PAULO WHITAKER E SEU TERRITÓRIO MOVEDIÇO

 

Tadeu Chiarelli

1997

 

Por que será que a produção em papel de Paulo Whitaker intriga tanto o espectador, igual ou mais ainda que sua pintura, sempre tão carregada de uma forte dose de mistério?

Antes de responder tal pergunta, talvez fosse importante averiguar a razão desse mistério presente nas pinturas do artista. Pode ser que justamente aí surjam algumas indicações para uma resposta satisfatória à questão levantada no  parágrafo acima.

Um dos pontos principais de sua produção pictórica, parece, reside na oposição entre grandes áreas monocromáticas (quase sempre brancas ou negras) e um ou outro desenho ou mancha feitos a pincel, formas que tendem a potencializar a área monocromática.

Essas formas mínimas, por sua vez, estrategicamente colocadas quase sempre nas extremidades do suporte não chegam a instaurar na tela o dilema figura/fundo - elemento instaurador da ilusão tridimensional -, impedindo que essa sua produção, portanto, resvale para o universo da pintura tradicional.  A desproporção entre essas formas e as grandes áreas monocromáticas é tão intensa que acaba se tornando quase impossível olhar para uma pintura do artista e pensar em conceitos como "composição", "equilíbrio", "claro-escuro", etc., etc.

É nessa negação prática das convenções da tradição pictórica que suas telas adquirem o principal elemento de mistério. Pinturas que se negam ao universo pictórico convencional, elas se abrem para uma área de estranhamento onde imperam os princípios da colagem.

Mais próximas da colagem - que (como será relembrado a seguir) impediu a melhor pintura deste século a perpetuar-se como um território de pura virtualidade ­­-, as telas de Whitaker se inscrevem num diálogo autônomo com a arte contemporânea, introduzindo novas possibilidades de sentido para a pintura que se realiza hoje em dia.

 

No entanto, por mais que os sentidos possíveis da produção pictórica de Whitaker indiquem a riqueza de sua contribuição para a pintura mais recente, frente aos seus trabalhos sobre papel nota-se que as possibilidades de sua contribuição para a arte atual tendem a ser ainda mais amplas, mais desestabilizadoras de alguns cânones já cristalizados durante o período moderno.

Para a produção de seus papéis, nota-se na maioria dos casos que o artista se utiliza de certos expedientes presentes em suas pinturas: grandes áreas que suportam aqui e/ou ali uma forma, uma mancha. Nesses micro-universos que nunca se revelam em sua inteireza lógica (a desarticulação entre figura e fundo aqui é ainda mais potencializada), ocorrem certos abalos de linguagem que revelam de maneira mais cabal a própria poética do artista.

Refiro-me à recorrência, também nesses papéis, da presença de expedientes típicos da colagem. E seria justamente no uso especial que o artista faz  de certos princípios embutidos no conceito da colagem que esses tremores ocorrem, revelando uma poética extremamente rica de significados.

No início do século XX a colagem foi usada para "matar" a pintura convencional, ou melhor, para matar a ilusão do tridimensional no espaço pictórico (vide a prática cubista da colagem). Um pouco mais tarde - sobretudo pelo Dada e seus herdeiros -, foi explorada pela sua capacidade de produzir efeitos de estranhamento, articulando novas possibilidades de significação para imagens de origens as mais diversas que, agrupadas arbitrariamente num espaço determinado, detonavam os cânones da cultura visual do Ocidente.

No caso específico dos trabalhos em papel de Paulo Whitaker, o que parece conceder-lhes essa capacidade de produzir cataclismos na prática da colagem (em sua tradição e, por extensão, à toda a tradição moderna) é o fato do artista usar na produção das mesmas, desenhos por ele produzidos em outras épocas. Ao invés de buscar no imenso banco de imagens produzidos pelo Homem, elementos para constituir seus trabalhos, Whitaker recupera elementos do seu próprio imaginário, revificando em outros contextos, imagens produzidas por ele próprio em outros períodos de sua prática artística.

Se a negação do espaço virtual tridimensional é contemplado nesses trabalhos sobre papel (e também em suas pinturas, não podemos esquecer), o conceito já convencional de estranhamento, no entanto, fica irremediavelmente comprometido, ou prenhe de uma nova e insuspeita complexidade, uma vez que tanto a origem do campo plástico quanto das formas sobre ele ajustadas, possuem uma mesma origem: o próprio trabalho plástico do artista.

Ali não se trata mais de observar a permanência da elegância plástica da colagem cubista, ou a ironia das colagens dada ou surrealistas. Nesses papéis de Whitaker, o foco de interesse se dá pela revelação da permanência de outros "Whitakers" dialogando ou em franco embate com o atual, que, por sua vez, reafirma a si mesmo e à sua maneira de encarar sua produção em processo de materialização, tendo como base imagens criadas por ele mesmo, num passado recente ou mais remoto, que o artista vai fazendo emergir ou submergir nesse território em permanente transformação que é o seu processo criativo.

Sem dúvida as fontes de referência utilizadas por Whitaker não se resumem apenas à sua produção passada ( seria ingênuo imaginar que um artista nas bordas do século XXI negasse que o seu repertório visual é a soma - em última análise - de todo o repertório visual, artístico ou não artístico da Humanidade). No interior dessas camadas que de repente afloram no plano de seus papéis, às vezes é possível detectar a presença de uma ou outra poética que veio somar-se àquela do artista, sobretudo em seu período de formação primeira - quando todos os artistas são como rios de lava incandescente que tragam tudo o que encontram pela frente.

 

 

PAULO WHITAKER AND HIS MOVING GROUND

 

 

Why is it, we wonder, that Paulo Whitaker’s work on paper is so puzzling – in fact, equally or even more so than his paintings, which are always charged with a substantial amount of mystery?

Maybe, before answering this question, one should investigate the reasons behind this mystery that permeates the artist’s production. Perhaps this search would provide clues for a satisfactory answer to the question above.

Apparently, one of the principal attributes of Whitaker’s pictorial work resides in the opposition between large monochrome areas (nearly always white or black) and one or two inscriptions or blotches made with brush, themselves forms that tend to potentiate the monochrome area.

In turn, these tiny forms strategically positioned nearly always at the edge of the support do not go as far as instating in the canvas the figure versus background dilemma – an element that establishes tridimensional illusion –, thus preventing his production to slip into the realm of traditional painting. The disproportion between these forms and the great monochrome areas is so intense that ultimately it is impossible to look at one of Whitaker’s paintings and think of such concepts as “composition”,  “balance”,  “chiaroscuro” and so forth.

