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Critical Essays

On Cristina Canale’s painting

Eliana de Simone | 1999


The work of Cristina Canale represents one of the most interesting portals to the present Brazilian painting scene. Emerged with the so-called “Geração 80” (80’s Generation), which marked a vigorous return of painting among us, after repeated and unfounded announcements of the “death of painting,” Canale begins her trajectory renewing the tradition of landscape.


Her works from the period between 1989-92 show scenes observed from a distance: they are islands, archipelagos, valleys, volcanos, and waterfalls, where the partial dissolution of the image indicates a clear sign of abstraction. Basic characteristics of this period are a compact materiality and solidity of the large format canvases.


Little by little the interest of the artist is directed to the particular. As if she were choosing cut outs of her landscapes and observed them through a zoom, Canale introduces a type of imaginary amplifying lense, which “explodes” the detail, reducing it to a fragment, in an almost scientific attitude of investigating material and form; so, a study is begun that is focused on organic forms: it deals with elaborate representations of flowers, fruit, buds, seeds and ornaments, which is defined at the frontier between abstraction and the figurative. From this point forward, the line acquires an independent value, the linearism and its contrast in relation to the planes begins to assume a central role in the work by Canale; the dense masses of color from the earlier landscapes are softened, and they gain transparency and fluidity. Essential elements from this relevant segment of work, which lasts until 1997-98, are the interpenetration of forms, the unordered overlaying of linear structures and chromatic surfaces, as well as an intimate approximation to the abstract. There is an evident independence from the line in relationship to painting: the eye decomposes what the artist assembles.


In the present series of works by Cristina Canale, one perceives a manifest desire for concision: the predominance of a form or main chromatic surface is imposed, which subordinates the underlying elements. This important transition, meanwhile, occurs in a gradual manner, afterwards it makes a detour around a peculiar conception of landscape where prioritized elements are already defined: it deals with almost abstract “marine things,” which in the foreground show mollusks, flower-shells, spiraled snails. These “sea stories,” title given by the artist to one of the canvases belonging to a recent exhibition in Germany1, remain in strict formal relationship with previous works: technical modalities persist such as transparency, the fluid effect, as well as gestural and calligraphic characteristics borrowed from watercolor.


In the present segment, called Interiors, the limit of abstraction is distanced considerably. Before the pictorial flow accentuated the inherent qualities of color, whose material presence competed with the figuration, being overlain on this; now the figure is imposed on the masses of color, subjugating them. The always present organic form metamorphoses into armchairs and sofas, almost always set into backgrounds that recall sea life landscapes, allowing one to make out a programmatic coherence and persistence in the search for an ancestral organicity.


In the Interiors exhibition, the spatial system of composition is modified, becoming more concentrated, concise; the denser central element establishes a new relationship between the harmony of the group and individual visual values. The dimension of transition contained in Interiors becomes clearly visible in the work Poltrona anos 60 (Armchair 1960’s) (1999, mixed media on canvas, 144 x 160 cm), which is closely related, whether from the compositional view as in the solution of colors, or with the canvas Al Mare (To The Sea) from 19972. In both works, from the blue transparencies in the background dark forms emerge, compact and dominant; the uncertain organic forms between the floral and cocoon in Al Mare, they are grouped, coagulated, transforming into Poltrona anos 60, where in a search for formal solution, the object acquires greater autonomy; its intense materiality so becomes relative by small cut outs of chromatic surfaces incorporated into the background, in the margins of the screen. If in Al Mare the rhythm of the work has conferred through multiplicity and diversity of elements, in Poltrona anos 60 this comes from the balance between equivalences of forms and areas of color.


This recent reapproximation to the figure represents a significant conceptual change in the work of Cristina Canale; the chromatic definition, therefore, remains a central issue for the artist, colorist “par excellence.”


And this seems to us the basic presupposition of her painting, the coherence and core of her original and personalized visual language.



*Published in the individual exhibition catalogue at the São Paulo Gallery, in 1999, São Paulo.

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