Small Variations Within the Things of the World ◄ Back

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To Maria Teresa Cruz and Jose Braganca de Miranda. The painting of the last century has existed, interestingly enough, between two significant and opposing parameters. On the one hand, there has been an expressionistic tendency that has transformed the discovery of materials, of gestures and of thematic, conceptual or performative violence into its driving force par excellence. Meanwhile, on the other hand, there has been a Classical tendency that, while understanding the limitations and the impossibilities of the Classical model, has also tried to redeem that which was still a pulsating, decisive form within this model, into a new invention. The father of both of these tendencies had a name that still warrants our consideration today: Cezanne. This is true because Cezanne was not merely that expressionistic exception within the impressionism that he practiced, but he was also the person who understood most profoundly the sense of permanence of a Classicism that he succeeded in expressing through a will to rationalize which he never abandoned, in the end, and which helped to discipline, through solemn geometric patterning, the uncontrollability of his other tendency. From among the exuberant family of the pioneers, we can mention names as diverse as Picasso or Kirchner, Munch or Noide, Kokoshka or even Deiaunay, including those who followed during the second half of the century, especially in the USA, such as Pollock or De Kooning, and in England Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. This large family was, in the end, the one which brought together ail those who, under the banner of silence and contemplation, wanted to affirm a dramatic destiny that could, through art, lead to an understanding of their strongest pulsations, their uncontrollability, the eruption from within the forms of an uneasiness that Freud had already diagnosed, extending the scale of this affliction to civilization itself. Put more simply: the cry of a humanity suffering before the possibility of the death of God and the always determining presence of an aesthetics of forces dominating another aesthetics, of forms. These artists, many times, obliterated all convention, because an imperative will to affirm that which was expressive in art commanded them to labour in the questioning of everything, in the name of an uncontrollable desire to make painting an arena which set expression against form. We could also define the lineage of others, names like Matisse or Bonnard, Sonia. Deiaunay or Leger and, later, Rothko or Bamett Newman, to whom form was important because it served not only to reiterate that sense of redemption of what was already sensitive and abstract in art of the past, but also to express something that was beyond subjective rage, situated within a broader and more profound contemplative horizon. The separation of these two lineages has a specific purpose here - all the more since we know that, within the vast field of art, all lines of separation must be considered with prudence, since there are always exceptions and, above all, since no boundary is clear. This specific purpose then, is to delimit two productive fields which are capable of typifying different types of approaches. In this sense, and precisely because it will aid us in understanding which tradition of painting an artist like Victor AImeida belongs to, it is important that we consider the meaning of his approach to painting, the horizon onto which he projects his search, be it interior, personal, and subjective, or exterior, formal and objective. Since I am familiar with the promising beginnings of this artist, I feel that he definiteiy belongs to the second family. And, within that group, he is part of those who are given to contemplation, those who are more interested in painting as silence than as a scream, interested in the controlled rather than expressive side of painting, in the philosophical side of painting, shall we say, rather than the exterior or vividly affirmative side of painting. Victor AImeida paints in order to understand what he sees, not what he sees immediately through direct transposition and apprehension of that which beiongs to the senses, but rather what reaches him, through the senses but more subtly, through the apprehension of a kind of subtle nature that he discovers in the things surrounding him, that one feels more than sees as something visible and that takes a long time to find, to guess, to understand and discern, behind the fog of signs and images which constantly block things from our sight. Accordingly, his painting springs much more from a serene contemplation of the world, of the small variations within the things of the world - as when Monet painted the variations of light that a given aspect of reality could take on according to the incidences of light - than from a painful, tense relationship with that same world. As a result, his preparation is slow, meditative, elaborated inwardly as a labour of decantation and purification in which all that is extra must be subtracted so that nothing might contaminate through excess or invisibility that which he aims to make clear, luminous. It is not surprising, therefore, that this painting should be the result of a kind of erasure and of a sense of disappearance because, instead of visible excess, our artist presents the subtle suggestion of the invisible, of the difficulty of seeing. The fact is that every painter who, instead of looking within himself, looks at the surrounding world and sees there the mirror of the self, perceives eariy on that seeing is precisely what is most difficult. This type of artist is, consequently, more interested in painting as a form of discernment of all that surrounds him, as if it were always necessary to go a little further than that which becomes immediately visible and remains the noise of things surrounding him, in order to penetrate that which things only reveal to those who hold steadfast in contemplation, thereby discerning that which is not evident but is, instead, a kind of silence and hiding, with the subtle soul and strong pulsation that can only be revealed precisely through much contemplation, through much observation. As a result, this meticulous painter, who registers the minimum possible in his works, where stridency does not exist, is the author of a deaf painting, opposite to any aesthetics which might coexist with the scream, if it is true