It is precisely through this practical denial of the conventions of pictorial tradition that his canvases acquire their principal element of mystery. As paintings that refuse to belong in the conventional pictorial universe, they swerve to a field of defamiliarization ruled by the principles of collage.

Closer to collage – a trend that (as I will mention below) prevented the best of 20th century painting to be perpetuated as a territory of sheer virtuality –, Whitaker’s canvases are inscribed in an independent dialogue with contemporary art, thus introducing new possibilities of meaning for the painting produced nowadays.

 

However, no matter to what extent the possible meanings of Whitaker’s pictorial production may reveal the richness of his contribution to recent painting, when faced with his works on paper the viewer realizes that the potential of his contribution tends to be even broader and more unsettling in respect to a few modern-age canons.

In his paper production the artist frequently resorts to elements that are also present in his paintings: large areas onto which small forms or blotches are dabbed here and there.  Within these micro-universes that never reveal their logical wholeness (the disarticulation of figure and background is even further enhanced here), a certain tremor of language occurs that most candidly exposes the artist’s poetics itself.

I refer to the recurrence of typical contrivances of collage in these papers.  It is precisely in the unique manner the artist employs certain principles inherent to the collage concept that these tremors occur, thus revealing an extremely rich poetics, replete with meanings.

At the turn of the century, collage was used to “kill” conventional painting, that is to say, to do away with the illusion of tridimensionality of the pictorial space (see the Cubist practice of collage).  Sometime later, its capacity to produce defamiliarization effects was explored (mainly by Dada and its heirs) so as to articulate new possibilities of meaning for images spawned from multifarious sources. Arbitrarily grouped in a given space, these images ultimately launched the canons of Western visual culture.

In the specific case of Paulo Whitaker’s works on paper, seemingly their capacity to insert cataclysms in the collage practice (i.e., its tradition and, consequently, the overall modern tradition) results from the artist’s use of drawings he produced in the past.  Instead of searching the immense image database produced by human culture for elements to introduce in his works, Whitaker recovers elements from his own imaginary to revive, in different contexts, those images he produced in earlier periods of artistic creation.

While these works on paper as well as his paintings (let us not forget them!) deny the tridimensionality of virtual space, the now conventional concept of defamiliarization becomes irremediably committed or pregnant with a new and unsuspected complexity. After all, both the art field and the forms arranged on it share the same origin: the artist’s creation itself.

It is no longer the permanence of the elegant aesthetics of Cubist collage neither the irony of Dada or Surrealist collages that we must seek in Whitaker’s work. In his papers, the focal interest is in the permanence of other “Whitakers” engaged in dialogue or earnest confrontation with the present Whitaker.  In turn, to reassert himself and his own way of handling the materialization process of his production, the latter resorts to images he created in the past, which he causes to emerge or submerge in this field of on-going transformation that doubles as his creative process.

Without a doubt, Whitaker’s reference sources are not restricted to his past production. After all, it would be naïve to suppose that on the eve of the 21st century an artist would deny the influence of the entire visual, artistic and non-artistic human repertoire upon his visual repertoire. Within these layers that suddenly surface on his papers, the presence of different poetics may be detected that adds to the poetics of the artist himself, particularly those poetics of his early career – a period when all artists are like streams of lava that spread over and take in everything that lies before them.

However, it should be stressed that notwithstanding all unavoidable influence and assimilation, Paulo Whitaker’s latent production is based on many of his past works. Consequently, the artist’s self-referential collages denote an authorial poetics and sensibility that are not targeted on the future. They do not always proceed along a straight line toward a presumed, unknown and hypothetical instance of full achievement of the art form – a quest of Modern characteristics that several contemporary artists have sought to achieve, without ever becoming aware of the idealistic artifices that make up this myth. To the contrary, like a mythological monster, Paulo Whitaker feeds on his own output to generate his work.

Whitaker’s works give indisputable proof to the fact that actually every artist puts out a single production made up by instances of sedimentation, sliding, displacement and convulsion that successively create and recreate a same territory. The difference between Paulo Whitaker and his peers is that he has not camouflaged this process. Instead, he has allowed this practice to become the core of his poetics.

While observing the artist’s works the viewer will clearly notice that the best metaphor to describe his production (as well as the production of all artists) is not an ascending line, but a spiral. Like a spiral that circles around its center at a continuously increasing and decreasing distance, his work is built from cyclical convulsions that suddenly cause previously submerged crusts to surface as new formations. Such is the configuration of a most puzzling and moving ground on which contemporary Brazilian art stands at present.

Tadeu Chiarelli, 1997


 

From Where to Eternity: Recent Paintings by Paulo Whitaker

Wayne Baerwaldt

 

One is generally asked by artists to read their work with particular consideration of esthetic guidelines, a kind of prescribed vocabulary for appreciating the artwork.  This process may encompass artistic and historical precedents, the relation of form to materials and even the amendment of vocabularies to contextualize the impact of new technology on perception.  On the most basic level of engagement with abstract paintings, for example, one may be asked to consider the nature of reality in the relation of figurative to abstract forms and subjects.  The influential American abstract expressionist painter, Adolf Gottlieb once said, “To my mind certain so-called abstraction is not abstraction at all.  On the contrary, it is the realism of our time.”  1   In many ways this sense of realism as an interchangeable, fluid concept informs Paulo Whitaker’s idiosyncratic approach to painting. 

 

As a viewer, certainties about the values and meanings associated with self-reflective abstract painting may be in jeopardy at any moment .  The confusion of assessing visual and visceral sensations of a very personal production in a distracting media-saturated world should be obvious.  How one assesses a “retinal painting,” as Duchamp regarded the purity of painting, is to confront the act of consciousness and this is no easy task in itself when seeing is a problem of structuring perspective.   Paulo Whitaker’s recent abstract paintings confront a complex and often contradictory relationship to dominant paradigms for seeing and the artist’s resulting vocabulary for painting.  His self-imposed parameters for comprehending his visual languaging are admirable in their idealism.  Whitaker is quick to establish guidelines for his vocabulary when he states his paintings are “not antropophagical, not about simulacra, not about new media, not self-referential, without regard to gender issues and not related to painting as actionism.” 2   Much is implied in Whitaker’s forceful statement that eschews references outside of the paintings themselves or in the act of painting as cliched bodily action.  If the artist’s artificial parameters are accepted, then what further defines Whitaker’s evolving vocabulary?  Are we to talk of the claims of modernist abstract painting, those being timelessness and universality?  What about the rhetoric of images – the specific temporal, topical, socio-political and economic conditions that he appears to reject?  To elaborate briefly on the directions for Whitaker’s evolving vocabulary for painting is the subject of this text.

