VALDIRLEI DIAS NUNES: PAINTINGS
(Looking at the paintings by Valdirlei Dias Nunes)
These things are so difficult to explain. The calm and the silence amidst these shapes. Lines and black spaces. And, at a certain moment, it seems as though a curtain is starting to close. The lights have been turned off, but the grids remain luminous. Perhaps a brief span of time. Just when the answer to a distraught question arrives. The casement as a space where the drama takes place. Rods in whose hand? Only one clear and simple path is discernible. We have already seen this calm and this silence of elements. Motionless. Elements with no trace of their owner or author. Perhaps for simplicity’s sake it should be asked why they stir up schisms for hours on end. They grant only brief pauses. They remind me of secrets, but this is an obvious detail. As real as the grids hidden between the folds of those fictions that emerge during long tobacco breaks at the window. Submersed, with the hatch cover closed over me, the paintings seem like a refuge. Sentimental? Well, yes. Otherwise, perhaps it is the worthy company of an awaited desire. The strange wish to know what is repeatedly happening and, upon understanding it, to say it in ways that touch on the clear paroxysm of his mind. Shapes that take advantage of the light and the lunar frequency since they do not fall asleep easily or do not care to sleep. Sleeping finds no place in this reality. These things are so difficult to explain, but I have explanations to give. Following these shapes with my gaze, putting myself mentally in their places, makes me stop, and while motionless I can ask myself what is illuminating them. I ask this without knowing what to answer, but I try this without knowing what I am attempting. Should we indict the words or the painted shapes that are before me? They would not be more hollow than what they could bear within them. How would all of this be false? They are indeed universal symbols. Have I never seen anything similar? Maybe when I hoist myself into this casement of objects it is time to feel, more than to explain. To revolve a little in these things, separating one from the other, bringing them closer to me, to see them better. Who possesses them? Are they inside me? Spheres, cylinders, rods. The rods that are cylinders. I don’t fool myself believing that I can possess them. After all, I see them without looking at them. But I wanted to be certain if they are the same walking canes that suggested so many messages to me. That wooden instrument for the battered feeling. I did well to make sure that the image of these objects in the detail was the same in the overall set. By chance a sort of truth emerges as a possibility. Is it a kind of obsession? According to what I am seeing, it is as though a cane were visiting me. Lighted in the middle of the night. To have it close to me during the darkness? Would it belong to the corner like that sphere? All this is just a secret. Arcane, misty, abyssal. One can see an economy of elements, but an excess of circumstances. Perhaps that is where one sees the reverberation of these widely varying forms in which the immutable remains in transit. A point in space that contains all the points. Wouldn’t the cane, after all, be a magical weapon of that pilgrim who walks through the fields? Under the night sky? An instrument to deflect the harmful energies? I cannot decide. I look for a long time. Between me and these paintings, sculptures, illusions (perhaps still lifes which for their austerity and sobriety could be interpreted in a mystical and ascetic key) there is a pane of glass: the casement. It invites me to breathe above it, but I don’t dare to press my nose to its surface. I see a presence in the cane. But if it is a presence, sometimes it seems to be tied to the other. Sometimes they separate, they do not come together. By the way, I want to finally understand how these beings are possible: together or separate, despite everything. Because not everything is said among them. There might be a wish to say it again. To try it just one more little time. But, it should be said parenthetically, this separation occurs quietly, taciturnly. It doesn’t seem like impatience. Or perhaps the darkness has taken over and covered it. It is no longer visible. That insuperable darkness. And in its background there was a silence of the things that never move, not even if it depended on these spheres, cylinders, rods. On these rods that are cylinders. Silent, on a black background, in their places forever. Why wouldn't they be separating the place where I am from the one that's covered over by that night on the outside? Are they not windows opening onto a night that does not allow me to see anything? There are not even any scattered lights. Standing before these casements, I see the borders from which silence and night spring. They are far from me and inside me. Perhaps that is what I wanted to say. I want to say that it is the nightfall. Yes. Perhaps the darkest one that I can remember. Yes, it is a total darkness. I do not see anything besides the casement and the spheres, the cylinders, the rods. The rods that are cylinders. It is as though they were at the edge of an abyss. And that surprises me, it makes me think about something once again. About previous paintings, those made in the 1990s. I have seen these shapes in previous paintings. Perhaps