that all painting, on a certain level is audible, Victor Almeida's work only suggests to us a vague murmur, an expression near silence, a kind of morning of the world, before the noise that followed, with the doings of humans. His world, which is uninhabited and vast, deals in abstract terms with a sort of leaving home, a sort of desertion, in which the elements tend toward a cosmic, harmonious convergence, subtly expressed through minimal tonal variations, analogous to that which occurs when the blue of the sky and the blue of the ocean come together. It is not by chance that Victor AImeida is Azorean, as was Antonio Dacosta, whom Nemesio wisely named, a European painter of the islands. Nor is it by chance that the two participate in that kind of contemplation which aims to cover, beyond the fog that is visible, the emerging forms of the not-yet-visible. It is also not by chance that both take succour in the colour blue, which in the work of these two artists transforms the vast knowledge of an insular horizon where ocean and sky bind into one. That blue which is, at. once, sky and ocean, as well as the meeting of the two, belongs to a mythical dimension of colours in which blue also signifies distance, melancholy, contemplation, memory. in one artist, as in the other, what is involved is not so much the painting of the visible within another, imaginary order that couid become visible, if seen from beyond its material evidence, from within that which it is supposed to have hidden. It is as if, beyond the blue, there was always another blue, the colour of mirrors that don't reflect, a blue that would be that of the bottom of the ocean and of the highest sky, in an unmeasured space that would approximate infinity in its disarming silence. Through his process of seeing the world in this blue that invades all, Victor AImeida instils a notion of space which cannot be measured as scenery but only as unlimited horizon, an endless line which is no longer a line but a stain where all that is distant is transfigured and revealed through the order of another nature. His oceans of abstract blue are not so much those of the ocean and the sky as they are of that infinite sense of the white, incommensurable space through which he would like his painting to breath, a way of understanding the interior space of a room as infinitude, or as the endless fold of an endlessly expanding space. It would be an error, then, to look for vestiges of figuration in his painting because, despite a deep sense of scenery - and in this he approximates Barnet Newman, for example - what he paints, in our eyes, partakes precisely of the order of that pure abstraction which an unlimited space would be. Therefore, what could be named the abstract figures that emerge from his painting - sometimes sinuously and sometimes through more geometrical forms with horizontal bars, or that abandon themselves to that invasion of blue that feels ever closer to white and to the transparently invisible - belong rather to the order of a Utopia, of the creation or invention of a space that would be felt at a maximum distance to be close, or rather - once again adopting the Kantian terminology of the aesthetics of the sublime - of the unlimited. As a result of this aesthetic harmonization, that distance would cease to be felt as distance, to be seen as the infinite transparency of a space to be lost from sight, of a space without end, and without beginning, a space in which nothing, no obstacle, no curtain, no impediment, would manage to disturb its perception, the understanding of its infinite dimension, its unreachable unfolding into an expanse without measure. In this respect, I feel that Victor AImeida has taken on a task worthy of the Cyclops, because nothing is more difficult than to desire to penetrate the unlimited and, then, to desire to conjugate it so that it can be seen on a screen that, no matter how large in scale, will always be much too small to contain it. In a material sense, Velazquez understood early on in Western tradition that infinite space and the sense of infinity do not fit within painting and, as a result, he enclosed it within a limited dimension that mostly dispensed with illusionism of perspective. And it was only after, with Turner, Iand then Monet and Cezanne, that this desire to contain that which is by definition not containable, would reappear within this old tradition as Utopia, and as an attempt to represent that which cannot be represented. For this reason, Newman himself can speak of a "sublime today", as if he understood that the reinvention of space, not only in terms of metaphysics, as in Chirico, but in terms of Utopia, was an urgent task set before the new art of painting. Now, I obviously do not want to compare the work of Victor Aimeida, a young artist in search of his path, with that of the great abstract American master. What I do want to affirm is that his search moves in that direction, and contains that dissatisfaction with the capacity to represent what seems alien to representation, what is atmospheric, the very emptiness we feel, its vibration, its strong power to attract and to mystify. I also want to say that, in order to do this, the painter attempts to measure himself through a dimension that has very little to do with the physical, and that maybe at certain hours the ocean which surrounds the misty islands which he inhabits may help to shape a hypothesis or a desire already fleetingly shaped. Also, I want to say that this struggle, which in technical terms implies the application in succession of what are called velaturas, encompasses the desire to capture, in painting, a testimony to this sense of the atmospheric and of the unattainable that what we call real sometimes attains, as an infra-fine form of allowing itself to be seen. May he do this; may he continue to attempt to do this; may he take this dissatisfaction with painting ever further. There is reason to believe that he has found his artistic path and that it is there that he works, alien to influences and currents. What should interest us above all, then, is that he feel, think and express himself as painter, which is not the same as any other task, because painting - and he demonstrates this well in what he does - is a very particular, a very rare form of interrogating and understanding the mysteries of this world, be it his own, or our own. Bernardo Pinto de AImeida November/December 2002

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FONSECA MACEDO - ARTE CONTEMPORÂNEA | 2017