Teresa Viana’s latest production or painting on a tightrope
Original Portuguese text published in the catalog of the exhibition at Macunaíma Project, FUNARTE RJ, 1996; and in book Arte Internacional Brasileira de Tadeu Chiarelli - 1999
Modern painting, yearning to clarify its constituent elements (the plane, the line, the color, the gesture, the matter), as a way to position itself before the world, has often abdicated the function attributed to it for centuries: to seduce the eye, seek transcendence through the exploration or the search for beauty.
Until the advent of modernity, those elements were used so as to disappear inside the painting, giving priority to beauty in the world represented there – with all its enchantments whether real or ideal. But of course even submerged under the surface of the represented world, they were there sustaining, structuring those illusions. Behind the mystic universe of Caspar David Friedrich’s landscape, of the dramatic character of Rembrandt’s portraits, and the serenity of the universe grasped by Chardin, for example, the elements of the pictorial language were there.
Yearning to be explicit about its functioning or structuring, modern painting caused a reflow in the representation, or a sort of “fading” process of the subject so that the pictorial structure could emerge, actually becoming the main object of the painting. Often the process of seducing the spectator by the eye, which painting used to have, has also faded.
When Castagneto dried the color and exuberance of Grimm’s and Parreiras’s paintings, and of the “satisfied” landscape of the end of the last century he was careful to be explicit about the operative structuring of its pictorial language. Thus, on the one hand he brought Brazilian painting up to the standard of the great international art of the time, and on the other hand, contrary to his colleagues, he was undeniably not concerned about captivating the spectator through the seducing potentialities of the painting (which absolutely does not disqualify him, but only removes him from one tendency and puts him into another). Like Castagneto, it seems that Cèzanne, Picasso, Braque acted like that. And more recently Dubuffet, Pollock, Tápies, Iberê Camargo, the “matéricos” paulistas of the 80/90 – several artists claimed to operate with the minimum elements of language to reaffirm the supremacy of the painting as an action in the world (with all the meaning it carries), without the least conscious intention of pleasing anybody’s eye.
However, within the same concern about the explicitness of its structural nature at the cost of traditional subject and of transcendent potentialities of painting, many artists continued to pursue the seduction of the spectator’s eye, the search for pleasure not only to paint, but equally to see painting and, through this action, transcend the reality of the world. Monet, Vuillard, Bonnard, Matisse, Mondrian, Ad Reinhard, Guignard, Volpi, Barsotti, among others, understood that pictorial language, through the emphasis of its own elements, was still capable of seducing and transcending.
This way, the history of modern painting can be summarized by this constant oscillation between the works of art which open themselves to contemplation and to the spectator’s involvement and those which deny any relationship with the other, proposing a direct confrontation with its materiality, with the marks of its contents.
It was after the development of these two tendencies of modern painting that Teresa’s work appeared.
At first sight, her painting seems to present us with a disturbance: how to conciliate the profusion of such opulent colors and shades – seductive, beautiful, sensual – with such brutal, rough, uncomfortable materiality? The color takes us back to a Monet fascinated by tropical colors, while the thick layers of paint allude to a brutal painting suddenly revived. Her work seems to be walking on a tightrope, establishing a precarious concomitance between those two tendencies which are so exclusive.
Teresa Viana’s work could only have appeared now. After Monet, Matisse, Pollock, Ad Reinhardt, Tapies, after all the trajectory of modern painting, only after it and all its possibilities, apparently exhausted (and also after all the history of painting) it became possible for an artist to reconstruct her way within this language, assuming a conductive line towards confluence (problematic, we must say) of those two antagonistic tendencies.
It is not that the artist’s painting reproduces a synthesis, reconciliation. That would be like emptying, or neutralizing all the tension of the painting that preceded it, transforming her production into a kind of subproduct of the Kitsch unfortunately so easy to find in the art circuit, especially after the past decade. Teresa Viana’s work presents the antagonisms that oriented this century’s painting and emphasizes them, not consciously resolving them.
To the seduction of the tropical colors which by contorting themselves create vibratory areas and areas tending to spacial illusionism and transcendence, the painter opposes, in eternal conflict, the material body which constitute them, laying the claim to the mark of her “inelegant” action on the canvas. As if conscious of the danger of pure evasion that the profuse colors might foist on her work, the artist seems to reveal the creative mechanisms of each area of color, preventing arcquitecture of the shapes managed by the subjective and original use of the colors to transform themselves into mere artifice.
Before the artist’s paintings the spectator experiences the limits that have always existed between those two tendencies of modern art: invited to transcend the world through the opulence and beauty of the colors, he is prevented by the presence of the matter that builds the shapes.
A painting that criticizes itself all the time, and that by doing so obliges the critic to go back to the history that came before it, which justifies it and which ultimately is its only subject – this perhaps might eventually synthetize the essence of Teresa Viana’s latest production.