Paint on the Target. Alberto Tassinari. 2006

When it no longer matters whether or not he makes or misses his mark, the Zen archer becomes a master. There is a bit of this mastery in the recent paintings by Gabriela Machado. And it is indeed at a type of target that her work looks. There is a center in each one of them but not necessarily in the center of the frame. Nor is the center of these figures worn thin, nearly muddled, ran over, alliterated, so many things that tend to be, the majority of the time, a round figure. One’s eyes oscillate between two centers. One becomes fixated on an intermediate area, but then snaps out of it by force of a distracting brushstroke. But to the center— or to the search— one returns, yet the brushstrokes are as evident and frank as they are incapable of carrying the eye too far from the roundness of form. With the energy with which they flee, the brushstrokes stop. Where a gesture would prolong, gain expression, or weave a destiny, it ends. One notices, in fact, that there is excessive expression. The brushstrokes wrap themselves up; they are packages, imbroglios of paintings, cabbages of paint. Yet without a comical dimension, a careless one, the paintings would not spell out their other dimension, their beautiful subtle counterpart, their sketches, therefore, now an expression short of flowers, fruits, and—going along with the circle of their possible features, aiming again on the contrary —vegetables, lettuce, and cabbages. Rolled up in paint, these lumps are both serious and funny. This, in times so pretentiously wise, is something much more serious than the boring pirouettes of such a rationalized art that circulates in the art world. They are jokes and wit, made purely in brush, and with colors that both match and mismatch. Everything right and everything wrong. Therefore, everything right.

In the drawings on paper in which the color red was used, Gabriela Machado was already articulating some of the potency of her present work. Instead of colors she used different pigmentation densities on paper to draw circles resembling balls of yarn. Like a sun, sunrise or sunset, the circular form resides in the lower white part of the paper. And giving names to things in an abstract painting is a poetic license too licentious, nothing impedes one from saying there is nothing there. There is just a red lump, simple, too big to stand out and too small for so much left over white. Unmeasured, for one reason or another, it was something of a seriousness that brings forth, keeping with a growing tension of its silence, laughter, at least a smile, that comes to break the distance and bring together what the other way would not put in unity. This duplicity however, though well mastered, was tighter, yet more dramatic as well, than the colored drawings and paintings from the present. They could not, without color, put the green and pink from Mangueira beside the magenta and yellow of Matisse. These paintings did not have, as well, the tone variety and paths and detours that the vehicle of painting offers with great ease. And above all else, this ease has already been achieved with an historical energy hardly equal. At this point I am reminded of De Kooning’s brushstroke in its last and perhaps most exuberant configuration during the second half of the 60´s and 70´s. In the works of Gabriela Machado however, this brushstroke is like his yet subverted.

In De Kooning, because it is expressive, the gesture, even with its boundless maneuvers and although discontinuous, is never interrupted. The energy expressed seems to have been entirely transposed to the canvas. To Gabriela’s incorporation of this energy, one lends the features of De Kooning´s brushstrokes, not letting it transfigure into returning it to a center, to an interweaving, the same as when, like a thread, the brushstroke seems to walk outside, yet there as well, a reference back to the sought out center remains. It is the center from which it escapes and clings. From there, the roundness of an isolated figure on white paper or on raw canvas. And this sought out circle also, in some way less distinct, has a history in art. Even before the targets of Jasper Johns, the denseness in the center of the painting is an aspect more and more explored in the paintings of Guston in his abstract phase. And the brushstrokes of such a form accumulate in the center of the frame, which is not inappropriate to think of its poetics as an accumulation, evident in the buildup of detrituses of their figurative phase, which already existed between 55 and 65. It is by the exasperation of an abstraction that it is neither pictorial nor linear, but something between the two, made infragile brushstrokes, many times coded as in minimalism, that Guston transmits to the eloquence of abstract expressionism first in leftovers of paint and afterward in leftovers of things. This way, if from De Kooning Gabriela Machado freezes the gesture in good measure, it is from Guston that she conserves the center, but she unwraps the accumulation.

It is always risky to mount genealogies of an artist’s works. Here however, documented genealogies, or even conscious ones, are not attempted, rather poetic loans, though only interpreted in part by criticism, and that results in a third thing, not in a half term, but in a reflection that the history of art places in the artist’s disposition. Every painting refers to all the others, says Merleaus- Ponty, pointing out the subterranean life of art. But not to go too far, like many contemporary Brazilian painters, the works of Gabriela Machado has sources as well in Jorge Guinle *. More than a style, the poetics of Guinle bring different European and North American painting styles face to face in the same painting, as if in battle, where the painting would transform our potencial of understanding the diverse, just as it would our incapacity of invention by excellence. There is no gesture invention, no brush, in Brazilian Art, that translates the complete individual of the De Kooning paintings of the 70´s, just as there is no interpreter of our misfortunes, like Guston was, in a society in which subjectivities full of such self confident have, as compensation in the accumulation of gloom, their disassociate side; unsociable. Already our disassociations are others. Less individual, we are solidary. We tolerate. We have something of Zen. With the difference being that a lot of the time we do not even know if we miss or make our mark. Art, Painting, in a way, regenerates us. In the way that it gives, we strive, we paint, we set the table. Beautiful cabbages. Torn up bouquets.

* See this point, the text “Doida Disciplina” (Method in madness) by Ronaldo Brito that also deals with contemporary paintings of Gabriela Machado. Aside from this same reference to Jorge Quinle, there is more of a convergence point between the two texts. There is no need to cite them all, but they are texts that trail diverse roads, though, I think, in a good part, convergent ones.

Alberto Tassinari


An art-critic from São Paulo, he studied metallurgic engineering at USP (between 1971 and 1974). Between 1978 and 1981 he took a philosophy degree at the Departmente of Philosophy, Literature and Humanities at the University of São Paulo, where he also completed his Master’s, in 1989, on the painting of Merleau-Ponty, before concluding his doctorate (1997), which was the basis for the book O Espaço Moderno, published by Cosac e Naify. He was art critic for the Folha de São Paulo between 1987 and 1988. Since 1982, he has published articles on contemporary art and philosophy in newspapers, exhibition catalogues and specialist publications.