V. D. NUNES, UNTITLED (RELIEFS) – ANTECEDENTS AND PREDECESSORS . ADRIANO PEDROSA.
The line or mark in a drawing can represent a bar, a stick, a ruler, a tube – or it can be just a line or mark on the paper. Likewise, a painted or drawn cube is, also, a box, a plinth or pedestal; a pearl is, thus, a sphere; a ring is, ultimately, a circle. These are the seemingly simple games of representation – in painting, sculpture and drawing.
Over the last decade, the works by Valdirlei Dias Nunes have speculatively and exhaustively mapped a succession of interchangeable possibilities between abstraction (invariably of the geometric sort) and figuration; between painting, drawing and sculpture. Spanning the apparent abyss that exists between figuration and abstraction frequently makes geometric forms – previously autonomous, abstract, superior, detached and isolated from the world – assume mundane features. And there was in fact something rather melancholic about the painting of a table or pedestal finely covered with wood, at times even with elaborate constructive cutouts, the vein of the wood executed with steady strokes that nonetheless revealed the artist's hand; all of this effort in order to not support anything atop of it (unlike the small and precious objects always supported by the pedestals that Nunes painted against the somber 1990s backgrounds).
Nunes's current reliefs are a consistent and precise outgrowth of these antecedents, and should therefore be understood as being located at the intersection of the paths of painting, sculpture and drawings. Here, the relief is the absolute synthesis of the articulation and dialogue between different media, dealing with common themes, approached through distinct angles, from various vantage points. In Nunes's reliefs the line, whether painted or drawn, is no longer an outline or stripe, bar or tube. The works in the series Untitled (Reliefs) consist of parallelepipeds painted with white lacquer into which bars of shiny gold brass have been inserted transversely and diagonally, rupturing the orthogonality of the canvas.
Some of the more distant precursors of Nunes's reliefs are worthy of mention, all of them of a geometric bent: Aluísio Carvão, Iran do Espírito Santo, and Willys de Castro. In Carvão's relief Construção VI (1955, 85 x 59.5 cm), horizontal and vertical white bars cross against a white background; in Espírito Santo's reliefs (2001, 50 x 40 x 4 cm) – which, by the way, bear titles similar to those of Nunes – the material is aluminum, and the orthogonal lines cross other diagonal ones. In De Castro's Objetos ativos (1959–1961), the bar appears autonomous, detached from the plane, and therefore takes on a tridimensional character, though still with pictorial surfaces.
Nunes's reliefs also evoke Mira Schendel. We recall the Sarrafos, the artist's last series, made in 1987, one year before her death. It is worth recollecting the words by Souza Dias, which can be applied, mutatis mutandis, to Nunes: With the sarrafos [laths], the artist reassumed points of her own path when she concentrated drawing, painting and sculpture in a single object, thereby establishing, based on them, a new orientation for the analysis of her oeuvre. With painting, as a medium and support, Mira transforms the line into sculpture. The path of the angular formalization of these black laths that are freed from the pictorial plane conveys an energetic, though carefully controlled action.
The black of Schendel's Sarrafos is converted to gold in Nunes's reliefs, thus shifting the reference another of the artist's series, that of the tempera paintings made some years before; for example, Untitled (1995, 89 x 159 cm) consists of a large white surface occupied only by a small triangle in gold leaf, situated in the upper right corner of the canvas. In Nunes, just as in Schendel, we see the contrast between the vast white territory and the small golden fragment or thin golden slice. In one as much as the other, pure minimalism is tarnished by the gold. At this point, we must recall Leonilson, an artist closer to Nunes, who also used gold against the grain of minimalism. His A.P. (1991, 210 x 147 cm), for example, consists of two rectangles in white voile, without stretchers, hung on the wall side-by-side, with their lateral and lower borders painted in gold – the vast transparent white surface, as light as the wind that ruffles it, framed by gold paint that smirches its starkness.
The precious gold is the most contaminated and mundane of all colors, it is the anti-aescetic grain in any narrative. After all, we cannot forget Nunes's strongly figurative antecedents: the relief here is also the portrait of the blade, the sword, the arrow, the knife, the jackknife and the needle – even if it is made of gold and disguised as a bar.