 

I believe Whitaker offers some opportunity to map a territory of his current abstract paintings that shows potential for a more mature vocabulary, one based on attentive seeing while acknowledging threads of thought and experience from disparate sources, from the artist’s earlier works to the media messaging of Marshall McLuhan.  To introduce Whitaker’s vocabulary is to briefly speculate on his approaches to line, form, colour and perspective.  These areas trace the illusions his forms generate and what moves from the canvas into play with the world of ideas. 

 

In the past ten years Whitaker developed a significant series of elegant drawings on paper and oil paintings on canvas whose essential characteristics and subject matter was resolutely abstract, a series of subjective expressions and freely improvised compositions.  His sense of line, the primary motion to be observed, is a consistent form of text within the paintings.  One or more curvilinear, stenciled forms is suspended against  the space of the generally monochromatic backgrounds.  In recent years his formal restraint and tight emotional control has given way to an anti-patterning of multiple shapes.  Over the past five years, his recurring stenciled forms “slowly started to group and to touch each other, populating more and more of the compositions, and now they not just hold each other but they overlay and the result is more constructed and more painterly.”  3   The bulbous, elongated shapes achieved a certain critical mass, a thought pattern of familiarity as “instances of sedimentation, sliding, displacement and convulsion that successively create and recreate a same territory.”  4   Like overlaid corkscrew spirals they are not so much iconic as they are markers of the passage of time and seal each painting as a capsule without metaphors, signs or symbols of something else.  The condensed corkscrew weaving its way across a broad background of muted colour established a sense of place much like Jean Tinguely curlicue leitmotiffs through and across a page or the whimsical sculptural elements in his Parisian water fountain. 

 

The recent paintings elaborate on Whitaker’s basic vocabulary with a more complex structure.  He maintains the layering and interdependent arrangement of corkscrew shapes but his liquid line also produces an otherness with the addition of irregular black rectangles and awkward oblong shapes.  It is not necessarily a hierarchy of forms but in combination the forms suggest a new sensibility at work, an ordering  that combines pure line with the dynamism of geometric form.  Whitaker’s intention is to “make the work fresh, to create new problems to be solved” in the production of solidity or presence.  5   What evolves is a stronger sense of architecture and mass, a heaviness that suggests the artist’s hand/body is integrated and consistently identified in the statement that is his mature painting.  Whitaker is clearly beyond the need to establish and maintain a vocabulary in his ensemble of forms.  He’s already there.  As a mature artist his aim appears to be concerned with the mutation of his established forms.  He confidently figures in their production and this sensibility opens him up to the larger world of the tradition of painting and standards of perfection.

 

Whitaker’s introduction of colour is noteworthy.  He’s limited the selection of colours in his work until recently as he “wanted to avoid seduction through colour itself.”  In the 1980s and 90s it was the adoption of tropical colours in the art of numerous Brazilian artists that appeared to tie colour to exotic identities.  Colour refers us to the world and references particular tastes or expectations.  I’m thinking of the pastel blues and yellows of Bahia, the brassy copper colours, or the rich ochre earth tones commonly associated with the work of artists such as Senise, Milhases and Tunga.   Whitaker resisted this connection and never fell into that international camp for adopting vaguely nationalist or fiery tropicana colours.  A darker tonality and diffused palette is what I remember in Whitaker’s near blank works from ten years ago, as if the paintings were produced in another country altogether, some place given over to collective brooding and the ghosts of 20th-century revolutionary thought. 

 

In Whitaker’s new works, a spontaneous, radical use of colour now reinforces and complicates the painting process, clarifying the artist’s intention to improvise and to further exhibit his confidence to place new shapes on canvas in the most awkward configurations.  The introduction of gaudy colour combinations highlight the basic, even “crude,” stencils and their arrangement to make Whitaker’s curvilinear and geometric forms come alive as propositions in a wholly other manner devoid of ideological colour links.  His primitive shapes and colouration are not those of fellow Brazilian painter Beatriz Milhases, for example, whose “Brazilian” pastel hues and ultra-baroque decorative geometry speak a fantasy language.  Rather, Whitaker “abuses an enormous possibility of very strange colours,” and henceforth Tinguely’s bright, garish colours come to mind.  6   There’s always a history of colours in painting but Whitaker’s colours suggest an openness and freedom from traditions in Brazilian paintings.  There is speculation on both their richness as well as their blankness, to construe a nothingness in the midst of an assumed sea of possibilities.  I believe he wields colour as our cues for further speculation on the articulated field of the imagination but denies whatever we think is generated by looking.

 

Whitaker’s investigations into line, form and colour in his latest paintings fuel the means to deconstruct the faces of each painting, to ascertain the exact decisive moment in each stage of painting.  All is up for grabs, from esthetic speculation to clues to his inspiration for looking.  The surfaces of his paintings belie a deconstructive, open approach---wet paint, dry or matte paint, juxtaposition, superposition of awkward forms---these “interactive” elements suggest a decisiveness, an affirmative flattened image style that also incites a drama of technical fundamentalism in their shift in perspective.  Whitaker’s production as a painter mixes subtraction and purification with addition and impurity as it’s extended to seeing and somehow highlights omnipresent digital technology that mediates the process of seeing and comprehending.  What he’s conceivably done is to augment the vernacular of abstract painting by acknowledging technology’s impact on gesture and reference in his work. 

 

Over the last one hundred years of abstract painting in the western world, perspective as informed by the Quattrocento, one-point, renaissance perspective, operated as a way to organize a vision of the world and the spiritual realms. It remains as common currency in our process of seeing .  But few today are exempt from the influence of technological shifts. Digital technology has altered a centuries-old perspective on vision that specifically  impacts on one´s ability to accommodate the construction of paintings.  A techological shift simultaneously alters access to language, sound and vision.  Whitaker’s super flat new work responds to this quiet but seismic shift in perspective by acknowledging our current vision of the world is no longer objective (graphic) but rather teleobjective.  We live in the world through complex representation that conveniently collapses and mutates the background and foreground of any image, shrinks it as in zoom photographs, and makes our relation to the world one in which the near and the far are all mixed up and contrived.  Gottlieb’s pronouncements on the easy segue between abstract and figurative realities bears remembrance.  Just as in the perspective of real space was the organization of a new optic---geometrical optics with vanishing points and convergent optics---the perspective of real time and virtual space is the implementation of another optics, wave optics.

