EXTRAORDINARY TALES . ALEX CERVENY
In 1784, in a hamlet located in the arid lands of the hinterland of the Brazilian state of Bahia, a boy named Domingos da Mota Coelho discovered a stone unlike any other of the region. He notified his father of this, who in turn informed the colonial authorities. The first attempt to move the stone failed. Due to its uncommon weight, the stone eluded transportation – as well as melting, its probable fate at the time.
History ran its course and, years later, samples removed from the stone by the intrepid explorer-researchers Spix and Martius confirmed what was already known: the stone was, in fact, a strange one. It was, in truth, a meteorite, and it very quickly became the object of intense scientific interest. By determination of the Emperor Dom Pedro II, the Bendegó meteorite was stripped from its homeland, in an operation of grand proportions that lasted months and mobilized engineers, bullock carts, trains and ships. Finally, in 1888, the boulder from Bendegó reached Rio de Janeiro, and was put in public display at the former home of the National Museum, in the Campo de Santana. Breaking news: at the time, it was the second biggest meteorite ever found.
In the museum, today located in the Quinta da Boa Vista, the former summer residence of the emperors of Brazil, its five tons of unusual metal continues to receive visitors. It was there, only a few years ago, that I had the happy surprise of becoming acquainted with this impressive meteorite, today a mere curiosity in the list of the most important ones of the planet.
This stone and its odyssey of mishaps and accidents has etched itself onto my memory, and is present in the painting Bendegó (2011, oil on canvas, 35 x 55 cm), a place I have never been to and which is the starting point as well as the conclusion of the exhibition Notes of Travel.
The vast majority of works shown originate from travel sketchbooks. Some of them were made in situ, whilst others, developed after my many returns, from memories that remained latent in my mind. They are mainly the fruit of a recent sentimental journey to Argentina; from an expedition of mapping geoglyphs in Nazca, Peru; curiosity-induced tourism in Lycia (protohistoric region in modern day Turkey), Jordan, Egypt and Israel; and from my ten weeks of residence in Vienna last year.
Bendegó, slashing its way thru the skies of the Brazilian hinterland, is just one of the many tales told in this exhibition. Each one of the other drawings and paintings exhibited tell another, of different stones and of different categories, out of the many that inhabit my mind's eye. Alex Cerveny