PARADISES . JACINTO LAGEIRA

 

According to the foundig tale of the Ancient Testament the original sin is the source of a evil, past and future. But had Adam at the Eve at the Paradise note committed teh sin we would still today live in full ignorance. Because, as the Genesis describes, but for the Adamic language which named the things and the beings, Paradise was the place of ignorance. And on it relied human happiness. This way man tried to tell the way in which mankind ran towards its fall by refusing the pure innocence that it was being offered, thus ascending to knowledge. In order to know and to think,  Eden had to be left behind. Without the “eviction from Paradise” – another theme of numerous paintings – never would our knowledge have developed itself as it did. Magnificent texts, such as Dante’s The Paradise or Milton’s Paradise Lost, would never have been created, nor would painting such as the ones here deviated by Albano Afono: Tiziano’s The God’s Feasts, Poussin’s Été – Adam et Ève au Paradis, Watteau’s Le Pélerinage à l’île de Cythère, or Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe. Painted between the XVIth and XIXth centuries, these works have in common the presentation of images from Paradise as reported by the biblical account or nythical and personal visions of Paradise. But, interpreting literally the biblical text and as apart from Adam and Eve no-one ever lived on the Earthly Paradise, all these approaches are imaginary. Be they religious or profane, the paintings chosen by Afonso reflect the possible Paradise invented by man. The difference lies in the fact that since Watteau’s time, and even more in Manet’s, Paradise is no longer conceived as a promise of transcendental happinness to become a life’s ideal that may be of this world. We cannot ignore these matters when Afonso uses the works as quotations, at once visual, narrative and formal. Manet already did this is 1863 with Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe. For his compositions he inspired himself on the weel-known painting by Giorgione, often attributed to Tiziano, titled The rural concert, as weel as in a detail of na engraving by Raymondi, an Italian artist of the XVIth century, that represented Raffaello’s The Judgement of Paris. Manet had already sought inspiration in Tiziano’s The Venus of Urbino for his Olympia. From quotations to transpositions, from reproductions to images of images, with these three works by Albano Afonso the circle of History seems closed.

 

The re-use by a young Brazilian artist of a part of the European pictoral tradition may of course be interpreted as the will of re-finding plastical roots, of renewing a connection (more dreamt of than lived) with the History of the Art of the Old Continent. But from this point of view the Europeans are not any luckier. Apart from some names (Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clark, Cildo Meireles, Tunga, Vik Muniz), they know very little about Brazil’s modern and contemporary art, and unfortunately they have very little occasion to be directly confronted with it. In both cases reproductions tend more and more substitute this lack of contact with the real works, allowing for the fabrication of what a premonitory manner André Malraux had named as being the “imaginary museum”. Constituted mainly of photografic reproductions of easy access and manipulation, a musem of this kind cannot undoubtedly substitute for the real thing, but it still underlines the fact the “work of art” cannot be reduced to the statute of object, to its material support. The work of art is primarily an imaginary fabricated by the spectador; in the absence of this act the work of art would be merely an object amongst others.

 

The quotation mode here developed by Afonso does not reduce itself, though this might important, to putting a personal an cultural in the limelight. It goes further than that by questioning a relationship with the History of Art, itself a part of Art and its History. At least since the XIVth, century western painting became its own subject, and there are many examples of paintings in the painting, of quotations and variation. One has only to think about the serial on the Meninas according to Vélasquez painted by Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings that quote Picasso or Léger, or more recently about the American Mike Bidlo’s paintings that replay the works of Giorgio de Chirico. Already in 1998, Albano Afonso had used a methodology not dissimilar to the one used in the “Paraísos”(Paradises): it was in a series of works titled “Planos de Viagem” (Travel Plans). There he recurred to reproducitons of celebrated landscape. From Giorgione to Cézanne, also perforated and then glued over a mirror. The same year he produced “O Banho”(The Bath), a series of perforations over aluminium reproducing the shapes of Cézannne’s bathers. In 1999 he made three big works (about 3x4m) according to the same principle, this time using idealised images of forests, of lakes and of mountains, of the “postcard” type proposed by travel agents. Here we can already see small paradise, though artificial ones, where the function of the spectator is one of the key elements. Because the constant questioning of this tradition of the painting or of the image in the image, to which Albano Afonso contributes here (although he has also done different things), enlightens what it means the act of painting and the act of perceiving. Besides, it explains the intellectual and emotional procedures that take place when we are confronted with works, and the function at once real and imaginary that we get back while enthroning the perceived object as a painting or an image.

 

Because the works here presented play with the paradox of an immediate global perception without an exact recognition of detail, as well as with dispersion against a totality or yet with the unity of the visible in its fight against the diversity of the perceived. Seen from a distance these photografic reproductions look like puzzles with missing pieces, or like painting by numbers; as Seurat’s pointillist’s paintings, they look denser. But seen close-by image decomposes itself in a myriad of pieces of images taken from different canvasses. The final image is alwaays the result of an image of an image. For Albano Afonso, this very strong interest on the procedures that make an image exist (because perception is not sensation, and the eye is not innocent but cultural) takes its source in a painting by Magritte (who gave great importance to the notion of image) titled “Le Blanc-seing”(1965). There, a rider and her horse can be seen going through a forest, now hidden by the trees, now allowing them to be seen as if they were tansparent.

 

Beyond this pictoral quotation, again a reference to the constitution of an esthetical history, Afonso’s work’s also have as objectives, amongst others and against any expectation – given the perforated images – the re-composition of the diverse, the reunion of the multiple. The statute of its images oscillates between the image reproduced ad infinitun (an image integrated in another which in turn is part of a third which...) the missing image (the perforations) and the reflecting image. Because sometimes, as it is the case of the diptych taken from the series “Florestas” (forests – started in 1999), the image is glued onto a mirror. So, the spectador seems to penetrate the image and the same time gets his reflection back, as well as the reflection of what is around him. But this time this kind of images aspires to be a redefinition of space and time internal and external to the work, as the mirror operates an integration in real space and time of mobile and somewhat alive images, while the photographs are images that exist only in another image. This simple device of the mirror inderlines one of the fundamental characteristics of the being, that is his temporal nature in the perception of his own finitude. On the opposite side, the perforations seem to reinforce the disparities in the percption of the real as if it escaped our look, reinforcing the difficulty we have in thinking and living things in this temporality that keeps eluding us. The perforations tell us that something is missing – elements of cultural, individual or pictorial history. But the spectator is called upon to fill in those gaps, those spaces-times that are like blots of nothingness on the images. His intellectual and perception effort to recompose the history of the images, its narrative and plastic aspects and to apprehend himself as a de-multiplied theme against his own will, is what confers unity to elements apparently so diverse, where the supposed reality of nature, of landscape, of the human being, looks like it was for ever lost. And to know what was lost, to know what we loose, does not mark the return to Paradise, but the firm will of never to go back.