be able to create without the problems of all those who they surrounded. "
2019 will be a big year for Roberta as she has already planned several exhibitions in the spring as well as a release of one of her theater productions in the fall. When asked about the key to her success, Roberta says everything is based on re-evaluating the idea of "success" so that we can let it go and appreciate the recognition wherever it comes from. "Keep doing your work no matter how you feel and, when you're done, let it become what the audience needs it to be. A lot of detachment is required, otherwise, you will spend your life trying to explain something that should speak for itself,” recommends Roberta, “leave control.”
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL
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