there is no curtain that begins to cover the grid. Perhaps it is simply a square lattice that stops abruptly, seemingly all of a sudden. But the casement makes me wonder what lights them from the inside, in this growing darkness. A darkness bordered by wood. And it also makes me think about the light reflections of oil paint on the polyester canvas. It’s hard not to think how everything does not dive – I would not say into shadow, nor into half-shadow – but into this mantle of carbon. There is an interplay between this color and the white that sometimes appears. That white shows the light from the inside. But that light also has its alternations; the white, which is the light from the inside. It is seen here and there, but stops appearing. And it often seems that I am inside his head. That sometimes I see just a window, looking outside, which is night. And at other moments I see the wall, where that window or opening to the outside is situated. A white wall and a black night. No, it’s impossible for it to be like that, because of how the casement is configured. Only in my dreams, in magical or surrealist metaphysics. Yes. But before approaching another subject, I stood there with my eyes gazing at the paintings before me. I was enjoying my lingering gaze at those magical places – I was about to say depicted places. But I think that’s a question of the time when he paints them. Especially because this night is not that of just any sky. It is a private one that involves all of us and which does not benefit from the shine of the stars. That enclosed, human, architectural place, he tells me. Or did I just think that he told me that? He might have said it. In any case, now as I look at it, I think about this casement as a sculptural object instead of a window. So, at this new inspection, what is it that I see on the lateral walls? On each side, at different angles, wooden cylinders are projected, as if they were extensions of the frame itself. Now this seems like an enigma to me. I mean, to think I saw it clearly is saying a lot. What I was thinking before now seems like absurd reveries. Dreamily. Just imagine: as I was looking at those paintings, I was thinking that I could understand this casement with the black background with two cylindrical extensions from its sides. I was illuding myself. In short, there is something simple and beautiful and familiar and strange and magical. And I must admit that I have had that sensation for a long time. The sensation aroused by one of these paintings. I would have to dig a little more into the reasons that lead me to think this. But I feel that when I hold them in my hand they slip out between my fingers. Perhaps it is the tranquility they give rise to. Of that sensation we get while asleep, diving in with part of our body, caressed by it. I recognize it, I understand it, and I feel so many sensations that it would be worth stating them, even if it looks disorganized, without a teleological structure or definite interpretive system. To state, for example, that the palette is the same palette that he has been working with – black, white, ocher-yellow, and he would add: “and a shadow.” The gold, of course, also appears. But when he paints it, in a very simplistic way, he sometimes refers to this depiction of a golden bar, as something golden that is not such a faithful representation of how we understand what a golden thing should be, but in his mind it signifies something between a brown, a gold, and the things for him are like that. But, in any case, without distractions, he works with five tubes of acrylic paint and five more of oil paint. I recenter the gaze and notice that in this exhibition nearly all the works are in acrylic and oil. The oil allows him to paint these objects according to his normal pictorial semantics with glazings and transitions that are much smoother than the acrylic. So, this is what this palette is about, it was never about anything else, that I remember, it was always an economic palette and which has been used for a long time. In the early 1990s, he began with those very small paintings and made them for a long time, right at the beginning, those ones with the black setting. But I feel that it would be totally impractical, at the present moment, to say what they were about. They later evolved, they changed, they were manifested with the white background, they got larger. It is not necessary to take their measurements, they never got so much larger, because their size was always small. And when he was just starting, when he arrived at the art world at the end of the 1980s, the general trend was for pictorial production and large multicolored paintings. At that time, his work already had this small size, and it was not so common to choose this pictorial medium and to develop such a large production on a small surface. At first sight, they might look like surfaces without any traces of a past, although they are totally imbued by it. We could perhaps imagine that it will be like that until the end. I believe that it will. I feel that. Time passes and it seems that everything, that these objects remain unscathed. In regard to the color, even though I’ve already said something, I would like to repeat it, as the color is essential – the black, all that can be said is that he began to make little paintings with a black background with the torn grids, yes, I believe that is the