 

It is arguably true that one is no longer confronted with the problems of perspective but technology complicates and impacts upon perspective and further impacts on the artist’s  maturing but permeable vocabulary.  Consider the ever flattening, ever miniaturized representation of the subject to the point of disappearing.  This change in seeing is owed to wave optics that convey signals (digital, video and sound) that organize a relation to the overwhelmingly popular teleobjective world.  Everything is collapsed onto a single surface, the interface of the monitor, the flat wave of the transmitter.  Because of this societal shift in access to perception it is important to speculate on how wave optics, as opposed to geometrical optics, represent a kind of perfection of seeing perhaps witnessed in the circuitous linear elements and deliberate marks of Whitaker’s paintings.  His tightly wound improvisational gestures take in fresh significance. What Whitaker’s paintings bring to this important juncture in art history is their reassuring knowledge that there is no form or perspective that rings with immediate truth, only forceful repetitions ad infinitum of inscrutable gestural lines, suave forms and unselfconscious colours.

 

 

Notes:

1.       Adolf Gottlieb, “Statement,” Tiger’s Eye (New York, vol. 1, no. 2, Dec. 1947), 43. Republished in Charles Harrison and Paul Wood, ed., Art in Theory 1900-1990 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992), 563.

 

2.       The author in conversation with Whitaker, December, 2001.

 

3.       Ibid.

 

4.       Chiarelli Tadeu, _______, 1997.

 

5.       The author in conversation with Whitaker, December, 2001.

 

6.       Ibid.

 

Todos os caminhos   Jacopo Crivelli Visconti

 

 

Sempre evitei falar de mim,

falar-me. Quis falar de coisas.

Mas na seleção dessas coisas

não haverá um falar de mim?

João Cabral de Melo Neto

 

Já não há senão um tema na pintura: o próprio pintor.

André Malraux

 

Claro, há coisas que aos poucos vamos aprendendo. Como começar um texto,  por exemplo (ou melhor: como fingir que começar um texto seja fácil,  que seja possível, que seja algo que podemos realmente aprender aos poucos), mas a verdade é que a grande maioria das coisas temos que inventá-las de novo toda vez. As temos que tatear, ensaiar, para depois apagar e começar de novo. Tentativa e erro, como quem diz. Só que não dá para apagar tudo, sempre sobra alguma coisa, como naquele desenho de Willem de Kooning que Robert Rauschenberg resolveu apagar e intitular tautologicamente Erased de Kooning Drawing, e onde algum traço a lápis ainda pode ser distinguido, ou melhor, intuído. Não vemos o desenho, mas sabemos que aquele é o papel onde esteve alguma vez um desenho de de Kooning, e isso basta. Pura potência, tabula rasa que paralisa enquanto abre novos mundos de possibilidades, um desenho apagado é um mergulho sem possibilidade de volta na imensidade do vazio metafísico da página (ou da tela) branca. É uma confissão (o desejo de parar o mundo), sussurrada baixinho, sintoma da tentação latente, quase irresistível, de desistir da criação e entregar-se ao branco, de admitir que tentamos, erramos e recomeçamos, mas, mesmo que quiséssemos, não daria para começar de zero: começamos sempre de algo.

E para esse (re-)começo, tudo conta, tudo vale, até o que não dá para ver, ou nem para intuir. Italo Calvino conclui uma das suas memoráveis Lições americanas1, notadamente a dedicada à Rapidez, contando a história do pintor Chuang-Tsê:

Entre as múltiplas virtudes de Chuang-Tsê estava a habilidade para desenhar. O rei pediu-lhe que desenhasse um caranguejo. Chuang-Tsê disse que para faze-lo precisaria de cinco anos e uma casa com doze empregados. Passado cinco anos não havia sequer começado o desenho. “Preciso de outros cinco anos” disse Chuang-Tsê. O rei concordou. Ao completar-se o décimo ano, Chuang-Tsê pegou o pincel e num instante, com um único gesto, desenhou o caranguejo, o mais perfeito caranguejo que jamais se viu

Em algum momento, mais ou menos na metade dos anos 1990, Paulo Whitaker aprendeu a começar seus quadros2, isto é, aprendeu que não precisava começar do nada toda vez, que algo poderia transitar de uma tela para outra, que o que se aprende no embate com uma pintura pode ser usado na seguinte. Pode parecer uma observação sem maior importância, até corriqueira, mas na verdade é bastante relevante para a compreensão da maneira como o trabalho do artista se desenvolve desde então. Em alguns casos, o elo entre as pinturas é visível: uma forma arredondada e bastante nítida, de um morado quase cinza, por exemplo, aparece praticamente idêntica no lado direito de algumas telas desse período. Mas reduzir o avanço representado por essa conquista a algo tão literal seria superficial: a lição aprendida vai bem além disso, e é relevante porque permite abordar aspectos fundamentais da sua obra, notadamente seu caráter autofágico e tautológico. A reutilização de temas, motivos ou até fragmentos de obras anteriores sempre caracterizou os desenhos do Paulo Whitaker, em que frequentemente papéis já desenhados são recortados e inseridos nos novos trabalhos, mas apagados ou repintados de maneira a praticamente suprimir quase qualquer traço dos desenhos antigos. Apesar de constituir, na maioria dos casos, o elemento mais importante da composição, é como se os enxertos fossem quase escondidos: como se estivessem ali, no fundo, à revelia do artista. Mesmo nos desenhos em que é usada apenas uma folha, é freqüente ver, ao lado de formas bem acabadas, outras apagadas, ou cobertas por uma demão de branco. Em todos esses casos, é como se o objetivo último e mais autêntico desse processo autofágico fosse mostrar o tempo, conferindo assim concretude e presença física ao processo de trabalho. Fazer, isto é, que a lenta sedimentação de experiências e ações tome corpo, se faça tangível e visível, como o caranguejo de Chuang-Tsê. O Paulo conta que certa vez, na Alemanha, um amigo de um amigo, que visivelmente não tinha gostado de seus desenhos, perguntou-lhe, retoricamente, quanto demorava para fazer cada um. A resposta foi que havia demorado quinze anos para aprender a demorar cinco minutos3.

