Before the darkest hour
Renata Pelegrini´s paintings engulf us and launch us into a different place. Unstable, disturbing, destabilizing. The São Paulo artist´s contemporary approach to the landscape reveals more about this strange place, cut by powerful lines of force as well as by slighter strokes that are slender and more irregular, along with layers of paint, color and light that highlight strong clashes of different natures. The construction of this seductive image testifies to Renata´s skills that highlight, through visual tools and concepts that are more related to thought a fleeting and essential existence as well as a certain consternation in relation to the world.
The first question that arises is what this place is. In “The Urban Condition”, the French academic Olivier Mongin creates a kind of new theory of urbanism, using concepts of philosophy, anthropology and psychoanalysis, amongst other fields. Mongin turns his back on a certain cynicism arising from the ‘culture of congestion’ of Rem Koolhaas and investigates the phenomenon of the present day resident of megacities and the central needs of these bodies, whether in terms of limits, relationships, exchanges etc. in the expanded amalgamation of flows today, at a level of information as well as within the image context. “Thinking about the purpose of the place is the opportunity to re-engage with the urban experience, with the layers that make it up at the center of the global landscape. Because it is the landscape itself that should give body to another apprehension of the limits,” 1 he says.
This spatial element marked by the singular is very apparent in Renata´s production and we need to learn a little bit more about her working process and life in order to comment on it. She graduated in language teaching and spent fairly lengthy periods outside Brazil, particularly in the United States and Italy. She was a language teacher and calligraphy played a key role during these periods. Calligraphy gave her “discipline and an almost monastic work,” as she likes to put it. Once she had started to paint, the graphic element dominated, even at the beginning, marked by a somber chromatic approach.
The illustrative element then imposes itself and she resourcefully uses acrylic paint which can fill in both the more common surfaces of the paintings as well as linen which is finer and more porous. However, the sizes vary through a more generous scale and her work flourishes in a remarkable way. Oddly enough, the flexibility of the acrylic helps her shorten the creation time of the works although its use seems to last a long time, i.e. attributes of the oil, usually seen as ‘denser’. As a result, the images are more eye catching. The original background disappears after the layers and paint material are applied. The strokes are sometimes more concentrated and at other times more liquid. The color can result from a more obsessive manual action or show itself in a more dissolved and washed out way, among other features. What is also admirable in this chromatic area is the facility with which she uses black and, in more recent stages, green and ochre. As a result, she renews reference points as different as Soulages and Goeldi, amongst others.
This shifting place Renata has created becomes topical if we think of how she crosses specific elements of each language. We have just discussed how it relates to painting above but it also certainly relates to photography, for example. She uses second-hand images that are available on the Internet or which she has made herself even without bothering whether they are of ‘good’ quality. However, she always highlights architecture and places which dispense with the human figure but whose limits are extremely clear, i.e. the remaining element of the photography is strengthened. When we consider some of the artist´s works, for example, stories also appear, somehow opaque, like an audiovisual created without any impervious linearity, whose protagonists have disappeared. It is also close to scenic language, as the spaces can accommodate stages for contemporary subjects, placing the incompleteness of the ‘scenes’ Renata has created and a kind of theater of the absurd developed in a long-lasting state of solitude and solipsism side by side.
The graphic side of Renata´s paintings is evident in works which are “purer” drawings – created with charcoal, chalk, red chalk, graphite and pastel – or mixed in which there are strong components of the painting. And the fine line which appears in many of the artist´s compositions recall what Paulo Pasta has already highlighted about the two supports: “Transience would be the word that best describe her identities and differences (…) Precision and accumulation, a marriage of risk and condensation” 2. Furthermore, the diagonal that is so strikingly present in Renata´s canvases reinforce the comment by Peter Pál Pelbart, in his article The art of living in the lines, on the concept developed by Deleuze. “(…) The escape or nomadic line is the one that flees and makes a world disappear, as if something was leading us, through the segments, but also through our edges, ‘in the direction of an unknown destination which is not visible or pre-existing,’ ” 3 Pelbart writes.
Therefore the artist´s graphic-painting corpus underpins her approach in the constant investigation of a mobile landscape and which places her firmly in the contemporary world, weakening a certain modern lexicon firmly placed a priori in the reading of her production. As a result, Renata Peligrini presents vanishing points, pillars, posts, bodyguards, perspectives, masts and other voluminous witnesses of fragile solidity, between the figure and abstraction, and she gives us a powerful idea about our finiteness.
Mario Gioia, July 2016