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Teeth to the Bone

 UMA LULIK_ gallery, Lisbon, Portugal, 2023

Text: Susana Ventura 

Carolina Serrano-2.jpg
View of the solo exhibition Teeth to the Bones at UMA LULIK_ gallery, Lisbon, Portugal (2023) 
Photo: Bruno Lopes © UMA LULIK_
Carolina Serrano-4.jpg
Tíbia (2022), Paraffin, cotton threads, variable dimentions
Photo: Bruno Lopes © UMA LULIK_
View of the solo exhibition Teeth to the Bones at UMA LULIK_ gallery, Lisbon (2023), Portugal 
Photo: Bruno Lopes © UMA LULIK_
View of the solo exhibition Teeth to the Bones at UMA LULIK_ gallery, Lisbon (2023), Portugal 
Photo: Bruno Lopes © UMA LULIK_
Pálpebra, 2022, paraffin, 12 cm Ø
Photo: Carolina Serrano & Bruno Lopes 
View of the solo exhibition Teeth to the Bones at UMA LULIK_ gallery, Lisbon (2023), Portugal 
Photo: Bruno Lopes © UMA LULIK_
Antúrio, 2022, Paraffin, 103 x 17 x 17 cm 
A cada novo dia, 2022, Paraffin, fabric, 74 x 52 x 30 cm
Lágrima, 2022, Paraffin, wood, 15 x 15 x 12 cm
O teu sono é puro, 2022, Paraffin, 19 x 19 x 11 cm
View of the solo exhibition Teeth to the Bones at UMA LULIK_ gallery, Lisbon (2023), Portugal 

On the exhibition Teeth to the bones, by Carolina Serrano

A red bulb takes over our sight. From afar, it almost appears like a splatter on the white wall where it drips, crystallising on its way to the floor, suspending its imminent fall and collapse. The perception alters with proximity. The work gains a body, viscous as blood, and our eyeball fills with a bright red that invades and contaminates our insides, running swiftly in our blood vessels. Gilles Deleuze said that artists return from chaos, into which they dive during the making of a work, with their eyes red and blood vessels inflamed, due to the visions gathered therein. Appeased by the certainty of a return, their visions transform into bodies that contain a set of magical forces. Capable of creating, in those who apprehend them, a trace of the free and overflowing forces of chaos (being this the “objective extension of comprehension which surprises the inseparability of the destructive and creative forces of nature, of life”1).

Not all artists succeed in this passage (some succumb to the perpetual fall of madness or death). Others make it the receptacle of their work, seeking to create a work-body in the interspace that this passage or slit (as Deleuze calls it) opens. It is, perhaps, the hardest of tasks: creating a work that conserves in itself the exercise of violence of the forces of chaos, the whole trajectory of the artists through it, and, simultaneously, the tranquillity of the return’s irreversibility, and of the work’s, which ought to contain a certain measure that stops it from self-destructing. Which forms, which aspect, which materiality may receive these works-bodies? — Or, simplifying, these bodies — because as they transmute, they gain a life that lies beyond simple analogy and metaphor.

This passage perpetually rehearses another, the first, the one at the beginning of the World, the one that form — form as the crystallisation of the contumacious forces of chaos and respective creation of a synthesising order, which donates to form its internal principles of composition (which, for some, will be immutable, while, for others, will always be vestiges of the combat “never taken to its term”2 of response to chaos) — intended to eliminate, stratifying things and beings, classifying differences, eradicating the formless, the vague, the imprecise, the in-between…

In her work, the artist Carolina Serrano has dedicated herself to thinking about the universal categories resulting from this stratification, which may be attributed to humans. She is particularly interested in the boundary between right and wrong, which meddles as much in arbitrary everyday decisions as in the highest purposes of humanity as it acts upon the World. Therefore, her work takes on a disquieting uncertainty, sensed subtly at first, slowly taking over the bodies until the moment it becomes unbearable, reaching a pain that gets to be very close to physical, a thin blade along the skin…

Coinciding with a physical passage in the exhibition space, that first lacerated and raw fleshed body resonates in us as a seed of evil (the synthesis of everything that wounds the bodies) and pain, referring, still, to the first suggestion of a bulb which, instead of growing, seems to give up blooming. Similarly to what happens to the artists, we are appeased momentarily by the passage to the candid and auratic light emanating from the set of sculptures — which is revealed as we cross the threshold — and the white walls that envelop it. The paraffin, used in its immaculate white colour for the first time by the artist (demanding total aseptic control in its manipulation in the artist’s studio to guarantee its purity), intensifies this illusion. As it occurs, for example, in ice, the juxtaposition of several transparent layers creates the illusion, in our retina, of the opaque white colour, which gives the sculptures a spectral translucency and diaphaneity under the mysteries of light. There is a part of the material’s work that is conserved and, to our gaze as to our thought, it reminds of the paraffin’s softness and temperature, very similar to our skin, and the forces of dripping and pleating, when sliding on the surfaces of defying the force of gravity, revealed in the solidified textures which nevertheless conserve virtually that movement we trace with the imagination (or conscience) of the body. Under the vibrant white light, it is necessary to move forward so that the sculptures fully reveal themselves, and we discover the simple differences between fear and enchantment in an intense and faltering route. Nothing is what it seems.

In the interspace, in-between works, we are dominated by the latent threat of an invisible force stemming from those bodies, a dissimulated violence, for it is covered in an (almost) celestial whiteness and, simultaneously, unbearable. The animal and the vegetable of a faraway DNA, which also defines us, evinces the socio-political character of the nature of violence. The body assumes itself as a guerrilla space — a body-weapon — and becomes a threat while denouncing its vulnerability and imminence. The inescapable possibility from the moment of the original fall, the wound (expressed in a more evident yet still subtle way in the red slit of a pure and white sphere). We are plants and animals as well, our hairs standing, our stingers raising, thorns threatening, fangs or teeth sinking, discovering, paradoxically, empathy in violence and fragility in the body-weapon. This ambivalence between threat and protection, violence and purity, beauty and horror, good and evil, belongs as much to the sculptures, which create that interspace in themselves, at times through intertwining, at others, through depressions, grooves or voids which complement some totality, as to each of us, wandering bodies through life.

Is there any certainty through this wandering or in the expression of a will? As counterpoint, works with a geometric base — the perfect form answers, directly, to the incommensurability and indiscernibility of chaos — coexist in the space, bodies-receptacles, as the artist defines them. Remembering Louise Bourgeois, geometry — of which the sphere, the straight line and the point are elementary expressions — is a system that never betrays us and where everything is possible to anticipate.3 Nevertheless, to the persistent gaze, other secrets are revealed…

– Susana Ventura
January 2023



1Maria Filomena Molder, As Nuvens e o Vaso Sagrado (Lisboa: Relógio d’Água, 2014), 152.

2Idem, Ibidem.

3“Studying geometry, I learned a system in which things proceed without surprises. One is, essentially, safe. That was a revelation: that it was possible to anticipate! You could predict the position of the stars. The sun would rise where it was supposed to. It never failed you. Never betrayed you,” Louise Bourgeois, Destruction of the father. Reconstruction of the father: writings and interviews 1923-1997 (London: Violette Editions, 2005, 3rd edition), 113.

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