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The landscape of the century at the limit of abstraction

Antonio Gonçalves Filho | 2016

The game between the real and digital in the paintings and the  drawings of Renata Pelegrini

The question of the sublime in contemporary landscape is not  naturally marked by the conception that Burke and Kant had in  the past nor by the numinous aspect raised by Rudolf Oto after  them. Probably not even the post-modern approach of Lyotard  could be seen as a reference when it comes to trying to redefine  the sublime in contemporary art as he considers only partly  considers how the new technologies are changing this concept.  Renata Pelegrini, a painter who is opening her first individual  exhibition this Friday (February 26, 2016), may be a great help  to those who are disposed to discuss the sublime and the  artistic representation of nature closely linked to the  perception of the natural world brought together by digital  means. Her exhibition at the Casa Contemporânea center brings  together 20 of her works, including drawings and paintings.  These works show how the contemporary artist, backed by the  latest digital technology, reacts to the way contemporary  society controls how it looks at things by forcefully presenting her subjective approach to the technique of painting.

These works of interiors to landscapes, recreated with the help  of digitalized imaging, are inserted into a current of  contemporary painting that swings between representation and  abstraction. The American painter Claire Sherman, to mention  only one name that appears to have some affinity with Renata Pelegrini´s paintings, seems to share some philosophical and  esthetic questions with her, particularly Rancière´s theories on  the game between the “visible presence” and invisibility.  Rancière, whose interest in esthetic production originated in  Hegelian theology, along with the critic Clement Greenberg (1909  -1994) shares some ideas on abstraction and the illusionism of 

the three-dimensional space, but opens a breach for expressive  signs within the formalistic concept. 

Renata Pelegrini from São Paulo who is only now, at the age of  49, feeling sufficiently comfortable to show her works, makes  use of expressive gestures to create her pictorial universe. Her  fast irreversible movements are linked to her great experience  with calligraphy, the area in which she began her artistic  education. She is a teacher and was raised in a family of  teachers. She has taken part in a number of salons in Brazil and  Italy, where she lived for a time. Her interest in calligraphy  led her to take part in courses in a number of countries (the  US, Italy, Switzerland) and this experience is present in the  canvases and drawings with the intervention of precise lines,  subordinating the pictorial execution to the formal calligraphic  planning.  

“Calligraphy is a monastic work that demands discipline and my  painting is fast with expressive gestures,” said the painter who  admits the “contradictions” resulting from her time that are  marked by imprecision and uncertainty. “I think of Rancière but  later on, after the painting is finished,” said Renata who had  lessons on art history from the art critic Rodrigo Naves and  received guidance from the painter Paulo Pasta.

She was born in São Paulo and graduated in Language Teaching.  She is also a translator and has a close link with the literary  world. She quotes the book “Agua Viva” (“Living Water”) by  Clarice Lispector to explain how she became a painter. In this  last text by Lispector, published just before her death in 1973,  the writer outlines an analogical relationship between writing  and painting, deconstructing the first so that it can be  reconstructed by the visual work. (It should not be forgotten  that Lispector was also a painter, although an average one.) The  theme of “Agua Viva” is the instant, the present. That is also  the theme of Renata Pelegrini´s work and this explains the  quickness of the expansive lines made with acrylic paint that  dries at an industrial speed. 

However, these paintings show her connection with the modernist  tradition, according to Taisa Palhares, the exhibition curator.  She singled out Matisse´s benchmark painting, “Porte-Fenêtre a  Collioure” (1914), which marked his first attempt to transfer  black into the equivalent of light. The painting, which shows  the door of his house in Collioure at the end of the summer of  1914, is a composition at the limit of abstraction, a register  of the dark times marked by the First World War. This is also  the color that predominates in Renata Pelegrini´s paintings and  interiors but, in her case, there is no metaphoric proposition  nor the illusionary space created by the Matisse door.

Her drawings, in charcoal, red chalk, graphite and chalk are  structured like an architectural composition in which the  external environment is contaminated by the internal, an aspect  that is more apparent in the paintings in which black has a  luminous element similar, to some extent, to Goeldi,  transforming recognizable places into abstractions with second  hand images. “I usually take images from the Internet or photos  of landscapes of places I have visited,” she said. However,  these are only pretexts for painting, she admits. 

Present. Renata Pelegrini (above) does not deny modernist links  but her works reflect the present moment  

Renata Pelegrini
Casa Contemporânea
Capitao Macedo, 370, 2337-3015. Tuesday to Friday, 14:00- 19:00; Saturday 11:00-17:00. Until 26/03/2016. Opens today (26),  19:00