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Renata Pelegrini: drawing and painting

Marcelo Salles | 2015

The book “Invisible Cities” by Italo Calvino recounts how the trader and ambassador Marco Polo told the powerful conqueror Kublai Khan about the cities he had passed through during his travels through Khan´s vast empire. Calvino presents descriptions of incredible cities made up of the most varied experiences, ranging from A Thousand and One Nights to the cinema, encompassing travels and real cities (as far as Venice can be real…) created in the words of Marco Polo and reconstructed by his listener, Kublai Khan.

The contemporary era in which we live does not seem to have a consensual co-existence with the more traditional languages of the visual arts, such as drawing and painting. Despite this, artists continue to choose them. Some produce works that are more assimilated, with one or other element that can provoke a certain estrangement in the viewer. These rely on parody or cynicism in terms of creating art and they are mainly visual works which grab the attention directly. Others make a choice although, in this case, it is less of a choice than an internal need or consistency in line with the way they think, through works that need more time to be assimilated, time that we no longer have.

This second group*, with its stronger commitment to production, is even respectful, mainly in relation to painting. There is a link, to a greater or lesser extent, between these artists to features which are usually described as modernism, such as a certain autonomy of the object of art and the presence of the creator but there is no epic or grandiose feeling. What we have is a realistic disenchantment that is typical of the present day.

When it comes to Renata Pelegrini´s works, we can also add a strong visceral element of expression. As a result, these works force the viewer to step back from the world so we can return to what belongs to us, to what forms us as experiences that have been undergone.

Painting is usually regarded as a more elaborate work than drawing, even by artists themselves. Drawing is often done on paper, as a support element, where it appears as a study or a sketch to be improved in the painting itself. This is not what happens in this production. There is autonomy between both languages. They feed each other and are equivalent when dealing with a chosen purpose, retaining the specific features belonging to each language.

The drawings and paintings are both difficult to classify. This is because, paradoxically, Renata´s approach is more linked to contemporary times in terms of the many influences and references she has. They range from Paulo Pasta to Iberê Camargo, De Kooning to Sean Scully, Richard Serra to Giacometti, Albert Oehlen to William Kentridge, Diebenkorn to Eduardo Stupia and Rosemarie Trockel to Julie Mehretu, without forgetting hermany literary references, the strongest of which is Fernando Pessoa. This diversity ends up leaving the works without an “anchor” for comparison in the eyes of the public. Moreover, Renata has chosen, or was led to choose a riskier approach from the main reason for her works which is the surrounding space, to a greater or lesser scale. This risk lies in the imprecision between what is recognizable and what is not.

In formal terms, elements appear both in the drawings and paintings that are closer to the modern lexicon but her particular approach updates them and adds a contemporary feel to the works.

The first element is the use of perspective but a perspective that only alludes to the correct or geometric perspective. The perspective either breaks itself down into various incongruous planes, questioning the flatness of the work or it contrasts itself with the established space through the use of color planes. This concept creates a dynamic situation that isstrengthened by the second element, i.e., the lines. However, these lines are not restrictive contour lines or limits. Nor are they used for perspective purposes. Their use in some works destabilizes the grouping. These are forceful lines, intense and open. Besides the formal aspects, there

is another that we can associate with phenomenology as well as memory: the “genius loci”. This term, taken from architecture, refers to the “spirit of the place” and is associated with the understanding of what is not visible in the spaces. Renata uses spaces in her production process that are altered to what can be called a place. It is these places, whether on a small close-up or large and distant scale, which she photographs when visiting them or through images from other eyes she recreates in her memory, impressions and experiences through contact with them.

Like Marco Polo, Renata Pelegrini describes her places and shares them with us. The origin of these places is specific but in the process of showing us what lies beyond the pillars, flagstones, courtyards, seas or landscapes, they become all the places and also none of them. They need to be reconstructed again by those who see them.

To paraphrase Calvino (or Marco Polo), both the artist and the viewer believe that drawings and paintings are works of the mind or chance, but neither of them can uphold pigments, lines, compositions placed on a two dimensional support. We do not benefit from the visible or understandable beauty of the works but the answers that are given to our questions. Or the questions they leave us with.

* This group is neither uniform nor small. It consists of young artists such as Andre Ricardo or Felipe Goes and others with longer experience such as Antônio Malta and Helena Carvalhosa.