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ART | SOFIA AREZ INTERVIEW: “You will find more in the woods than in books’”

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Sofia Arez, the Portugal-born artist living alternately between her hometown and Macau, inaugurates her tree-themed exhibition today at the Orient Foundation, with the hope of “defending nature.”  The exhibition, titled “Abandonment,” will be on show until July 31, and comprises a set of drawings, paintings and a video installation that depicts fragments of trees. “You will find more in the woods than in books,” the artist says, highlighting this idea in the preface of the exhibition.  “Abandonment” is supported by the Orient Foundation, Cultural Affairs Bureau and Macau Foundation.

MDT - What does the “tree symbol” stand for?
Sofia Arez - The cue that led to the choice of the tree as the central element of Abandonment was a passage I read from St Bernard of Clairvaux (a French abbot), saying, ‘You will find more in the woods than in books.’ He also argued that one would learn more in the shade of a tree than at school, stressing the significance of the contemplation of nature and the attention to one’s surroundings. The tree arises in this project as a light filter and a sensitive expression that everything changes with the cyclical movement of time. You can compare its metamorphosis – from seed to germination, to flowering, and from fruiting to the falling of leaves – to the different stages of a human being’s life; [to] the seasons; [to] the hours of the day.

MDT - How did the inspiration come to you?
SA - The inspiration arises by transforming the artistic production in a process similar to the passage of time in my own life and the way of life as an artist and, thus shaping the place where art and life meet.
MDT - Does the life in Macau give you inspiration in creating your works?
SA - More than a great inspiration; the magic moment, that ultimately all moments are. One could say that my inspiration is in the details of my day-to-day life in Macau, in the contact with nature, but also in the hyper-urban environments that I find on the way to the studio, in the market, in the people on the bus – it all adds to the density of the foliage of each tree.

MDT - What message do you want to deliver to the Macau audience?
SA - The purpose of this exhibition is twofold: first, and more evident, to raise the awareness of nature. This leads to the second, the risk of putting yourself in other people’s shoes. Rather than attempting to reveal meanings and symbols, this exhibition explores how, through sensitivity to the possibilities of image, it is possible to transcend the confines of its (the image’s) traditional uses, and enable in its perceiver the freedom to engage that allows for the individual’s own sensitivity to take an active role in creating a personal connection and meaning. It is not so much about the representation of something, but about a way of being, an attitude of greater attention to what is around us, here, now.

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