English Version | Welcome to our studio

31 Oct 2023
By Ana Murcho

Arts Issue

Eva Claessens invited some friends to an exhibition in Lisbon. Julian Lennon is one of them.

It's a hot, almost stifling late morning, the opposite of what you'd expect from the first days of autumn. Lisbon is buzzing with that energy we usually associate with the months leading up to summer and holidays: lots of people on the streets, lots of buzz, lots of sun, lots of half-dressed bodies. Lots of light. We arrived at the Verride - Palácio de Santa Catarina five minutes late, with the breath of someone who had to overcome a battalion of enthusiastic tourists to get here. Our interlocutors, whom we had the privilege of meeting earlier, are still finishing the interview before us. We have time. Even so, we know that these kinds of "press rounds" are tiring, that they require a certain amount of repetition on the part of the interviewees, who are often confronted with repetitive questions - the journalists try to pull rabbits out of the hat, to work magic, but there are few things that nobody has thought to ask. It's an uncomfortable feeling, walking into a room where two renowned artists are looking at you expectantly as if to say, “What's new with you?”

Probably nothing, we think. However, our fears are dispelled as soon as we greet Eva Claessens, a contemporary artist, and Julian Lennon, a musician, photographer and philanthropist. The warmth and empathy with which they welcome us mirrors not only the deep friendship that unites them, but also the people they are: light, easy-going, pure. "Julian is my best friend. He's my greatest accomplice, he's the person with whom I create art like breathing. He was the obvious choice to share the walls of this space”, explains Eva, “the person to blame” behind this exhibition, Eva Claessens And Friends - With Love From Nature. In fact, it wasn't really her fault. “I was planning an exhibition in New York and I got a call, maybe in February, from a journalist who said: 'Eva, you have to do something in Lisbon. The city is growing so fast, you have to do something there now.” And that's how it began. Eva rang a friend who lives in Lisbon, who in turn put her in touch with the owner of Verride, and things went smoothly. “He told me he wanted to meet me because he was working in a gallery and so I flew here super-fast and that was that. I told Julian straight away that he had to be part of this, and that's how it happened. It just happened. It had to happen. But I felt it had to happen.”

In less than six months, the exhibition was set up - or rather, created, if you think that many of the works we see in Eva Claessens And Friends - With Love From Nature were created on purpose for this show. “I only had two works [ready], and everything else was made for this exhibition”, Eva confesses. Julien's photographs that dress the walls of the renovated CRIATURA, the cultural space inside the Verride - Palácio Santa Catarina hotel, have a different story: they began on a trip to Chateau Lacoste in Provence (France) and arrived in Lisbon as if by chance. Julian tells us: “Eva and I drove there and stayed overnight. A beautiful setting. We had a little golf cart, so we drove around. And we came to a place and saw these concrete wedding dresses. And I had a brand-new Leica camera and I thought ‘wait...’ It was one of those situations where I thought I'd stop the car... But I didn't stop and I said ‘I should have taken a picture.’ That happened with the wedding dresses. We ended up turning around and the lighting was just beautiful. The moon was in the background... I took a series of photographs of the wedding dresses and then saturated them a little to give them more character, and I fell in love with the images. In the meantime, I heard that Eva was working on canvas and cotton and I wanted to try to do something on canvas, and she knew the photographs in this series and ended up choosing her favorites." Eva interrupts: “No, we chose.”

This is a unique exhibition on several levels. At the opening, the artists present will not (only) be those who will be closing its doors on the 23rd of November. The purpose of Eva Claessens And Friends - With Love From Nature is precisely to bring different minds together in different spaces. In this high-ceilinged space, whose origins date back to the 18th century, the public will be able to see the work of other friends of Eva's, in addition to Julian Lennon: Argentinian photographer Ricardo Labougle and cultural entrepreneur and CEO of Verride Palacio de Santa Catarina Kees Eijrond. It's as if Claessens opened the doors to her studio and invited us in for a workshop of ideas and thoughts. No timetables, no rush, no impositions. Not even distance, logistics or the Portuguese tradition when it comes to finishing a project (which would take a whole article) discouraged them. The word to Eva: “The way everything happened is exactly what we wanted to express. The fact that everything happened organically is also a reflection of how we live our lives. If we have to, it will happen. It seemed complicated, but we trusted that we had to do it.” A large part of the exhibition is Eva's work, which fills the room and transports us to a universe of peace and harmony. They are giant drawings - but not at all intimidating, quite the opposite - which seem to have been painted to the rhythm of a record player spinning, in a parallel world where there is no noise or anger. Her work is a tribute to beauty and silence. A bit like her relationship with Julian. “We tease each other all the time and we love [the fact that] we like the same kind of things. We don't talk much, but we marvel. We can drive for hours without talking. That's the perfect reason to be friends with someone, right?” We're not sure who said this, and it's interesting that this is the case. One of them also said: “I think we've been friends forever. Since before the universe was created.” It's actually quite possible.

*Originally translated from the Arts Issue, published November 2023. Full credits and stories in the print issue.

Ana Murcho By Ana Murcho
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