Method in Madness. Ronaldo Brito. 2005

The instant appeal of these very small or very large canvases comes from the impulsive movement of paint that seems to appear out of thin air to revive our faded or acidic daily world. Each of them is living proof that it is still worth taking a fresh look at the things around us. The swirls of paint refresh and enliven the very atmosphere we breathe, arousing our mimetic involvement with the world. Fleeting chunks of painting, they are suspended inconclusively at the stage of fresh paint, making the surface of reality more receptive to our sensations.

They are aesthetically surprising in part because they respond so eagerly and intensely to their spent, commonplace motifs, themselves destined to fade away with time, as it would seem. These days, how can one paint flowers and fruits in any meaningful way? Yet it was once said by a poet (E.E. Cummings) that it is always the beautiful answer who asks the more beautiful question. And in this case, the answer is so simple it is disconcerting: by transfiguring flowers and fruits into contemporary pictorial material.

These canvases pick their way intuitively between Manet’s magnificent flowers, heading, let’s say, towards Oldenburg’s sandwiches while picking up some of the artistic energy of Jorge Guinle’s generous work along the way. In so doing, they unpretentiously bring nature back into contact with the metabolism of contemporary painting. It is precisely the peculiar, biographical nature of this sudden revival of impressionist interest in the immediate beauty of nature that stamps this as a public, current artistic fact. Gabriela Machado’s painting belongs wholly to modern urban culture, with its heightened sensitivity and edgy reflexes; a combination of artistic elements that falls between the analytical and the fortuitous. And if the small works in particular seem almost to beg the adjective precious, then this must be accompanied by its counterpart — precious, granted, but also chaotic.

It comes as no surprise that in this avid, unreined output everything hangs on a propagation effect, which from the outset forces the boundaries of the medium to be melted. These canvasses are flung, not composed, as they insist on their vital movement. If they start out as still lifes, as it were, they finish up as unfettered strokes of paint that are neither abstract nor particularly figurative; nameless, as yet.

As we become increasingly involved in the course of world events, with less of a perspective, less contemplation, these canvases instinctively search to find some topological fluidity, many representing the paradox of scattering circles. Whatever the case, they always employ a variety of contradictory means to show one single thing, one single image. As artistic phenomena, they could be seen as typical examples of successful short-circuits.

But they only achieve this because they literally quiver with the discovery of color. All the paintings experiment with it to a certain degree. And as this is how they appear through the artist’s eye, we cannot help but pick up the energy of this newly-awakened colorist vocation. Also, since there is much more of the impromptu speech here than some structured discourse, any reflection about color goes hand in hand with the urgency with which it is applied. Which, for its turn, seems to imply some kind of disciplined spontaneity, which is a contradiction in terms, endlessly repeating yet never aggregating. Yet in fact, all the effort goes into learning how to forget. And so every new canvas is a new beginning. Wherein lies their irresistible freshness.

Ronaldo Brito published Experiência Crítica (published by Cosac e Naify books) in 2005 – a selection of texts written between 1972 and 2002. He is a professor on the History of Art and Architecture in Brazil course and the post-graduate program of the Social History of Culture at PUC, Rio de Janeiro. He was the first critic to write an article about the Neoconcrete Movement (1975) – Neoconcretismo: vértice e ruptura do projeto construtivo brasileiro, MEC/Funarte, 1985, republished in 1999 by Cosac e Naify, as part of the Espaços da Arte Brasileira series. Cosac e Naify also published his Sérgio Camargo (2001) and he has undertaken indepth analyses of the works of Amilcar de Castro, Iberê Camargo and Eduardo Sued among others. As a poet, he has published O mar e a pele (1977), Asmas (1982) and Quarta do singular (1989).