Nas telas, pintadas a óleo e portanto com uma forma mentis claramente outra em comparação ao desenho, é mais uma vez a repetição e migração de motivos de uma tela para a outra que enfatiza a questão do tempo. Não se trata, aqui, de um procedimento autofágico, como nos desenhos, mas a presenças constante das mesmas formas explicita o processo de criação, com a preparação prévia dos gabaritos, e faz adivinhar a cuidadosa construção da estrutura de cada tela. Aponta de saída, isto é, para a existência de um sistema e, portanto, de um pensamento e de um tempo específicos. Em um texto de alguns anos atrás4, tentei analisar a importância da presença simbólica da passagem do tempo, sutilmente explicitada exatamente pelo recurso a uma técnica demorada e complexa, na obra da Beatriz Milhazes, cujas pinturas podem ser lidas como frágeis memento mori. Pode ser útil comparar dois universos tão distantes, para evidenciar, muito mais do que a proximidade da técnica, a grande distância conceitual, e até, poder-se-ia dizer, programática5. Se o uso de gabaritos é relativamente recente, o recurso a um vocabulário bastante limitado de formas caracteriza desde o começo a obra do Paulo Whitaker, aspecto que deve ser relacionado com o que antes chamamos de caráter tautológico da sua obra. Contrariamente ao que acontece na pintura da Beatriz Milhazes, que seria inconcebível (e inexplicável) fora do contexto carioca de onde, quase literalmente, brota, o trabalho do Paulo Whitaker é programaticamente isento de qualquer alusão ou referência externas ao próprio âmbito da pintura, interessando-se, isto é, apenas por questões eminentemente internas, como a relação entre primeiro plano e fundo, ou a ausência de qualquer narrativa e de toda reminiscência figurativa. Como dizia Clement Greenberg, num texto que teve grande importância para  a consolidação da visão da pintura de Paulo Whitaker:

As limitações que constituem os meios de que a pintura se serve – a superfície plana, a forma do suporte, as propriedades das tintas – foram tratadas pelos grandes mestres como fatores negativos, que só podiam ser reconhecidos implícita ou indiretamente. Sob o modernismo, as mesmas limitações passaram a ser vistas como fatores positivos, e foram abertamente reconhecidas6.

E contudo, da mesma forma como não consegue apagar (ou melhor: escolhe não conseguir apagar) os traços a lápis de seus desenhos, parece que Paulo Whitaker também não consegue dominar completamente a auto-referencialidade de sua pintura. Se as formas, como se dizia, são escolhidas para serem quanto mais possível neutras e despojadas de significados e reminiscências, frequentemente elas nos remetem, contudo, a algo conhecido. A grande silhueta que ocupa o lado de direito de um enorme trabalho em acrílico sobre papel de 1990 (fig. 1), por exemplo, parece tirada do Enigma do oráculo, a célebre obra de 1910 de Giorgio de Chirico. É importante ressaltar que esta é uma das obras mais antigas entre as que o artista considera maduras e, portanto, autenticamente suas, e que se, por muitos aspectos, antecipa desdobramentos que a sua pintura só viria a ter quase dez anos mais tarde, por outro lado é já concebida e construída seguindo os princípios de autonomia absoluta da pintura mencionados anteriormente. Nas quase duas décadas que nos separam desta obra, a pintura do Paulo Whitaker tem evoluído de maneira contínua, com longos períodos de reflexão e aprofundamento de determinadas poéticas, mas também com repentinas, fulgurantes viradas, que pareciam colocar em discussão tudo quanto feito anteriormente, não fosse pela constante, coerente presença desses princípios, que, apesar do rigor com que são seguidos, nunca engessam a experimentação e a criatividade. Ao longo dos anos 1990, mais especificamente, é possível identificar algumas mudanças bastante claras na maneira como os quadros são construídos: até os anos 1994-95, os fundos eram etéreos, difusos, feitos os céus nublados, indefiníveis, dos dias parados, de chumbo, em que a linha do horizonte que deveria separar o céu e o mar desaparece, deixando-nos desamparados, os pés na areia, a procurar por ela. E contra esses fundos, poucos traços, por vezes soltos, meros rastos da passagem do pincel, outras vezes ensamblados a construir formas, abstratas ou vagamente alusivas, como a montanha que aparece em sem título, 185x150, 199 (fig.2), mas sempre metafísicos em sua solidão. Alguns anos depois, os fundos adquirem a uniformidade que os caracterizaria até hoje, e são as formas em primeiro plano que parecem expostas à ação do tempo. Uma obra como Autorretrato de costas com capa,125x100, 1999 (fig. 3), significativamente uma das pouquíssimas a ganhar um título, é excepcional na clareza com que constrói uma figura, cuja cabeça, aliás, parece dissolver-se em pura luz como um personagem de Francis Bacon. Mas em outras obras do mesmo período, como sem título, 70x60, 1999 (fig. 4), parece possível reconhecer formas zoomórficas, neste caso já produzidas através do recurso a gabaritos, e é difícil não ler uma referência à iconografia barroca nas volutas que marcam pinturas mais rarefeitas, como a extraordinária sem título, 130x170 1999 (fig. 5), em que as formas flutuam no branco intangível do fundo como por um milagre de nitidez, que poderia aludir às igrejas mineiras suspensas nas paisagens imaginárias de Alberto da Veiga Guignard.

A partir aproximadamente do ano 2000, praticamente todas as formas que aparecem nos quadros do Paulo Whitaker são produzidas combinando um número relativamente pequeno de gabaritos. Paralelamente, com poucas exceções, as composições ficam cada vez mais afastadas das bordas do quadro, enfatizando ainda mais a autonomia, a distância da obra do mundo. Apesar disso tudo, mesmo nas formas recorrentes, obtidas com gabaritos e portanto, poder-se-ia pensar, escolhidas por sua não-alusividade, poder-se-iam ler lembranças do mundo, desse mundo para além dos limites da tela que o artista finge querer (ou poder) ignorar. As torres de esferas sobrepostas, talvez a forma mais usada, poderiam remeter aos pináculos dos minaretes, principalmente quando usados em composições densas e redundantes, como é freqüente ver na arquitetura árabe. E quando a referência não é formal, é de atmosfera: a composição de semi-círculos pretos na esplendida sem título, 140x100, 2004 (fig. 6), lembra a nota silhueta estilizada de Alfred Hitchcock, que neste caso poderia estar fumando um cachimbo, mas o que mais fascina é a serenidade da tela, sua imobilidade concentrada, quase a imagem de um manual de instruções, que curiosamente não quisesse nos ensinar nada. As telas dos últimos anos , por sua vez, são caracterizadas em sua maioria por uma grande densidade, quase uma urgência das formas em se sobrepor, em preencher todo o espaço disponível, como num surto de horror vacui que as aproxima das obras dos artistas do chamado gótico internacional, como Gentile da Fabriano ou Benozzo Gozzoli7. Espremidas nas telas como passageiras do metrô no horário de ponta, e deslocadas por essa superlotação, as formas aparecem quase sempre em equilíbrio precário, pendendo ora para a esquerda, ora para a direita, e contudo, incrivelmente, segurando-se. A tensão, diria quase o esforço necessário para conseguir essa imobilidade, é mais evidente nos quadros habitados por uma ou várias torres de esferas sobrepostas, que mais fortemente parecem aspirar a uma verticalidade pura, mas ela marca um bom número dos quadros produzidos a partir de 2007. No caos desses campos de batalha aparecem ainda motivos que poderiam ser lidos como nuvens, cabeças de animais mitológicos, ou plantas caídas e pisoteadas de um jardim do Éden invadido pelos bárbaros147x256, 2009 (fig. 7). Como é evidente, todas essas interpretações não deixam de ser projeções  pessoais e arbitrárias, fruto talvez da mentalidade pós-moderna, desconstrutivista, que nos impõe buscar em todos os textos que lemos, e todas as pinturas que observamos, algo mais: uma alusão, uma metáfora, uma pista. Mas os quadros do Paulo Whitaker não dão pistas, e se fazem metáforas é como o carteiro de Neruda, que achava que as suas não valiam, porque ele não queria fazê-las. A referência é a um Neruda imaginário, de terceira mão, que aparece num filme inspirado num livro nascido de um encontro talvez imaginário8, mas é possível que até o poeta verdadeiro teria gostado da pergunta do carteiro: mas, então, o mundo todo, com o mar, a chuva, etc... é a metáfora de algo?

