Galeria Nuno Centeno is pleased to announce the opening of Gabriel Lima’s ‘Divisor’. This is the artist’s third exhibition at Galeria Nuno Centeno.
Ours is a time in which daily practices, our mundane forms of life and activities, occur against a backdrop of deeply critical structural, infrastructural and historical processes of change, with their blind and furious aspects. Changes that in their very nature, scope and speed, seem to preclude a minimal sense of constancy and direction in different spheres and aspects of life, from the personal to the institutional, and in every other domain in between. Of course, “normality” in daily life as in history is indeed a “relative” concept, in many ways simply an ideological construct.
And yet, it is fair to say that we all experience changes in the actual contexts of our lives that are imposed in ways that obscure and confuse our understanding of their meanings, direction and possible alternatives. We are surrounded in our daily contexts by imagery that amplifies and obfuscates the circumstances and sources of our current predicaments and anxieties. One can observe that in such a context, the experience and the construction of time proper to the arts, in contrast to the acceleration of lived time and the contraction of the spaces of life, becomes an essential tool for autonomy and survival.
We have all recently witnessed images of fires and destruction in the Amazon region in Brazil, a man made ecological disaster orchestrated by the extremist rightwing Brazilian government. The images of animals terrorized by the fires in the Amazon is one of the sources of a series of “topical” paintings in the show. Widely seen images of a hurt anteater, a typical Amazonian jungle animal, disoriented by the flames constituted a point of departure for the artist. And yet, here the artist is not simply a distant observer receiving and reacting to a flow of media images for, as a youngster, Lima visited the central village of the Tikuna reservation in the Western Amazonian frontier in Brazil, and was able to participate in the daily life of the community. The Amazon, the forest and its native people is a living, familiar reality to the artist. Here, in characteristic ways, personal memories, first hand experiences and personal knowledge are activated within the creative process as the artist receives, registers and replies to the demands, cares and troubles of the world at large echoed and also shaped by its repercussions in the media.
We can point out the significance the artist finds in the historical lineage of modern artists responding to actuality, to current affairs or the news properly, with “topical” artworks that include, among seminal examples, Goya’s The Third of May of 1808 (1814), Manet’s The Execution of Emperor Maximilian series (1867-69), and closer in time, the American painter Leon Golub’s series from the 1970s and 1980s on war, political power and state violence. In fact, Lima met Golub and visited his studio in New York in the 1990s. In a different context and with different formal means, we can identify in Lima’s artworks resonances with the central question stated in Golub’s works of the relations between aesthetics and ethics in contemporary art. It is indeed clear, even to the most casual or superficial approach, that the crisis in the Amazon (as well as the general ecological crisis of our time) is all in all a political crisis.
In Divisor I and II, the cruciform figure of the anteater presents the animal as kind of sacrificial victim of the man-made disaster, with its elusive symbolic connotations of expiation, tragedy and injustice against the innocent. However, the “open arms” of the standing animal is in real situations an aggressive position: anteaters are dangerous animals with their powerful claws that can be used to attack enemies and to counter larger predators. The same gesture is repeated in Divisor III, a delicately structured painting, showing the characteristics elements of Lima’s artistic concepts and practice of contrasting skillfully painted shapes, forms and figures, with coarse, seemly “improvised”, spontaneous and “hurried” forms and surfaces as to stress the urgency and emotional charge of the artwork‘s appeal and meaning. Finally, in Divisor IV, Lima reproduces a distinctive drawing, that was made and gifted to him by a member of the Tikuna tribe more than two decades ago, of an anteater in the very same guarded position.
The human form is also a central element in the exhibition: heads and figures of expectant individuals emerge from uncertain contexts and spaces, subordinated to what appear to be fleeting and transient material environments. While these spaces are improbable and patchy, they sharply address and give contours to very probable socio-geographical contexts. This visual decoupage returns to the viewer the action that is, or should apparently be completed: the action of seeing, that is, to dispose and display environments, to organize and signify its forms, shapes and surfaces according to a dominant, active center, excluding by necessity and design other viewpoints. And yet, as Merleau Ponty (Eye and Mind, 1960) observed, the condition of visibility is immersive and reciprocal, the art of the painter, consequently, partakes of that original community of vision as its essential condition of possibility.
The paradox of the painter’s art, we can state, is that it interrogates the world’s surfaces by adding opaque surfaces to opaque surfaces, and, by replicating the mute state of bodies in the world with their communicative surfaces and movements, the painter is able to elicit, from specific perspectives, original responses, and to extract, in an “embattled” relationship, a corporeal association with reality’s (as well as with art’s) forms and matters, meanings belonging to “the things themselves”, that is, to the very sources and foundations of our knowledge of and our engagement with the world. The art of painting is a meditation on vision, that is, on our experiences of and perspectives about being with and among other visible and observing beings. Lima’s paintings interrogate those relationships of visibility, that are also in fact cultural and social, by occupying and depicting the gaps, the intervals, the spaces that both separate and unite subjects and perspectives. Vision and touch are correlated senses at the foundations of our experience of place and placement, of distance, of time.