2005_Afonso Luz


Chromatic Counter-Clichés

Original Portuguese text published in the catalog of the exhibition at Espaço Cultural Sérgio Porto, RJ. 

The colors have an artificiality that evokes bubblegum chromatics. Paintings charged with a pop pigmentation which impregnates viscous brushstrokes. Corpulent masses of paint live together promiscuously, piled up one on top of the other, forming a strange volume. There is also something familiar there, something of the immoderate compulsiveness of one who lives every day around his chewing gum, bringing rhythm to the monotony with the repetitious chewing on the edible rubber, until its last drop of aromatic juice and coloring is extracted. It is as if there was in those masses an obsession with chewing the colors, sucking out their intensity, only leaving them in their fading moments. But there is also the tedious energy of abandoning them, without delay, on a full crust of pigment which stands out on the foreground with all its confuse vividness.

It is unusual how all this happens without our seeing in the gestures the choices that gave origin to the painting, failing to recognize an organizing authority with reason and will. They are entangles of actions, captured by the pasty thickness of the material, which drag with them the clarity of the gestures to a merely residual appearance of expressiveness. It is a painting of expressive reversion, not at all expressionist. A painting that knows how to and can despise conventionalized ideals without cynical facilities. In its construction there is, ironically, a certain absence of intentionality. It does not presentify even the accidental spontaneity of the constant rhythm of the paint drippings, converted into clichés advertising freedom and “individual style” in cigarette campaigns. There is something more than that.

A painting that, paradoxically, undoes its “self”, one could say, venturing the words, as if the painter that made it were the most pure absence of himself. Thus it ends up going against the unfolding tradition it apparently supports. A legacy that fulfilled our “subjectification” for long centuries and up to today. We need only to remember, as has often been said, that it was painting that gave perspective to the path the western world took to make its values effective. That is what made this art into a privileged field for the construction of the imaginary experience of individualization. Whether through the optic dimension which objectifies an “interior” of the painting, or whether through the register of the “maniera” and of human representation, or whether still, in a modern sense, through the revelation of the literal activity which establishes the pictorial field on the surface of the canvas: that is how painting placed itself at the center of civilizatory development and reflected the interiority of the subject.

However, in this case, there is still another experiment of the visible. Immediately, the eye simply grazes over the painting’s body, groping along the stuffings of color. Little by little we find ourselves deceitfully ensnared in its thick mesh, its singular thickness. In an unusual way, our relation with the work becomes corporal, being no longer merely visual. Fundamentally, it is a relation with the consistency of color. The embodiment that gives presence to the color, more than just revealing the perceptive accidentality of sight, produces an interaction between our world and that of the work. It requires an eye that penetrates each concavity within the material, that rummages through translucent layers of the pictorial mass, that turns coatings upside down, pursuing underground vestiges. It requires that we lose ourselves in chaos and that, little by little, we rise from its entrails bringing with us a tension lived within the color arrangement. All this without it ceasing to appear as pure exteriority of the chromatic event.

The color disposition is neither in the mass that stretches out in a drawing line, neither in the viscosity that spreads out in dissonant shades or in luminous ranges. It lies in the dispersion between planes and volumes which quickly dialogue in frequencies and in the spectrum of color. Thus the lively blue dissolves itself in the stale green or the maroon red turns into a shrill pink. As if actively melancholic tones could follow the fresh futilities of color with a problem no bigger than a subtle difference in density. The most incredible of it all is that no color or tone takes the lead in order to harmoniously coordinate the others. We are amazed to find that there are no forms of dominance in them that rearticulate the field of color into some kind of union. It is as if the saturation of their chromatic bodies and their contamination could generate a disturbing balance. They are resistant hardnesses and liquid interpenetrations that undo the easy game of hot and cold values.

It is a painting that does not give itself to the totaling eye of one who looks and tries to understand it by means of composite arrangements or plastered classification stratagems. In this way, but on another level, it inherits the best that has existed in the pictorial tradition, our contemporary, which had the experience of a subjectivity constructo at the same time it was experiencing the radical decentration of an intensely problematic subject in its being. Here we see subjectivity facing its own disintegration.

The painting that has been proposing itself as a radical instant of each being in art, validating itself in its stylistic or technical identity at each moment of its history, has always known how to make itself bigger than the circumstantial aesthetic limitations, producing for itself a live orbit of interests and of knowledge, plastic and mental, in the field of art as much as in that of thought. It seems that these paintings that we see have something to teach us about our own perceptive dissolution. They are capable, I may say with some certainty, of confronting the spectator, gone catatonic out of the frequency of the tele-visive apparatus, already omnipresent in our eyes.