O mais provável, infelizmente, é que o mundo seja objetivo e prosaico, pouco propenso às figuras retóricas, às metáforas e às metonímias. Apesar de Magritte e Kosuth, um cachimbo é quase sempre um cachimbo, uma cadeira é quase sempre apenas uma cadeira, e as torres de esferas sobrepostas, certamente, nunca sonharam com ser minaretes. Mas isso não quer dizer que não possa valer a pena colocar-se em frente ao mundo, e tentar decifrá-lo, como se fosse de fato a metáfora de algo, como se tivesse ali (ou melhor: sabendo que tem ali) um campo denso de significados, de idéias a serem estudadas e entendidas. E recuperar assim o encantamento de um neófito: se surpreender com o milagre da imagem capturada pela máquina fotográfica, com a matéria que adquire outra vida e outro significado na escultura, com a cor que se faz tangível na pincelada. Descobrir o que a obra de arte tem de primigênio, de intacto, ver o mesmo mundo primordial que, segundo Merleau-Ponty, Cézanne quis pintar9. Se uma postura desse tipo seria desejável em relação a qualquer obra de arte, as telas de Paulo Whitaker se prestam especialmente a estimulá-la, considerando quanto nelas a própria idéia de Pintura se faz visível, quase tangível. A renúncia ao embate físico com a tela, a ausência de qualquer traço do gesto do artista, a predileção por formas atemporais, quase arquetípicas, os fundos quase sempre monocromáticos, a maneira como as formas se opõem ao fundo, e tentam negar a existência de algo além dos limites impostos pelos bastidores, tudo é cuidadosamente pensado para que o observador possa ver essas pinturas como se fossem a quintessência da Pintura. Ao comentar o ensaio de Merleau-Ponty, Alberto Tassinari observa que a percepção originária olha as coisas como que pela primeira vez. Ela é Cézanne aos cinqüenta anos olhando sua paisagem natal como se fosse a de sua infância e de sua primeira juventude10. Um frescor análogo, a  aparente capacidade de olhar a tela, e o mundo escondido atrás dela, como quem acaba de descobrí-los, caracteriza as telas recentes de Paulo Whitaker, hoje coetâneo do Cézanne maduro e inocente de quem fala Tassinari. A introdução de um novo recurso, isto é, a divisão da tela em compartimentos retangulares, que por sua vez acolhem cada um uma forma, poderia ser lido como uma nova ruptura, mas a essas alturas deveria já ser evidente que, no fundo, o que confere consistência e coerência à obra do Paulo Whitaker é exatamente a sua coragem em colocar-se, periodicamente, profunda e completamente em discussão. A harmonia com que fases absolutamente distintas se relacionam dentro das coordenadas gerais e dos parâmetros universais definidos pelo artista reforça a sensação de que, apesar das diferenças, o trabalho avança sem solução de continuidade. Até os acidentes de percurso, os pequenos fracassos, as passagens visivelmente menos bem-sucedidas, e que o artista não se preocupa em esconder, denotam a leveza de um fazer que se organiza a partir de alguns pressupostos límpidos e claros, e conserva a coerência e a coragem de não deixar de trilhar nenhum caminho.

 

notas

1 CALVINO, Italo, Seis propostas para o próximo milênio – Lições Americanas, Companhia das Letras, São Paulo, 1990, pág. 67.

2 Conversa entre o autor e o artista, novembro 2009.

3 Conversa entre o autor e o artista, novembro 2009.

4 CRIVELLI VISCONTI, Jacopo, Iconologia tropical, em Shattered Dreams, catálogo da Representação Brasileira na 50a Bienal de Veneza, 2003.

5 Curiosamente, depois de escrever estas linhas descobri que Wayne Baerwaldt também compara a pintura de Paulo Whitaker com a da Beatriz Milhazes, mas para discutir a diferença cromática das paletas dos dois pintores. Cfr. Paulo Whitaker: de algum lugar para o infinito, São Paulo, Hedra, 2002.

6 GREENBERG, Clement, Pintura Modernista (versão de 1960), agora em FERREIRA, Gloria e COTRIM, Cecília, Clement Greenberg e o Debate crítico, Jorge Zahar, Rio de Janeiro, 1997, pág. 102.

7 Esta analogia foi inspirada pela leitura de uma interpretação no fundo oposta do Ivo Mesquita, que analisando as telas do começo dos anos 1990 afirmava que  o isolamento das figuras de seu fundo ecoa como o isolamento das figuras de afrescos pré-renascentistas. Cfr. MESQUITA, Ivo, Paulo Whitaker, em Adriana Penteado Escritório de Arte, Nov. 1993.

8 O filme Il postino (direito por Michael Radford, 1994) é baseado no livro Ardiente paciencia (1986, também conhecido como El cartero de Neruda) do chileno Antonio Skármeta, que em entrevista recente declarou ter presenciado, muitos anos antes de escrever o livro, um encontro de Neruda com o seu carteiro.

9 MERLEAU-PONTY, Maurice, A dúvida de Cézanne, em O olho e o espírito, Cosac & Naify, São Paulo, 2004, pág. 128.

10 TASSINARI, Alberto, Quatro esboços de leitura, em MERLEAU-PONTY, O olho e o espírito, cit., pág. 147.

 

 

No paths untraveled  Jacopo Crivelli Visconti

 

I have always avoided talking about myself,

To myself. I wanted to talk about things.

