NEO-BAROQUE HYPERBOLES . JULIANA MONACHESI

Distorted leather buttons and upholstery are 'modeled' in oil on canvas by Mariana Palma, suggesting sinuous bodies which are hidden from the viewer's gaze. Asymmetry and disorder, as we know, are characteristics of the baroque style, whose objective is to suggest movement and indetermination to the compositions formed by blocks of light and shade, seeking the 'unknown depths', in the words of Heinrich Wölfflin. The space of the fragmented composition of Mariana Palma's canvasses is flatter than the one suggested by Wölfflin's expression; nevertheless it constitutes a sounding of the depths, since the paintings' dynamics are consisted of dripping, diluting, twisting, draining and contracting the prints and other patterns interweaved by the artist.

 

In Latin American social sciences, the Baroque has been thought of as the condition for the existence of the continent's culture. Leaving aside the historical Baroque – in which the dissolution of its classic rules for the disorganized and decentralized inclusion of an inexhaustible richness of pictorial art motifs would easily come in handy to support a critical reading of Mariana Palma's recent production – and using the cultural studies of names such as Severo Sarduy (Cuban writer), Jesús Martín-Barbero (communication theorist based in Colombia), Néstor García Canclini (Argentinean anthropologist) and Amálio Pinheiro (Brazilian cultural mestizaje theorist), helps us to think of Latin American art from a different viewpoint. These authors view Latin American art as nature's baroque hyperbole or as a mestizo discontinuity between proliferating references and materials, that is, relationships which are much more pertinent for analyzing the artist's new paintings, sculptures and watercolors.

 

Enmeshed in a cultural context that is conducive to the mixtures and combinations of dissimilar elements, it is not surprising that Mariana Palma has the ability to establish complex relationships between references from Flemish painting, European baroque architecture, botany, the exuberance of fabrics and patterns of various origins, tiling, marquetry, pictorial draping, etc. It is less important to know where the fragments come from – or from where the artist 'cuts them out' – than to observe how the artist 'pastes' or brings together the many 'pieces' that form her 'mestizo mosaic' – to borrow the concept coined by Amálio Pinheiro –, since the 'identity' of each 'original' element has disappeared in the extreme play of forces staged in the works. There is no 'unity' resulting from the collection of references weaved by the artist: nothing is or remains whole in her paintings and drawings; the moving mosaic remains open, it folds upon itself and upon the world and it continues to unfold in the following works.

 

The three dimensional experiments that Mariana Palma presents for the first time in this solo show at Galeria Triângulo are a proof of this. The desire to materialize her drawings has led the artist to openly reveal the baroque eroticism of her watercolors as painted objects softened by real pieces of fabric that drip out and nestle in the gaps of this 'body' carved in wood. The texture of the intersected flowers, feathers and animals in the artist's drawings - usually blending into horns and pearl decorations that are equally tactile - jumps out of the paper in order to articulate - in the gallery space - something similar to what takes place on the small canvas, in which the branches of a tree seem to spring from a fur coat. This is not about a dispute between nature and culture, but a healthy coexistence in an eternal state of crisis.

 

*This text resulted from experiencing Mariana Palma's works during conversations with the artist at her studio and the reflections of professor Amálio Pinheiro during his Communication and Semiotics postgraduate lectures at PUC-SP. Should one of the elements of this triad be missing (work, artist and teacher), the resulting text would have been an inferior and irrelevant version of this.

Translated by Moray McKie