Not everyone can spot beauty in a recipe, but Nadia Hernández has the heart of a poet. Known for a multi-disciplinary practice that includes huge textile banners emblazoned with words, as well as painting, collage and sculpture, the Sydney-based Venezuelan artist considers poetry to be one of her many materials—and she looks for, and finds, it everywhere.
The title of her latest solo show, Con la punta de los dedos (With the tips of your fingers), is taken from an instruction in a recipe written by her mother. For Hernández, the poetry in a list of ingredients quickly became an existential meditation on identity. Reading the phrase ‘butter at room temperature’ set her thinking, “that is what we are made of… Butter at room temperature takes on the form of whatever it touches; it shifts its shape to meet and join that which receives it.”
As part of a Venezuelan diaspora—“My family are grains of sand scattered throughout the world,” she says—the construction of identity, the loss of home, and the power of memory and memorialisation are key themes for Hernández. And, as the artist explains, the multidisciplinary nature of her practice helps to underline these concerns. “I find that all the mediums I work across inform one another. Seeing how a story, anecdote or memory can be held across different vessels; it’s an exercise in translation and transmission,” she says.
As an artist/poet Hernández uses words as both medium and message. Writing is a way to seek clarity, she points out, adding, “I think that is why text is such a big part of my practice. It’s the curiosity which comes from flipping the switch and changing one’s perception. Seeing a banner with a poem, a love declaration of sorts, is a form of resistance.”
This article was originally published in the May/June 2021 print edition of Art Guide Australia.