Ana Maria Pacheco: Memória Roubada (4 stars)

Ana Maria Pacheco: Memória Roubada

credit: Courtesy of Pratt Contemporary

Intense and intimate meditation on purging and healing

In a small, dimly lit room, in two ornate cabinets, two sets of disembodied heads sit opposite each other. In one, all eyes face downwards, as if in silent homage to the seven daggers laid out on the floor beneath them. In the other, the heads face out front, a mixture of impassivity, humility and dignity. At first they resemble doll-like trophies, shot down, collected, preserved in aspic and mounted by some ancient hunter. There’s something even deeper going on here, however, that matches the solemnity of the surroundings, and suggests that these heads are survivors of some awful unnamed atrocity. This sense is compounded by the series of seven drawings downstairs, which show figures stripped, blindfolded, tied up and humiliated.

Memória Roubada I, Memória Roubada II and Dark Matter are Brazilian artist Ana Maria Pacheco’s near holy response to colonisation, Auschwitz and how power can attempt to crush the will of the people, even as a greater spirit triumphs above it. Images of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, which during the Counter Reformation showed seven swords to represent each sorrow that pierced Mary’s heart, are contemporised in Memória Roubada I in as stark a way as possible. Beneath the heads of Memória Roubada II, part of the last will and testament of Isabella de Castile – expressing her wishes for the inhabitants of the New World – is engraved into a slate base.

Pacheco’s intimate display is deep and intense. It may be shown in silence, but for even more emotional impact, one could imagine a choir accompaniment completing the journey. But perhaps that would be too overwhelming and manipulative in an exhibition that is effectively a meditation on purging and the healing that follows.

St Albert’s Catholic Chaplaincy, 650 0900, until 30 Aug, free.

Ana Maria Pacheco: Memória Roubada

Translated literally, Ana Maria Pacheco's title Memória Roubada means 'stolen memories'. At the heart of this exhibition are two sculptural works characteristic of both Pacheco's practice and her personal and political concerns about the exercise of power. Displayed facing one another, each work is a wooden cupboard…