Brazilian artist and fine art photographer Tatane Onirica invites us to face the pain and master our demons
an article written by Milia Wallenius
ARTICULATE #30 | January 2022
Daunting emotions are at the heart of Tatane Onirica’s (b. 1980) work, which is the result of an artistic ritual, where pain and fear are transformed into dark and poetic photographs on a journey to find inner peace.
Tatane Onirica is a Brazilian artist and fine art photographer whose passion for photography dates back to 2006. This is when she first started working with female portraits, self-portraits, and illustrations for a book. And it is from here that her practice gradually grew into more artistic explorations.
Onirica’s art is very personal, and she uses her artistic practice as a tool for self-expression. Different emotions are at the center of her photographs, which all share a dark, mysterious, and haunting atmosphere. The pictures are almost always shot in a studio setting which make them intimate and gives the artist more control over the overall tone.
Onirica has roots in analogue photography, and her previous experience in working with photographic film and chemical development is shown in her pictures, where double exposures and manipulated surfaces assist in creating their distinctive dense ambience.
The female body is often featured in her works and it is a subject matter she has been working with throughout her career. The heavy draping, mellow colors and intense play between shadows and light make her compositions dramatic and quite baroque.
When studying Onirica’s work, one can’t help but notice her treatment of the human body, which is highly sculptural. This sculptural quality is present in the positioning of the body, the elegant placement of limbs, the tilted heads, and often soft gazes. The timeless stillness of these postures is however brutally interrupted by violent depictions of suffocation, madness, terror, and decay.
This brutality is for example present in the pictures portraying women with their skin peeling off.
A process which leaves their bodies scared or the women faceless like ghosts. Like crumbling sculptures, or rotting monuments, these pictures depict people literally falling apart.
Onirica finds inspiration for her work within herself, and it is perhaps not surprising that it often is in her own pain, fear, and nightmares.
“My creation process is based on the most primitive feelings and observations of my most painful feelings, my colors are strong and limited and red is what reminds us of life, despite all its difficulties”, she explains.
Onirica’s works are filled with symbols. She uses color, fruits, flowers, skulls, insects, and birds to create juxtapositions and interesting interplays between life and death, pagan and Christian, demonic and holy, nightmares and dreams. The thick red draping, blindfolded eyes, silenced mouths, and bound limbs relate to religious, psychological, and erotic themes.
Art is a way for Onirica to visualize feelings and as such what is laid bare in her work is a glimpse of her own mind and inner world – her struggles and worries. It is an intimate affair, yet all the more frightening as the themes present in her work also have the potential to connect with something deep within each and every one of us.
This potential arises from the fact that Onirica’s works are dealing with fundamental emotions such as pain, fear, rage, grief, love, anger, sorrow, loss, anxiety, longing, and desire.
Her works touch something raw and primitive in us all and thus possess the ability to speak to others, while being deeply connected to the artist. Most of us, like the artist, have experienced these feelings at some point in our lives.
Onirica’s works are about trauma, but they are also about emotional and existential psychology. They deal with strong emotions, but perhaps also with the fear of these emotions. The fear to feel and the fear to enter that part of the body or mind where these emotions dwell – a concern of what might happen if we do.
Onirica uses her art, it seems, not only to express or visualize emotions, but also to process them. Agony and tragedy are transferred into her work with an almost therapeutic quality. Her artistic process is like a ritual where she transforms her own pain into art on a journey to inner self-discovery, meaning, and peace.
It is worth noting that while having a heavy and violent subject matter Onirica’s works remain calm and collected. There is turmoil yes, and it is expressive and intense, almost aggressive, but there is also stillness, silence, and softness. This is controlled rage and controlled pain. Onirica has faced her fears and kept her sanity – she has not lost control.
In many ways her work can be seen as an encouragement to do the same. A memento of how important it is to feel and that feeling unpleasant emotions is not necessarily a bad thing, nor does it mean losing oneself in them. On the contrary it might help us move forward.
Onirica’s works are filled with these seemingly contradictious features and their aesthetic is perhaps strongest in the interactions between the nightmarish and the beautiful, the harsh and the sensual, the terrifying and alluring, the strong and the fragile.
Here there is beauty in darkness and pain, but also in the ability to feel and be with these emotions. A subtle reminder that wherever there are shadows there is also light, and even nightmares are ways for us to process reality. And as such perhaps the peeling skin in the works discussed earlier is not a symbol of break down at all, but about the process of shedding old skin – a step towards renewal, healing, and rebirth.
So, while Onirica evokes the darkness within us and encourages us to connect with our fears, weaknesses, and existential emotions, she also teaches us to stand our ground and be the masters of our own demons. And despite being dark her works carry a rather positive message: even in difficult times there is hope and there is life. We should remember to hold on to it. She can do it, so can we.
This article about Tatane Onirica takes part of the 30th magazine, ARTICULATE #30. Read, download or order your print version of the full publication below.