Lygia Clark: Full-Emptiness

Do we even think about art in these terms today?

O Vazio-Pleno, Lygia Clark, 1960

For me art is only valid in the ethico-religious sense, internally connected to the inner elaboration of the artist in its deepest sense, which is the existential. My whole vision is not purely optical, but is profoundly connected to my experience of feeling, not only in the immediate sense, but, even more, in the deeper sense in which one doesn’t know what is its origin. That which a form may express only has a meaning for me in a strict relationship with its inner space, the full-emptiness of its existence, just as there exists our space which goes on being completed and taking on meaning maturity arrives. At times I think that before we are born we are like a closed fist which opens its first finger when we are born and is opened internally like the petals of a flower as we discover the meaning of our existence, for us a at a certain moment to become aware of this plenitude of a full-emptiness (interior time).


Lygia Clark, Caminhando, 1964

At that moment we achieve an awareness of an ethico-religious conception which goes against the whole existence of a God external to us: He is within us and is the best thing we have; the idea of life and death abandons us. This polarity no longer exists. That which we are able to transmit in a work of art is no more than a static moment within the cosmological dynamics from which we came and to which we are going. It is a flash of that infinite materialised in the finite. As if it were a stopping in time. It is a piece of eternity. Man seeks out his inner time and when he finds it he lives out his whole origin. It is at that moment that he goes beyond the life-death frontier. The anguish of the exterior time (one day after another) which is connected to the same existential anguish (the reason for things in relation to it) disappears, because he then begins to abstract himself from that outer reality. It exists, but man is no longer invaded by it in the practical-mechanical sense. He and it one unit, in its deep existential sense. Reality becomes a support for meditation or a magnetic field in which he, the artist, identifies himself with the times. At that moment he travels through his whole origin. The life “beginning” and death “end” has finished. The work of art is the materialisation of this fusion. This is what makes it eternal or transcendent. Other, less creative people will feel this moment, through the artist’s work, as a response to an issue of universal meaning. Life only exists in relation to polarities. There begins the relationship between life and art.

Relational Objects, Goggles.

In art we seek out the emptiness (from which we have come) and when we discover it being valorised we then discover our inner time. The acceptance of life (contradictory dynamics), silence and non-formulation have taken on the sense of the full and formulation. It is the gaze turned within itself. It is the situation of the man in his space – the beginning of the interior realisation: Maturity. It is a cut with former situations in which the individual only existed in relation-function to them. Man is not alone. He is the form and the emptiness. He comes from emptiness to form (life) and he goes from life to the full-emptiness which is a relative death. To reach this state of plenitude it is necessary to relieve all his previous experiences, to face them – which means a liberation. There he achieves a state of ethics in the widest sense. Whilst the emptiness remains disconnected from the other side (life) you have to bow to the void, as in an abyss, and to live within it. Nothing, Death, lack of meaning. All men feel this inner state.

Through art the artist shows them this slice of eternity. It is a deeply Religious message in the highest ethical sense, valorising this sense of the non-signifying emptiness. Forms, like all things, express more than their mere physical presence (measurement and weight). It is as if each thing radiated an energy connected to the energy of the living and real space. When one places an object within a space which is too great in relation to it, the space does not stop being empty and dead, but when this object finds its space, then the space which surrounds it is full. If the object is placed too close to other objects, I feel too contradictory forces fighting against each other. Man has this irradiation more than any object and more than that of other animals. Then the search for his transcendence appears in contraposition to this polarity (earth-space) with the stubbornnes and intensity of a privileged being, terribly anguished, always being thrust upwards, attached by his feet to the organic side of his animal origin.

Relational Objects, Goggles.

At the moment when, breaking the rectangle and virtually inverting the surface, which stops being the thickness of the space and becomes the thread of this space, this expression is now inside this real space where all the living and cosmological irradiated forces act. The expression is immediately identified with that organic-man irradiation, within the same real dynamics. In Sculpture there was a need for this dynamics much earlier, because there the problem was volume. Then it began emptying and today it is the emptiness-form complementing which identifies it as a current means of expression. In Architecture the need is the same today. There are no static things. Everything is dynamics. Even an apparently static object is not stopped. It is based on a series of supports which are in turn dynamically pulled at by the force of gravity. My painting express, therefore, a new reality in which the work of art is expressed as a living objects, like you and I. In the sense of an identification with the reality of our times: When man lived with more space he was able to be satisfied, as nature was his habitat; he would awake when light opened upon him and would sleep when night closed in. There was a great deal of space and an integration of man within nature.

Lygia Clark, Bicho , 1960, Articulated sculpture in aluminum 15 x 15 x 20 in.

Today, however, he is confined within great buildings squeezed into their own needs of irradiation, yet without having a space on the horizontal sense which might be a support for their spiritual nature. Thus it is coherent for him to try to conquer space with a greater than ever need to fulfil himself, not only in conquering the universe, but also in giving release to this vertical expression of spirituality. As science conquers on one side, it is essential for the individual to conquer his inner time, becoming aware of this ethico-religious sense, so that he does not become lost and destroyed.

Salve Lygia.
“O vazio-pleno”. Jornal do Brasil (Rio de Janeiro) (2 April 1960): Suplemento Dominical, 5.

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One thought on “Lygia Clark: Full-Emptiness

  1. LClark’s work is one of the most inspiring art that I have re-connected with in a very long time, like an old friend or family that hs been away from our lives. It comes now like a gift and a messanger of lightness and stillness. Just saw her show in London and so sorry to miss the performative section. Thanks for sharing this great text about her work and keep me in your loop. Best, M

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