top of page
Critical Essays

A Genealogy of Landscape

Lisette Lagnado | 1990



Cristina Canale, a young artist from Rio de Janeiro who is holding her first individual exhibition in São Paulo, is the fruit of an environment that influenced a considerable slice of cultural production in recent years. How many did not announce that they participated in the show “Como vai você, Geração 80?” (How Are You, 80’s Generation?).[1] Fortunately, Canale’s most recent canvases show that she has evolved from the youthful exuberance of that aesthetically challenging time. Her present trajectory has the quality of asking a question: is it possible to paint landscape today?


The exhibition is courageous. Cristina Canale presents landscapes where she mixes diverse subjects: an academic theme, Impressionist compositions and Neo-Expressionist techniques. The fact is that the demands of modernity discard (in a prejudicial manner) the treatment of “old” issues. Just a mere reminder: the anthropometries of “mythological” Yves Klein (where women covered in paint imprint the mark of their bodies on a surface) were initially indicated as a return to the traditional nude.[2]


It is interesting to see how Canale alters the known language of landscape to add her deposition to the accumulated inheritances. Depicted here, neither nature is in direct contact with the physical phenomenon, nor is scenery. The painter sees the world through the lens of representation in history (what would artists be without a reproducibility technique?). In this manner, Canale exchanged contemplation on canvas for detailed examination of the romantics, German or Japanese, in free transit from Anselm Kiefer to Claude Monet, from the Renaissance to the editions of the National Geographic. This inversion of the viewing mechanism is perhaps one of the reasons that so few artists of the post-modern era have been concerned with giving prominence to the background of the figure, in delving below the surface, and have remained in figuration or illustration. There is a lack of perspective on all levels. Canale paints with her canvas supported on the ground. Thus, it does not recall easel painting; so, one should imagine landscapes without seeing horizons. How is this conceivable? Is there anything of the drippings by Jackson Pollock in this precedure[3] – an intrigue between the abstract and the construction of an image, within which Canale dives? Useful and competent desperation. The artist was successful in effecting the metabolism of the geometric figures from her previous series, gaining the vocabulary from the landscape project: her elements (waterfall, garden, and archipelago) impose a metonymic strength.


Why such an obsessive search for the sensuality of the material? Affirmation of a search gifted with singular characteristics? The craft, nothing intimate, requires ample gestures and a profusion of sweat. The canvases are balanced between plenty and frugality. It is certain that Cristina Canale could launch into even more Baroque surfaces – like another carioca artist, Adriana Varejão, who also gushed academic themes for an up-to-date form.[4] With the difference that the excesses by Canale do not become excessive: there is always an edge of sky or earth without which the landscape would not guarantee

its sustenance.


When the canvas is finally mounted on the frame, as if with a magical effect, a possible horizon emerges and the undefined quality of the drawing keeps us from being concerned with why a complex landscape substituted the chaotic age of gesticulation. As for the spectator, he will carry on in perplexity, without knowing if he is enjoying a dilated fragment or a panorama. So much the better. The place for the gaze or to be directed is not singular.


So, one perceives how much modern artists can take pleasure in polishing vestiges of the past, in the germination of hybrid styles. By her hands, incursions into color and through paint are consolidating the possibility of giving new life to the genealogy of landscape – even with the (apparently) old binomial paint/canvas and even through sinuous paths. “Before,” she explains, “the material obeyed the image; now, the image already obeys the material.”


The material is thus transformed into value. Therefore, it is worth making the following exception: Cristina Canale does not present as a “material” painter, in the sense of obtaining your subject from the painting’s financial statement.[5] Making use of a palette without melancholy (rosy or violet, green-blue and blue-green hues), such is a painter who awakens the spirit of the color in the material, with drawing from monochromatics full of shadows, common among her colleagues



*Text revised by the author. Originally published in the exhibition catalogue of the São Paulo Art Gallery. São Paulo, 1990. The footnotes were updated on July 31, 2011, for the


[1] Como vai você, Geração 80? (How Are You, 80’s Generation?), Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage – EAV/Parque Lage, Botanical Garden, Rio de Janeiro, 1984. The event, curated by Paulo Roberto Leal, Marcus Lontra and Sandra Mager, united 123 artists.


[2] “Anthropometry”: term invented in 1960 by the critic Pierre Restany (anthropo: man and metry: measure) to name what Yves Klein designated as “the technique of life paintbrushes” Link:


[3] Jackson Pollock is another “mythological” painter revisited in the work of Cristina Canale. Dripping: from the English – to drip. This technique is attributed to him since the end of 1945 forward, although historians mention verifiable predecessors in the canvases of Max Ernst from 1942. Cf. William Rubin, “Jackson Pollock and the Modern Tradition”. artforum, February, March and April 1967.


[4] A phrase from the original version was eliminated. More than twenty years later, the comparison between the painting of Cristina Canale and Adriana Varejão would deserve more refined commentaries, but inappropriate in this present publication.


[5] “Material Painting”: an expression attributed in São Paulo at the Atelier Casa 7 (House 7 Studio) (1982-1985). On the international plane, Antoni Tàpies was considered a figurehead of a current later redefined in Neo-Expressionist painting by Kiefer. In Brazil, the issue of material, in opposition to the Parque Lage 80’s Generation, finds its predecessors in Mira Schendel and Iberê Camargo.

bottom of page