São PauloParks and other pretexts
Curated by Camila Bechelany
lorsqu’une societé disparait, ce qui lui survit c’est la forme d’art qu’elle s’est choisie…
(Hollis Frampton quoted by Jean-Luc Godard in Le livre d’image)
In the new series of paintings presented in this exhibition, Patricia Leite expands her research on the luminosity and vibration of light. Since her last two solo exhibitions Olha pro céu, meu amor [Look at the Sky My Love] and Lusco Fusco [Dusk] in 2018, she has been developing a body of work in which light is contrasted against the sky at nightfall. On an almost always-dark background, light emerges in the form of fireworks, stained glass, the moon and stars, Christmas fairy lights, a bonfire or through a gap or a corner.
The search to represent something that ‘lights up’ now merges with other landscapes, mostly from an urban perspective. The scenes appear melancholic and fragmented. The frame details of an amusement park, sections of a light sign, church stained glass in a contre-plongé angle. The making of the painting always comes from recognizing what was already there. The subject precedes the photograph from where the artist extracts the raw matter for her work. In each motif in the edited images from her personal archive, there is a sort of singular world with unusual points of view that stems from a particular way of seeing, which is inspired by cinema. The artist recognizes the image of something that is in front of or within us and immediately produces a new image, totally autonomous in its functioning even though born out of life in this world. In Natureza Morta com Barnett Newman [Still Life with Barnett Newman] (2019), a beach appears in the background, while the foreground is occupied by a table or a surface covered by a checked cloth, on which we see a bowl with pineapples. This is still life intersected with the landscape, but in Leite’s case, painting genres are simply departure points for the exercise of moving between figuration and abstraction, which becomes increasingly more complex. The reference to Newman is witty and relevant. In his paintings, vertical lines (his zips) cross the canvas from top to bottom, defining the special structure of the plane. In the series of seascapes produced by Leite at the beginning of the 2000s, horizontal lines of color that set out the horizon and the meeting point between sea and sand stretch from one side to the other, defining the painting’s structure. Here she revisits an artwork from 2003 (Barnett Newman), adding a new layer of composition guided by color.
The idea of bringing together the works of Patricia Leite and Cristiano Rennó draws on the artists’ affective memories and the profound sense of freedom that surrounds both of their approaches. Colour is a cornerstone in their work and both artists resist categorization. Even though painting is their main activity, their practices are not defined by the conventions of any genre or form.
Rennó’s paintings move around two axes. The first axis is the two-dimensional plane, where he experiments with different types of material, from canvas to wood and polystyrene. In his series Bandejas [Trays], polystyrene packaging is used to create a large range of abstract paintings, mainly monochromes, in which figurative forms are gradually revealed in the materiality of the painted surface. In these works, Rennó’s painting takes the opposite direction to Leite’s, which tends towards geometric simplification, culminating in a sort of minimalist landscape through the reduction of figuration.
With regards to the second axis, Rennó often works with installations, using different materials in which overlapped chromatic planes become paintings expanded in space, such as in Cortina [Curtain] (2012) — which was exhibited at CCBB RJ, in Rio de Janeiro. Huge red and yellow plastic strips were suspended in the central opening of the building, and as the public touched and mixed them, the artwork acquired a new composition every day. The installation Fitas [Ribbons], created for the present exhibition, follows a similar premise, but now as a monochrome. A large group of black fabric strips of different widths is placed in the room. The public is invited to touch them and take part. Each time someone touches one strip or another, the composition is rearranged. Seen from the glass façade in the gallery room, Fitas is a living painting that is edited by each new interaction. It is a material abstraction to be touched. It is like ‘the body diving into tactile things’. The artist’s thinking is materialized in the painting. However, he leaves room for the painting’s own thinking to come into being.
Leite and Rennó are close friends and both come from Minas Gerais. They have followed each other’s work since the beginning of their painting careers when they attended the classes of Amílcar de Castro (1920-2002) at Núcleo Experimental de Arte in Belo Horizonte and shared a studio at the beginning of the 1980s. There is an immense degree of complicity between the two of them. They share a lot amongst each other and there are also many things I share with them, including a long list of favorite artists and the joys of being close to the clean and deep blue sky of Belo Horizonte.
One of the results of their common ground is Leite’s Teia [Web] (2003). Leite named her painting after an installation produced by Rennó for Museu da Pampulha in 2003. In Rennó’s Teia, an enormous entanglement of colorful threads, strips, and ribbons occupied the museum’s central space and was transformed every day by the intervention of the public who were invited to arrange and rearrange the piece. In turn, Leite’s painting defines a moment in the work, showing a succession of colored lines that occupy the whole space. The point of view comes from inside the work, from the intimacy of the body created by mixing the colors. The painting gravitates toward simplification and the abstraction reveals the feeling of the colors vibrating.
I am writing this text on 15th May 2019. Today, one of the largest public demonstrations since 2013 took place in Brazil. Thousands of people occupied public spaces and protested against the education cuts recently announced by the current Brazilian government. This climate, heavy with social tension, has existed for months, impacting on all spheres of life: affections, relationships, and our bodies. Reality is extremely oppressing; injustice and intolerance are on the rise. Art is an honest expression of personal and social experience intrinsic to its political context. It is a pure sense of reality. Art is what is left, is one share of the ‘accursed share’.
To keep working, thinking, creating and taking action is to resist. We must persist.
– Camila Bechelanyall images © the gallery and the artist(s)