'orsqu’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. They frame details of an amusement park, sections of a light sign, church stained glass in a contre-plongé angle. 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 and photography.
The artist recognises 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 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 in the beginning of the 2000s, horizontal lines of colour 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 colour.
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 categorisation. 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 De Bandeja [On a Tray] (2016), 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. He uses paint but also other materials such as tobacco, wax or soil. 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. In Cortina [Curtain] (2012)–which was exhibited at CCBB RJ, in Rio de Janeiro–huge red and yellow plastic strips were suspended at a height of 25 metres creating a long bicoloured panel 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, now also using in the gallery space the colour of its surroundings: the green from the garden. A large group of black fabric strips of different widths is placed in the transparent room and in the front garden, like a long Mobius strip, without interior or exterior, endless, available to the visitors’ use. Fitas is a living painting, it is a material abstraction to be touched. An invitation to ‘the body diving into tactile things’ (Hélio Oiticica).
The artist’s thinking is materialised 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 in 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 favourite 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 colourful 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 drawing defines a moment in the work, showing a succession of coloured lines that occupy the whole space. The point of view comes from inside the work. It is a response to experiencing Rennó’s piece, where everything is possible.
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: sociability, affections, relationships, and our bodies. Reality is extremely oppressing; injustice and intolerance are on the rise.
As an honest expression of personal and social experience intrinsic to its political context, art is a pure sense of reality. Art is what is left, is one share of the ‘accursed share’ (Georges Bataille). To keep working, thinking, creating and taking action is a way of resisting. We must persist and rearrange.
Press release courtesy Mendes Wood DM.