Ainda Viva

Pedro Varela

29/Oct/2011 – 26/Nov/2011

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  • Press Release

    Juliana Monachesi

    Pedro Varela’s paintings, drawings and collages used to be a kind of cross between Julie Mehretu and Franz Ackermann, or between Corinne Wasmuht and Matthew Richie: architectures suggested amidst a flow of references to geometric and informal abstraction. His "white phase" has added extra complexity, but although these works have shifted focus away from the artist’s investigations into color, they have kept the interpretation of the central issue as an oneiric architecture, a mixture of concrete references to imaginary cities. This Varela exhibition at the Zipper Gallery makes matters even more complex, as the urban theme gives way to landscapes and still life and the colors return, dominated by blue. And this is where it gets really interesting.

    By abandoning the currency of fictional architecture and the fragmentation of the modern world, Varela moves away from a vocabulary deemed as "contemporary" and approaches a more authorial, or at least more specific, voice. One cannot speak of a strong sense of authorship, as what the artist has sought throughout his whole career, and above all in these new works, is an unrecognizable mixture of genres and omnipresent motifs in the history of Western culture and art. What is actually specific to the works of this exhibition is the fusion of imaginary visions of Brazil produced by 17th to 19th century travelers and the tropicalist assertion of an anthropophagic identity for the country.

    The neo-baroque atmosphere of the works, that fluctuates between the highly ornamental and highly synthetic, together with the antagonistic palette, which mixes lysergic instances with meditative watery blues, results in paintings untouched by time. Moreover, the artist’s choice of represented motifs is less recognizably contemporary, which enhances its ageless aspect. "The idea of Ainda Viva [Still Living] is simple. It is an exhibition that practically features still life and landscape paintings, two subcategories created by the art academia and that have been completely abandoned by modernity. In this exhibition I wanted to demonstrate my desire to work with forgotten things, abandoned methods,” says Varela.

    An undifferentiation between landscape and decor, where these two opposing universes prove interchangeable, reveals a development of what was once settled through interaction between painting and collage: installations that sprawled through the exhibition space, where one framed drawing would spill out and continue on the wall until connecting to the next one, and so on, are met with a powerful synthesis here. Ainda Viva harks back to the vanitas tradition and botanical documentation, but above all refers to painting and the possibility of finding unfilled gaps in this discourse, as anachronistic as it is timeless.

    Critical essay