But in selecting these things

Will there be no talk of myself?

João Cabral de Melo Neto

 

There is but one subject of a painting: the artist himself.

André Malraux

 

Of course, there are things we learn little by little. Such as how to begin a text (or better, how to pretend that beginning a text is easy, possible, something we can actually learn little by little), but the fact is that we have to re-invent most things again and again every time. We have to probe, endeavor, so that we can later erase and begin all over again. Trial and error, as they say. Except that not everything can be erased; there’s always something left, as in the drawing by Willem de Kooning that Robert Rauschenberg decided to erase and tautologically entitle Erased de Kooning Drawing, where some pencil marks can still be distinguished, or rather, intuited. We do not see the drawing, but we know that this is the paper which once bore a drawing by de Kooning, and that is enough. Pure potential, tabula rasa that paralyzes while it opens up new worlds of possibilities, an erased drawing is a no return deep dive into the immensity of the metaphysical vacuum of the white paper (or canvas). It is a softly whispered confession (the desire to stop the world), a symptom of the latent, nearly irresistible temptation to give up creation and surrender to the white, to admit we have tried, failed and begun all over; but, no matter what, we can never begin from naught: we must always begin from something.

And everything counts, all is valid in this (re-)beginning, even what cannot be seen, or even intuited. Italo Calvino concluded one of his memorable American Lessons1, namely the one dedicated to Speed, telling the story of the painter Chuang-Tse:

Amongst Chuang-Tse’s many virtues was the skill of drawing. The king asked him to sketch a crab. Chuang-Tse said that to do so he would need five years and a house with twelve servants. After five years, he had not even begun the sketch. “I need another five years,” said Chuang-Tse. The king agreed. When the tenth year had gone by, Chuang-Tse took up a brush and in an instant, with a single flourish, he drew the crab: the most perfect crab ever seen.

At some point, round about the mid-1990s, Paulo Whitaker learnt how to begin his paintings2, i.e. he learnt that he did not need to begin from naught every time, that something could commute from one canvas to another, that what has been learnt struggling with one painting can be used in the next. This remark may seem unimportant, even run-of-the-mill, but in fact it is quite relevant in order to understand how the artist’s work has developed since then. In some cases, the link between different paintings is visible: almost identical rounded, quite sharp forms in almost gray maroon, for instance, appear on the right of some canvasses of that period. But to reduce the advance represented by this conquest to so literal a matter would be superficial: the lesson learnt goes well beyond this, and it is indeed relevant because it allows an approach to fundamental aspects of his work, notably its autophagic and tautological character. The reutilization of subjects, themes or even fragments of earlier works has been characteristic of Paulo Whitaker’s work, in which papers with drawings on them are frequently cut out and inserted into new works, but erased or repainted so as to practically suppress any trace of the earlier drawings. Although in most cases they comprise the most important element in the composition, the grafts were almost concealed: as if they were there, after all, without the artist’s consent. Even in drawings where only a single paper has been used, one often spots forms that have been erased or covered by a coat of White, next to well-finished ones. In all these cases, it is as if the ultimate and most authentic objective of this autophagic process were to show time, thus lending the work concreteness and physical presence. This will cause the slow sedimentation of experiments and action to incarnate, to become tangible and visible, like Chuang-Tse’s crab. Paulo tells how once, in Germany, a friend of a friend, who had visibly not liked his drawings, asked him rhetorically how long he took to produce each. He replied that it had taken him fifteen years to learn to take five minutes3.

In the canvasses, painted in oil and thus possessing a forma mentis clearly different from that of the drawings, once again it is repetition and migration of subjects from one canvas to another that emphasize the question of time. Here it is not an autophagic process as in the drawings, but the continuous presence of the same forms renders the process of creation explicit, with the prior preparation of templates, and has one imagining the painstaking construction of the structure of each canvas. This repetition, that is, draws attention to the existence of a system, and therefore of a specific thought and time. In a text I wrote a few years ago4, I attempted to analyze the importance of the symbolic presence of the passage of time, subtly made explicit by resorting to a time-consuming and complex technique, in the work of Beatriz Milhazes, whose paintings can be read as fragile memento mori. It may prove useful to compare two so distant universes in order to evidence, to a far greater extent than the proximity of technique, the huge conceptual and even programmatic distance5. If the use of templates is relatively recent, resorting to a quite limited vocabulary of forms has been a characteristic of Paulo Whitaker’s work from the very beginning. This is an aspect that must be related to what we called the tautological character of his work. Contrarily to what happens in Beatriz Milhazes’ paintings, which would be inconceivable (and unexplainable) outside the context of Rio de Janeiro from which they almost literally stem, Paulo Whitaker’s work is programmatically devoid of any allusion or reference outside the painting milieu, showing interest only in utterly internal issues, such as the relationship between foreground and background, or the total absence of any narrative or figurative reminiscence. As Clement Greenberg said, in a text of huge importance in consolidating the vision of Paulo Whitaker’s painting:     

The limitations comprising the medium where painting is served – a flat surface, a form of support, the properties of the paints – were treated by the great masters as negative factors, which could only be recognized implicitly or indirectly. Under modernism, these same limitations started to be considered positive factors, and were openly recognized6.

