Light on a Woman Artist
Marie Bagi presents to you,
She opened me the door of her beautiful house in Oeiras – near Lisbon. Before showing me some works inside her house, we had a conversation in her garden surrounded by her dog, Olivia and her rabbit who was jumping around freely: an amazing spectacle that made the moment really peculiar.
Lia started to create during her childhood. She frequented a private school in Monsanto, Lisbon, which was located in an old palace. This school was paying a lot of attention to art liberty while children were creating. It possesses a painting room where she’s still going sometimes. Drawing is really important for her since that period. Her father, who was an engineer, offered her beautiful drawing material. He was one of her first models while he was napping. She grew up alone and had a sister only when she was turning 18. Her mother refused for her to become a paintress (among other things) and was resigned with her having an architect’s career. She was about to start her degree but, at last minute, she gave up to join the design’s department – the fashion design’s department, to be more precise. It was closer of what she wanted to do. She studied drawing for five years – an amazing period. After her degree, she started working immediately in the fashion industry in the field of communication and TV and also in a fashion store. During this period, she had to stop drawing and painting. But "the amazing aspect of the stores", she continues, "is a result of the knowledge of composition, as in a painting". She composed as she could do it in one of her paintings.
Lia practically stopped painting and drawing then, but occasionally made some drawings after her first daughter was born, twenty years ago – she has three other daughters who are almost 12 and five years old (the twins). She eventually started making some drawings, 6 years ago, and some cartoon/comics which she published on Facebook – where her 16 years old dog was the protagonist - and ended painting some illustrations in colour that we can find in her book "A Dog Named Person" on Amazon. In the meantime, Lia represented her daughter Rosa (12 years old now) as Mawgli when she was 8 years old – see picture – « The Tiger and Rosa » in 2016. All this had a real success and many people asked for it. She continues by saying that it was a sudden lot of work and only then she started to do it more professionally. Before that, when she lived alone with her two older daughters, it was exhausting and she couldn't do it. For almost fourteen years, Lia didn’t create. She says that it was a frustrating period even if she didn’t know what she wanted to do. She wanted to create but she was also alone growing her two children. Lia had to live the immediate time and it wasn’t easy.
We enter into her house to discover and discuss about her works. As you will see, Lia is, in most of the painting, her own subject. Some are lighter than others. She’s making a mix. The portraits are presented with different poses. It’s like being in a movie, she says. But it’s not superficial at all. The character who poses on the painting has a life, a story. Most of the time, she’s not smiling for the picture/image. She chooses to paint herself because she’s the one who she knows the most. As Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), Lia works on herself producing self-portraits because of what it means. With a great talent, Lia is showing a very detailed technic by which we can see different faces. But she doesn’t like that the public recognizes her. It’s embarrassing, she says. She’s painting for herself, first of all, and also because she needs to. The intimacy is reaching out here. Lia is giving all of herself in her paintings. The precision of the facial features is incredibly well drawn. The details of the different expression she makes are impressive. "It’s easy to look at the mirror", she continues. She expresses the mood she has during the painting. The feeling of the moment is transmitted here and a recurrent one is to be bored – see picture – with Olivia. At some point, we arrived in front of one of her portraits where she depicted as Medusa. The painting catched my curiosity with all the details inside. She explained me that it’s a portrait of a mom trapped in her daily life and trying to manage it. Instead of snakes, Lia chooses to paint arms/hands. She has multiple hands because she’s doing a lot of stuff at the same time and has all sorts of obligations, with family and social. It’s a fatality and art is here to be a way out of this struggle. By the same time, she made a series entitled « me, ugly », with unflattering images of herself, right after the « ugly drawings » made with watercolours, really quickly – she says in 10 minutes.
In addition of this, Lia made other series as the one on the contemporary dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch (1940-2009). She entered inside her intimacy during her work, the movements she and her dancers made when they were dancing. There is also a series of celebrities’ portraits. The talent of Lia can be seen in all her works; the composition and the drawing are incredibly showing exactly the reality she wants to express. We have the impression to be a part of them. Lia is including the public as they can recognize themselves inside of them. The daily life is not easy and sometimes we have to face difficult situations. Art is here to make her free from this and move on. They’ll always be a part of her and they demonstrate her life’s evolution. Her works are her story and she takes the public with inside it.
Author : Marie Bagi, Contemporary art history and Philosophy, PhD.
Published August 28th 2020