2021_Icaro Ferraz Vidal Junior

Fragments of the Infinite


There are certainly two labyrinths of the human spirit: one concerns the composition of the continuum, the other the nature of freedom; both are born from an identical source in the infinite.

G. W. Leibniz[1]



The title of Teresa Viana’s exhibition – Fragments of the infinite – confronts us with a logical impossibility: How to fragment the infinite, whose definition foresees an unlimited continuity? Does the fragmentation of the infinite not imply its own annihilation? This impossibility resides at the heart of the artist’s poetics, whose paintings place us in a paradoxical environment, in which we can experience the infinite both sensorially and affectively. Such an idea may sound strange to anyone who links the notion of infinity to a transcendent plane, but I will insist on it because I believe that what is at stake in Teresa Viana’s work is not limited to her vigorous contribution to specific debates in the field of painting. Underlying her production is a consistent ontology that privileges forces over forms, presence over representation, and the body over a disembodied mind. If it is true that this bet on force, presence, and the body reverberates in pictorial questions, then more deeply, it confronts ways of seeing, being, and creating that, forged in the context of Western modernity, are structured around its hegemonic logics – capitalist, Eurocentric, and patriarchal.


However, it should be noted, from the start, that the aforementioned confrontation is not discursively configured in Viana’s work. The political character of this poetics lies, rather, in the way in which the artist has made available, at least since the 1990s, her body as an intermediary between the pictorial plane and the flows of forces, made invisible by the instrumentalism that, sedimented in culture, modulates our cognition. In this sense, Gilles Deleuze’s famous reading of Francis Bacon’s work helps us to describe the logic that governs Teresa Viana’s image-topologies: “The task of painting is defined as the attempt to make visible forces that are not visible.”[2] The primacy of force fields over form results in what the French philosopher calls the logic of sensation because, unlike forms–which we cognitively apprehend and whose articulations we recompose to produce meanings–forces are exerted on our bodies, conditioning sensations.


The coloured encaustic masses that sediment on Teresa Viana’s pictorial surfaces result in labyrinthine topologies that condense the artist’s sensory thought. The persistence of Viana’s commitment to painting as a privileged field for the elaboration of a thought irreducible to discursive units, resulted in the development of a sensory language, which eludes the interpretative investments that seek, in the artist’s dense chromatic masses, familiar figures such as those that we have sought to recognize, from our earliest childhood, in the clouds. In both cases, the recognition of a figure says more about the cultural mediation of our perception than about the image we have before our eyes. In any case, the temporal thickness in which our encounter with Teresa Viana’s paintings unfolds is marked by an incessant oscillation between our most common perception, its capture, and its temporary suspension in the face of the field of forces that the artist unveils.


Another aspect that stands out in the labyrinthine image-topologies created by Viana has to do with the centrifugal character of her paintings, which tensions the very idea of ​​the labyrinth as a space of confinement. The dense coloured paths unfold virtually in the space outside the frame, triggering an experience of sensory drift of the body-gaze due to the chromatic and material abundance that, regardless of the canvas’s dimension, remains inexhaustible and open. Although we can get lost in Viana’s labyrinthine paintings, what is at stake in them is not finding a way out, but activating a sensory way of relating to the image, which makes this loss of direction a powerful drift, as when we travel to an unknown place and we can experience the freshness of perception that, in familiar landscapes, was blunted. Our permanence in Viana’s paintings is not due to the difficulty of finding a way out, but to the sensations triggered by its chromatic and material qualities.


Produced in encaustic and oil on plywood, mdf, or canvas, these paintings are materializations of thoughts that unfold at the time of creation, making it impossible to claim an ideation of the form prior to the artist’s bodily encounter with the materials with which she builds her works. This thought results in a diversity of affective-sensorial statements and folds over its own sensible motions, betting on the immanence of painting as a field of attraction, unlike transcendental motions that make use of painting to take us to another place. Teresa Viana’s infinite is relational, not simply consisting of theoretically unlimited space-time. The infinity that we experience in front of these paintings presupposes the temporary suspension of the articulations between space and time, as we know them. This is a radical happening, which places the aesthetic experience we have with these works on the same existential level as erotic and mystical experiences.


Teresa Viana’s practice brings freshness to the contemporary debate on painting. Although she has forged a pictorial language marked by a chromatic and material work that is unique, her practice does not fit into the modernist glossary. What is at stake here is not the fundamentals of pictorial language. In dialogue with this tradition, Teresa Viana’s thought-body-feeling, which materializes in painting, is irreducible to a formalist approach. This process of pictorial creation of the infinite results from a way of being that recognizes the limits of cognition modulated by culture, and bets on art as the decolonizing potential of the flows of force that swirl under the apparent stability of the world around us.


Icaro Ferraz Vidal Junior



[1] LEIBNIZ, G, W. Opuscules et Fragments Inédits: par Louis Couturat. Paris: Félix Alcan Éditeur, 1903.

[2] DELEUZE, Gilles Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. London: Continuum, 2003.