word he used, torn. Suddenly the painting lashes out, doesn’t it? Because maybe behind an intimist pictorial set, which somehow alludes to the past, there is a personal report. There they are tranquil, resting on the walls, not allowing anything from their interior to show through, as if they had their backs turned to the observer. I am looking at their occiput. I feel that. But it is the black background that is especially memorious, in the sense that it embraces and adds to those geometric elements. These elements had clearly already appeared previously, after all, we are talking about him. But now they look different. As you may recall, in the past his paintings had pedestals on which geometric objects were visible. We must not forget his connections with the height of the HIV epidemic. Those first paintings also had to do with that. And in his new paintings I try to seek connections with that past. The cane continues in my field of view, perhaps due to fear of falling. But maybe I’m wrong. Because that’s what this cane does; it makes me wander and helps me to dream. Now, what to say about these small wooden cylinders? Say what you will, it is also impossible in their case to formulate a definite interpretive system. And maybe those who have already understood what doesn't even try to be confluential would think that I haven't gone too far, because amidst those little rods there are in fact many assertions to be made, for example, that they are not dowel pins or any other sort of piece used to join or support others. Not even the rods could remain united. Well, at one moment they are. At another they are not. Like those that fall among the black background. Or perhaps they are situated on the background of a dark place. Would it be clear that the shocks that the artist's mind suffered remain calm in the paintings? Observing them now, no longer in isolation, but in relation to one another, they still don’t let anything be seen. But they do seem to have a symbolism. But he does not seek for it. Could it be that what I see is the paroxysm of a past that is inflamed in ocher-yellow? One enigma? Or various? Whatever it is, not even the artist himself knows how to pin down or decipher what he presents in a key of mystery. And this is naturally prolonged amidst his tautological descriptions. Perhaps that is it. The most natural and direct. Without beating around the bush. At least that is how he works. Without any set time or routine in the studio. Direct, but skewed, even at the moment of selecting the works to be shown. He never uses exactly what he is producing, he always thinks about something else. What I see here was already being produced since the pandemic, actually, he had begun a little before that. Perhaps this had begun further back, in the 1990s, when he began to paint works with small sizes and black settings. But I know that for him they are something else, even though they establish a very strong relationship with that, with that past. But perhaps in his mind, he would prefer that they did not have any meaning, even though they involve countless senses for returning to the more figurative shapes he hadn’t used for many years, such as the cane. But I insist on not knowing the real reason for this return, for this fall into the past, this sliding into the darkness. I observe the cane mixed with the grid and I consider this grid as being real, as he likes to think of it. Because it’s about that, isn’t it? Understanding what goes on in his head. And in his head all of this is representation. Psycho-representation? These things are so difficult to explain. What I see was already being produced since the pandemic, when he was deeply moved, watching the sunset, amidst that silent personal death: symbolic and real. What I see is a relationship with death, but also with separation, with solitude, with isolation and many other feelings that he might be feeling. But I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that the cane reappeared last year. And recollections of his first show at Triângulo soon arise, where one can see a painting of canes, at a moment when Basualdo wrote a text that invoked them. But, continuing in the mnemonic territory, amidst this darkness, I hardly see the window – by the way, what good would it be to bring objects in the past to here (which at some moments emerge hooked to one another as normally occurs with what is abandoned or forgotten)? Why fear it? Wouldn’t this invoke, in support of this viewpoint, various considerations rooted in the relativity of the incidence of time on his life? In any case, the cane appeared, it must say something since the paintings have an energy, they talk about a historic moment. After all, they are windows, that’s what I want them to be. There is always something on the other side. First I saw the night. And that surprised me. But perhaps it was because I remembered past works, I recalled that totally corroded box, or the moments he mentioned when many people around him were passing away. So did the past become somehow marked in the paintings? In the psycho-referentialities? But how to discern a life in the midst of a work that communicates in this way?
(Behold, the front window lights up: he pursues, he tries to understand his work, he seeks to understand where he walks trotting in a single shadow in the middle of the night).
Tiago de Abreu Pinto, September 2022.