PAINTING WAS MY FIRST LOVE

PAINTING WAS MY FIRST LOVE
September 18, 2009 admin
Pedro Lapa
1999

These works by João Louro make up the revisiting of a history of the painting of this century, precisely when both of them are coming to their end, or, at least, from the point of view of the coinciding of an end of a time and of a history. For this reason we may still speak of paintings in relation to these Xeroxes. It would be somewhat curious to view these works as sedimentations of the various surfaces and times of painting, respective interrogations and practices carried out over a century and of their most significant points of view. Let us see: on the internal side, directly visible in an only lateral form – in the sense of thickness – one may recognize the presence of a canvas and even the spilling of pigment., which is clearly visible through an acrylic work in which there are geometrically defined chromatic areas. Superimposed upon these are others on the limits, also abstract and geometrical, making the acrylic surface opaque, and establishing relationships of color, form and composition between themselves and with the previous areas. The material value of the paint covering on the canvas, as reduced as possible, as idealized in suprematism or neo-plasticism, vanishes when seen through the acrylic which is superimposed upon it. It subtly approaches the industrial characteristics which the chromatic forms of the latter show in another sediment. These forms carry on a process of development of geometric rhythms which echo, respond, hide, move and re-contextualize the previous ones, painted on canvas. At times, the similarity to neo-geo abstraction is mimeticized, and the virtual and anecdotal proximity which this has to its historical reference results in a dissonant composition, which reveals a fracture, that of the absolute difference of the respective contexts.

 

There also appears in these acrylics, more or less declaredly, the silhouette of a photocopying machine, which, if it apparently provides a continuity for the abstract forms, it particularly inscribes a further context of the image. Its sign transports us to another dimension of the producing of forms, being instrumental and within the order of their techniques of reproduction. The photocopying machine is today one of the most generalized signs of the reproducing of the reproduction itself, thus stressing, in these works, the dizziness of the process to which the composition itself, the elements and the references allude. In a certain way it cumulates a process of approximations and similarities under the sign of the copy.

In the traditional space set out for the caption in classical painting there are footnotes, quoted from various literary sources, on acrylic lit up by fluorescent lights, and which seem more like advertising panels. If the classical caption made up the codifying to which the signs were subjected, the value of the footnote states their context as a quotation or inscribes them within the game of references and returns the meaning to an always pre-supposed linguistic network.

And these works thus become visually hybrid realities, between the painting and the page. They are the product of a knowledge, and they continuously allude to this knowledge, which becomes a condition, which is a complex form of confinement. The image here finds the constituting of a historical horizon which in a certain way traces out the frontier of its freedom. Contrasting with all the other signs, even with the geometricism of the painting on canvas, the names of five different chemical compounds of Ecstasy are written by hand, in printed capital letters. The body, presupposed through these signs, appears as circumscribed to a regime of pleasure which it over-codifies. Just like the images, it lives out the pleasure played within the same mechanism of confinement as they do, within the previously defined method of a reproducible stimulus.

Having reached this point, the game of references and similarities suffers a narrowing which confronts it with the copy. The most disturbing aspect resides in the fact that the successive strata of these works are released from the story of a medium – painting – to come into confrontation with its wider field; that is, the implications of a conception and of a field of knowledge being transposed into living practices. Reproducibility as a Utopian social aim of modernity, to which the course of part of its history aspired, is perversely accepted as a form of regimenting pleasures within a late-Capitalist present which makes everything the same. The dream has not become a nightmare, but rather the anonymity of massification. The possible differences within this field become a question of scale and performance. Thus, in this series, besides the four Xerox copies, there are the smaller false A0s.
Deep down it is all a question of quantifying and result.

Still within the field of painting, but now more directed at the figurative memory of the group portrait, Sunflowers Landscape 01 presents a set of fans, pointing on the vertical, blowing air into plastic bags which oscillate like hoods and have several brand names of products for mass consumption printed on them. This multitude exhales perfumed aromas which spread throughout the space of the gallery and compete with those of the visitors at a vernissage. And as there is no figure without a background, this is one of those which promises an infinity of photographic space and interferes little with the figures in the foreground. It exists to provide an atmosphere, a temperature, basically the same as in the adverts, in which everything is aseptic and the carmine red is the sign of an intensity, of a desire to which the figure comes to give a name. In the absence of chance or accident this multitude of air-heads oscillates in its place without questioning it by this. Each one has its name written on and is not confused with the other. Yet the other, in order to belong to the group, reveals its status which the brand name presupposes within a standardized field of references.

So, if one wishes, this group dramatized by the light aspires to the status of a representation the over-used and repeated mechanisms of which betray its aspiration. Representation within a context of mass reproduction stratifies itself throughout the levels of quantification of its banality. And group portraits have these problems.

Pedro Lapa