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Construction of Light

Fernando Cocchiarale


Although she graduated in printmaking from the School of Fine Arts at UFRJ, and has made experimental incursions into sculpture, installations, and performances, Suzana Queiroga is known, above all, as a painter and draftsman.

Such identity certainly results from the fundamental place painting has in her process of poetic invention, but it may also be due to Queiroga's participation in the show How are you doing, Generation 80? held at the School of Visual Arts of Parque Lage, in Rio de Janeiro, in 1984.

Just as similar shows had occurred both in Euro-American institutions and in their international counterparts, the exhibition at Parque Lage became a historical landmark of the resumption of painting as the hegemonic medium of Brazilian artistic production during the 1980s. Its emblematic content, however, was not only due to the turn proposed by the defenders of the perenniality of this ancestral medium, since it also incorporated the growing importance of the works of some of the painters who were launched in it and who are still producing, successfully, today.

Since that time, however, Suzana's painting has already diverged in a flagrant manner, not only from the figurative repertoires of the new painting, but also from the expressive making, the matte brushstrokes, the use of intense color and the appreciation of the expressive power of gesture, whose expansion required large format canvases - characteristics then considered by the discourses of many artists, curators and critics as synonyms of the pictorial "language" itself.

Contrary to these repertoires, Queiroga's painting had diffuse references to constructivism. He questioned the conventional rectangle of the painting by producing support-forms of different configurations, painted by means of uniform and non-material flat brushstrokes. However, it should be noted that, despite such references, Suzana was never interested in the rigor of geometric form inseparable from the constructivist poetics:

"The color palette is reduced, with the predominance of delicate shades of blues, greens, pinkish grays and violets. The repertoire of the paintings is geometric, but a geometry linked to wave phenomena, the thermodynamics of fluids and the propagation of light waves and their expansion in a pictorial space that would tend to infinity." Suzana Queiroga, loose notes, 2018.

According to these annotations by the artist herself, it is possible to conclude that under the remarkable transformations experienced by her painting, there remains, lining them up, the alternative difference of her luminousatura in relation to the matricatura that often marked the production of those who promoted the resumption of painting in the 1980s. But such difference is not restricted to these two opposite ways of painting. Like a portal, they lead us to much broader questions, such as those of the poetic intentions that really identify an artist's production, from the making (or designing) to the completion of the work.

Therefore, the invoice can never be thought of solely in terms of technical proficiency, since it already contains the poetic directions of a work. For Suzana,

"Time is an essential factor for my artistic thinking, color is explored here in the sense of activating the phenomenon of light in different chromatic frequencies delivering to the gaze the pulsation of the flow, aiming to generate a perceptual experience of immersion that demands an extended time for observation." Suzana Queiroga, loose notes, 2018.

None of these paths pointed out as the target of the artist's interest could have been traversed by means of the materialatura. Classical European tradition painting crossed the invention of perspective (focused on the three-dimensional representation of the space in which living beings and other things that exist on our planet circulate), with the representation of light - luminous energy - and the shadow derived from it that shaped, only optically, the volume of existing things and allowed their illusionistic representation, on the pictorial plane, by the painter. The transmutation of mundane solidity (tactile and optical) into pure visual perception (light and shadow) is, according to Maurice Merleau-Ponty, a process in which the painter is asked for what he wants to paint:

"What exactly does he ask of you? He asks him to unveil the means only visible, by which it makes itself mountain to our eyes. Light, illumination, shadows, reflections, color, all these objects of research are not entirely real beings: like ghosts, they have only visual existence. They are even only at the threshold of profane vision, and are commonly unseen. The painter's eye asks them how they arrange themselves to make there suddenly be something, and that something, to make up this talisman of the world, to make us see the visible." (The eye and the spirit)

Matter paintings, however, displace us from the observation of this voluminous optic-tridimensional space (Ponty) - represented in the pictorial plane by means of perspective and shading - to transport us to the observation of the very materiality of the paint from which the painting is made and of the gesture that configures it.

Evidently, we cannot expect from the distinction between matter and energy formulated from the poetic-discursive point of view by the artist, a rigor similar to its conceptualization by scientific production. As a rigorous conductor of the daydream, art operates in the realm of poetic sensibility, even when this daydream can be referred, by analogy, to some theoretical discourse. Intersections between art and science were and still are frequent, but irreducible to each other.

Geometry, for example, was adapted by Renaissance painters to produce, through perspective, the illusionist representation of three-dimensional space, however, the mathematical knowledge hidden by the simulation of depth in the pictorial plane, characteristic of Renaissance space, was never a prerequisite for the contemplation of these works, because their function was to represent and not to give us a lesson in mathematics.

There is, therefore, no reason to attribute to scientific theories the role of regulating the poetic pertinence of artistic production. Between the 15th and 16th centuries, European painting ceased to be a craft - "mechanical art," resulting from craftsmanship - to become, according to Leonardo da Vinci, a "mental thing. He referred to a free art, superior to mere proficiency, since it was mentally conceived, through the invention of a system of questions derived from geometry and anatomical studies, then shared by all artists. This system lasted, with variations, until its academization in the Fine Arts, some three centuries later. It was succeeded by modern painting, in which the pictorial plane became, for a significant part of the artists, an objective reference for the organization (composition) and occupation of the canvas surface.

All these references can be reread by contemporaries - appropriations, parodies, thematic-iconic, technical and formal citations are common procedures, inseparable from the production of their work. Today, artists seek their own systems as an indispensable condition for the processual understanding of their work, for its inscription in the institutional and media circuit, for its public diffusion.

Suzana's painting, as well as her experiences with other media, does not possess imagetic elements that favor the thematization of political and micropolitical issues demanded by a significant portion of the hegemonic curatorial, institutional, and marketing discourses.

This iconic gap, evidenced in the works, should not be approximated to the universe of abstract art. The poetic intentions enunciated in it are not the same as those that moved the debate around the distinction between figurativism and abstraction, whose tension moved 20th century art until the first decade of the post-war period.

Beyond these repertoires, Queiroga's painting is a celebration of light. Not the light represented based on the pictorial knowledge built between the Renaissance and the beginning of modernism, nor that of illustration of physical theories about light and its propagation.

Suzana's light, on the contrary, is a procedural construction that updates the system she invented to guide her painting. Foreshadowed by the invoicing of her works from the 1980's, the only luminous reality of the energetic chromaticism of these works results from a method of painting and organizing her canvases based on the smooth invoicing of luminous bands of color that propose us a system whose truth - the causal light referred to by Merleau-Ponty - is found only in the universe of her own work.

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