And nevertheless, in the same way he is unable to erase (or better said, he decides not to erase) the pencil strokes from his drawings, it seems Paulo Whitaker is also unable to fully dominate the self-referential nature of his painting. If the forms, as has been stated, are chosen to be as neutral as possible and devoid of meaning or reminiscence, they nevertheless often bring us to something we know. The huge silhouette taking up the right hand side of an enormous 1990 work in acrylic on paper (fig.1, page 17), for instance, seems to have been extracted from Enigma of the Oracle, the celebrated 1910 work by Giorgio de Chirico. It must be stressed that this is one of the earliest works amongst those the artist deems mature and thus authentically his and even if, in many ways, it anticipates ramifications his painting would only acquire ten years later, it is already conceived and constructed following the aforementioned principles of absolute autonomy of painting. In the almost two decades separating us from this work, Paulo Whitaker’s work has continuously evolved, with long periods of reflection and meditation on certain poetics, but also with sudden, flashing turns which would seem to set up a debate on everything done earlier if it were not for the constant, coherent presence of these principles which despite the rigor with which they are adhered to, have never hampered experimentation and creativity. Throughout the 1990s, specifically, clear changes can be identified in the manner in which paintings were constructed: until 1994-95, backgrounds were ethereal, diffuse, resembling the indefinable cloudy skies of still, leaden days, when the line of the horizon which should separate sky and sea disappears, leaving us abandoned, feet in the sand, searching for it. And against these backgrounds, a few marks, sometimes free, mere traces of the passage of the brush, at other times assembled so as to construct abstract or vaguely allusive forms, like the mountain appearing in Untitled, 185x150, 1991 (fig.2, page 19), yet always metaphysical in their solitude. A few years later the backgrounds acquire the uniformity still characterizing them today, and it is the forms in the foreground that seem exposed to the action of time. A work like Autorretrato de costas com capa, 1999 (fig. 3, page 20), significantly one of the very few to be given a title, is exceptional in the clarity with which a figure is constructed, whose head nevertheless seems to dissolve into pure light like one of Francis Bacon’s characters. But in other works of the same period, such as Untitled, 70x60, 1999 (fig. 4, page 21), it seems possible to recognize zoomorphic forms, in this case already produced by means of templates, and it is hard not to read a reference to Baroque iconography in the scrolls marking more rarefied paintings, such as the extraordinary Untitled, 130x170, 1999 (fig. 5, page 23), where forms float in the intangible white of the background as if by a miracle of sharpness, which might allude to the churches of Minas Gerais State suspended in the imaginary landscapes of Alberto da Veiga Guignard.

As of roughly the year 2000, practically all the forms appearing in Paulo Whitaker’s paintings have been produced by blending a relatively small number of templates. At the same time, with but a few exceptions, his compositions draw increasingly further away from the edges of the picture, emphasizing to an even greater extent its autonomy, the distance between the work and the world, so to say. Despite all this, even in recurring forms obtained with templates and thus, presumably, chosen for their lack of allusiveness, one could read memories of the world: of the very world beyond the canvas that the artist makes believe he wishes to (or can) ignore. The towers of overlapping spheres, perhaps the form used most, might remind us of the pinnacles of minarets, mainly when used in the dense and redundant compositions frequent in Arabic architecture. And when the reference is not formal, it is to atmosphere: a composition of black semi-circles in the splendid Titleless, 140x100, 2004 (fig. 6 page 24), reminds one of the stylized silhouette by Alfred Hitchcock which in this case might be smoking a pipe. But what is most fascinating is the canvas’s serenity, its concentrated immobility, as if it were the image of an instruction manual that curiously does not wish to teach us anything. In turn, most canvasses of recent years are characterized by great density, almost an urgency of forms to superimpose each other, to fill up all the space available, as if in a kind of horror vacui, which reminds the work of artists of the so-called International Gothic, such as Gentile da Fabriano or Benozzo Gozzoli7. Squeezed into the canvasses, like passengers on the subway at rush hour, and dislocated by this overcrowding, the forms nearly always appear in precarious equilibrium, at times tilting to the right, at times to the left, but nevertheless, incredibly, holding on. The tension, I would say almost the effort necessary to attain this immobility, is more evident in works inhabited by one or several towers of overlapping spheres, as they really seem to aspire pure verticality, but it marks a substantial number of paintings produced since 2007. Further elements appear in the chaos of these battlefields, which might be read as clouds, the heads of mythological beasts, or fallen and trodden plants in a Garden of Eden invaded by Barbarians, 147x256, (fig. 7 page 26). It is evident that all these interpretations cannot but be personal and arbitrary projections, perhaps the fruit of the postmodern, de-constructivist mentality that forces us to look for something else in every text we read, in every painting we view: an allusion, a metaphor, a clue. Yet Paulo Whitaker’s paintings give no clues, and their metaphors are like those by Neruda’s postman, who considered his were worthless, because he didn’t want to create them. The reference is to an imaginary, third-hand Neruda, who appears in a film inspired by a book born of a perhaps imaginary meeting8, but it is possible that even the real poet would have liked the postman’s question: But then, is the whole world, with the sea, rain, etc... a metaphor for something?

Unfortunately, it is most probable that the world is objective and prosaic, not given to rhetorical figures, metaphors or metonymies. Notwithstanding Magritte and Kosuth, a pipe is more often than not a pipe, a chair is almost always but a chair, and the towers of overlapping spheres certainly never even dreamt of being minarets. Yet this does not mean that it is not worthwhile placing oneself before the world and trying to decipher it as if it were indeed a metaphor for something, as if it contained (or better said, knowing it contains) a dense field of meanings, of ideas to be studied and understood.  And thus recover the enchantment of the neophyte: surprise at the miracle of the image being captured by a camera, at the material that takes on another life and another meaning in sculpture, at the color that becomes tangible with a brushstroke. To discover a work of art’s primigenial, intact content, to see the same primordial world that, according to Merleau-Ponty, Cézanne wanted to paint9. Such a stance is, in fact, desirable in relation to any work of art, but Paulo Whitaker’s canvasses lend themselves most especially to stimulate it, considering the degree to which the very idea of Painting becomes visible, almost tangible in them. Giving up the physical fray with the canvas, the lack of any trace of a gesture of the artist’s, the predilection for timeless, almost archetypical forms, the nearly always monochromatic backgrounds, the manner in which the forms oppose the background and endeavor to deny the existence of anything beyond the limits imposed by the canvas frame: all has been painstakingly thought out so that the observer can view these paintings as if they were the quintessence of Painting. When remarking upon Merleau-Ponty’s essay, Alberto Tassinari observed that the originating perception sees things as if it were for the first time. This is Cézanne at fifty viewing his birth landscape as if it were that of his infancy and first youth10. Analogous freshness, an apparent ability to view both the canvas and the world concealed behind, as if one had just discovered them, characterize recent canvasses by Paulo Whitaker, who is today roughly the same age as the mature and innocent Cézanne that Tassinari speaks of. The introduction of a new resource, i.e. dividing up the canvas into rectangular compartments, each of which in turn shelters a form, might be read as a new rift, but it should by now be evident that, at bottom, what lends Paulo Whitaker’s work consistency and coherence is precisely his courage in putting himself up for discussion periodically, profoundly and utterly. The harmony with which absolutely different phases relate within the general coordinates and universal parameters established by the artist reinforces the feeling that, despite the differences, his work advances with no solution to continuity. Even accidents on the course, minor failures, visibly less fortunate passages that the artist makes no effort to conceal, denote the levity of a doing organized on the basis of few transparent and clear presuppositions, and maintains the coherence and courage of leaving no path untraveled.

 

EK

© 2023 by EK. All rights reserved.

  • w-facebook
  • Twitter Clean
  • w-flickr