Once upon a time there was an artist from Porto who said: “The city should be a place for dream and imagination.” This quote from Ana Aragão expresses how she translates her architectonic work into imaginary universes, consisting of stacked houses, fantastic shapes and new urban point of views. In contrast to her profession as an architect, sensible concepts are hidden in the huge drawings by her hand. Reflecting on the technological, based on facts society we are living in nowadays, are we still able to dwell in the spaces we live in and lead ourselves by our human behaviors? Looking closely at Ana’s magical worlds there is so much to explore and yet many more left for personal interpretation.
Feel the architecture
“My drawings are my way of thinking architecture, in a superficial way, or a way of thinking about the strange things I think, in a deeper sense. To draw is, for me, to slow down time, to be able to be alone and having nothing that takes me from the silence, to find a mechanics, the best mechanics, to think, not to think, to understand what I don’t understand, to quit trying to understand everything. My drawings are not my inspiration nor come from that: they are my discipline, my mission, and ultimately, my pain.”
The city’s consisting of emotions
That is why I assume the slowness of my drawings: it is an attempt to make time and thought coincide.
The city serves as a returning subject in Ana’s work. Nevertheless, her drawings aren’t only about what we tend to see, looking at the fragmented city-like shapes and designs. She actually translates the importance of humans settings for emotional living: “A city is an affectionate territory, composed by personal affinities and relative distances, unlike what some political players and technocrats tell us. Our contemporary way of mapping the territory somehow induces us to understand conventional spatial relations as the most important measuring tape of reality – numbers, graphics, charts. For example, a quick overview through the codification of maps throughout history can be elucidative of the way we come to interpret and navigate through the places we live in. It is willingly critical that I draw everything by hand and rarely use computer interfaces. It is an assumption of human failure, of the right to be fallible and therefore emotional, of the time we take to do things thinking about them. That is why I assume the slowness of my drawings: it is an attempt to make time and thought coincide. I am never able to do it perfectly, that is why I start again and continue working.”
Exploration by creating
I prefer the idea of imaginary places that we can visit or even inhabit in our very personal journeys.
“What drives me is to discover new meanings in reality through the exercise of fiction, new connections between things that are apparently disconnected. Understanding creativity as the discovery of new and unseen connections between things that seem to be distant is part of my nature and a conscious decision as a graphic artist. As we grow up we tend to assume facts, logic and rational thinking as the right way to look at reality to solve its mysteries. For me, reality is always the most mysterious story and, therefore, the most motivating motto to start imagining. Unlike children, grownups look at the world through lenses of preconceptions that take us almost invariably to common places. I prefer the idea of imaginary places that we can visit or even inhabit in our very personal journeys. As we now know, memory and imagination play a fundamental role in perception of reality; in that sense, I am absolutely fascinated by the idea of understanding reality as a container and trigger of the most fabulous fictions.”
The drawing’s story
For me, the city is the infinite layering of narratives, that can be highlighted and told in the most diverse ways.
Ana’s projects all express a different narrative. Her latest project (big scale bic drawings) was based on the idea that in an unknown future, cities on the face of the earth had become so dense that there was no left territory for construction, so they had to grow vertically. “The strange shapes of the structures I created were a consequence of the individual reclamation and informal occupation of their spaces of dwelling. Not one single person can be found in those drawings, however, we know by intuition they are (or were) present. Their absence remains a mystery, even for me.“
As an architect, her stories have generally to do with architectonic utopias. “My Drifting (in) Macau Map, that I developed during my artistic residency there, proposes the interpretation of the city as a free narrative that crosses personal experiences, historical data, imagined structures and meanings, and everything that the graphic and conceptual process asks for. For me, the city is the infinite layering of narratives, that can be highlighted and told in the most diverse ways. Fortunately, for that to be imaginable (as almost everything else), you only have to change your point of view.”
Several illustrations by Ana Aragão, photographed by Rui Manuel Vieira: