Monumental in scale and painted with an almost monochrome use of blue and grey, Ruines articulates Vieira da Silva's response to the architecture and perspectives of the contemporary cityscape. The concrete man-made world of modernity with its buildings and streets was a constant source of inspiration to her.
"I look at a street," she wrote, "and I see people passing on foot or on various machines at various speeds. I think of the invisible threads that pull them. They don't have the right to stop. I no longer see them. I try to see the mechanism that moves them. That seems to me to be a little of what I am trying to paint." (in: The Obituary of Maria-Helena Vieira da Silva, Daily Telegraph, London 12 March 1992.)
Like the archtypical Vieira da Silva landscape, Ruines is imbued with an air of mystery and intrigue. The coolness of colour and tone, broken only by the odd brushstroke of ochre or dark blue, draws us into the scene in search of an illusory vanishing point.
Her canvases were not literal translations of reality, but rather a collaboration of her senses and imagination. We cannot recognise the vista of a tangible scene, but rather are drawn hypnotised in to the artist's Kafkaesque world. Labryinthic in construction and ethereal, we are left to navigate a pathway through a maze of conflicting routes and elusive spaces.
In some of her works the feeling is dark and secret, whilst in others it is expansive and open. In Ruines, we are witness to a wide panorama, with a multitudinous array of possible routes through an unknown and undisclosed landscape.
The multiple levels of narration in Ruines is central to Vieira da Silva's art. Only by untangling the threads of representation can the spectator discern within Ruines the presence of a wide, open landscape. The spectator becomes an impossible figure, isolated and alienated in the world around him. Her collapsing perspectives and tangled lines can be understood to reflect her sense of tragedy at events that took place in Europe during the Second World War. The spectator is isolated, forced into what Léon Kochnitzsky has identified as, "the contemplation of the infinitesimal" in an increasingly complex and indecipherable world.