Dias Nunes


Quotidian objects turned into reliquaries that are painted with straightforward precision and depicted wth symbolist grandeur: Valdirlei Dias Nunes’ paintings are irresistible; you want not only to scrutinize them up close, but to run your fingers over their luscious surfaces. And samll as they are, you may just want to steal one, too, to hang in your bedroom, or simply to carry with you wherever you go. For the past ten years, Dias Nunes has been quietly constructing a singular, but solid trajectory which has been followed closely by a small, yet dedicated, number of aficionados. Brazilian critics and curators have found his work difficult to readily hstoricize and consume – perhaps because, though extremely complex and coherent, it distinguishes itself, and is at some considerable remove, from the main trends and currents within the country and around the globe. One thinks of Edgard de Souza and the late Leonilson as possible, though distant, Brazilian relatives (the three São Paulo-based artists were close colleagues, in fact, and shared the ame resistance to being categorized under genres or movements, Brazilian od foreign).

The surfaces Dias Nunes’ paintings are slick and flat, and their composition and structure invariably symmetrical: a single object placed on top of a table or pedestal usually, and positioned against a solild black or white background in the lower central section of a generally tiny canvas. After your first encounter with the work, and perhaps few days after you’ve actually stolen one of Dias Nunes’ paintings from an exhibition or from a collector’s residence (the paintings being quite small and almost most of them fitting neatly into a mid- sized handbag), you may begin to decipher some of the enigmas the painting holds. Among them is how a small still life, turnê into a symbolist and metaphysical sculpture, can be objectified and, in turn, rendered pictorial through the dexterous use of a fine brush. A flower, a book, a bell, a rope, a skull, a crown, a cross, a ring, a musical instrument, a jar, a vase, a bottle, pearls or globes, boxes or tables, altars or pedestals – these highly crafted objects have a distinctly solemn solitude about them, beautiful, but blue. In the early nineties, struck like many of us by the loss of close friends to AIDS – related causes, Dias Nunes began unavoidably to refer, both dramatically and obliquely, to the personal, política, and aesthetic crisis the epidemic represented, in his precious and delicate repertoire of painted objects. Suddenly, the painted objects’ theatrical representation began to assume tragic overtones. It was then that you may have begun to notice that your painted relic had slowly, yet inexorably, grown, and begun to spill meaning well beyond its slick and luscious surface, revealling a powerful contamination of itself and other paintings, their eautiful object, all at once, was laden with bittersweetness.

In the last few years, the formal and figurative elements of Dias Nunes’s work have been reduced, expanding and making more complex its field of pictorial action. Moreover, his paintings seem finally to have fallen prey to painting’s unavoidable vocation – which is to speak of painting reflexively. Their realism and straighforward rendering now play with geometric abstraction and minimalism, concerned as they are with the representation of thin, subtle bars, lines, stripes, cubes, boxes, pedestals, and squares, painted in white, gold, or brown, and set against a rarefied white background. They have also grown a little. This return to high modernist themes and motifs is not devoid of irony, yet is also deeply earnest in its own right. Behind the paintings’ enduring precariousness and precision, under their hyper- cultivated and elaborately constructed minimalist surfaces, beyond their heavy-loaded emptiness, these recent paintings speak of painting with very peculiar means and ways: among them, an irresolvable to-and-fro between abstraction and figuration; the impossible geometry of painted sculptures; and the complex play within intermediate spaces of pictorial flatness, depth-of-field, and blunt perspective. They have also retaind the quality of the earlier painted reliquaries, though in a much more subdued way. For this reason, the recent paintings of Valdirlei Dias Nunes could be counterposed with those of another painter of mystical abstractions – Piet Mondrian.

Your stolen painting may have yet to reveal all its maestry and mystery.