Back in November I was so excited to find out that my friend Amalia Pica was one of the receivers of a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award. In typical Amalia fashion, she hadn’t even mentioned it to our old mutual flatmate, artist Nick Middleton, who at the time was still living with her. I found out by Twitter as it was happening in real time in London.
I’m fascinated by the way that we sometimes fall in with people that we fall in love with. Amalia and I initially only spent a very short time together, but were inextricably drawn to each other. In reading about her art, I realised we share more than a love of smoking on the back door step gossiping in the dropping sun, and a comparable personal life.
I visited London at the beginning of July this year to listen to her speak about her work at the Chisenhale Gallery. I’d helped her when she was making the bunting in that image on the Guardian’s website, and standing in the empty gallery, as another of her installations, the Fiesta tune played somewhere else, somewhere outside, looking at it, I was moved. I was also struck once again with how funny it was that we had spent so much time together talking about heartache, and no time talking about our respective artwork and research.
For she is remarkably confident talking about her work. During her talk about her work at the Chisenhale that day, I realised that being accustomed to British artists being vague about the reasoning for why they do what they do, it was wonderful to hear her discuss the thinking behind the work. Although it was clearly challenging to some as well. An audience member, asked her in a long roundabout manner – whether her art could exist in a world where she could not speak. Amalia paused, and asked ‘in what world would I not be able to speak?’ The feeling that an artist (particularly perhaps a woman artist) should not speak about their work, is at once a reflection of a British discomfort with conceptual art, and an echo of the conditions from Argentina’s history that brought about some of Amalia’s work. In her article on Amalia in Frieze magazine, Sally O’Reilly describes a piece of Amalia’s work born out of the conditions of suppression. In Amalia’s installation in the main exhibition at the 54th Venice Biennale, she created ‘a large Venn diagram projected by coloured theatre lamps, accompanied by a caption that outlines the logical relations of inclusion and exclusion; in the 1970s in Argentina, Venn diagrams were banned from primary school curricula as they were considered to encourage subversive thought’. In the face of attempts to ban things that provoke thought – the call for silence in response to artwork is to be resisted.
There are conversations to be had, and I look forward to her words feeding mine.
Was it just luck that Amalia’s orbit, passed through mine? Or that I was bound to be enthusiastic when she arrived at our house, because I understood she was a kindred person.
Was it fate or Italian art?
Revered Beebe: It’s not coincidental that you’re here now, when one comes to reflect on it.
George Emerson: I *have* reflected. It’s fate. Everything is fate.
Revered Beebe: You’ve not reflected at all. Let me cross-examine you. Where did you meet Mr. Vyse, who will marry Miss Honeychurch?
George Emerson: The National Gallery.
Revered Beebe: Looking at Italian art! You see, you talk of coincidence and fate. You’re naturally drawn to things Italian, as are we and all our friends, aren’t we Freddy? That narrows the field immeasurably.
George Emerson: It is fate. But call it Italy if pleases you Vicar.
From a Room with A View by E. M. Forster