So the candle won't fade (curator's text) - Janaina Torres

São Paulo Brasil

So the candle won’t fade (curator’s text)

29 de April de 2024 | 16:18
Alexandre Araujo Bispo
Guilherme Santos da Silva, Vou de carona, 2024. Óleo sobre tela, 23,2 x 31,2 cm. Guilherme Santos da Silva, Vou de carona, 2024. Óleo sobre tela, 23,2 x 31,2 cm.

A good seed, even if it falls into the sea,
will become an island. Malay proverb[1]

In 1932, Mário de Andrade (1893-1945) wrote the chronicle O Mar (The Sea) for the newspaper Diário Nacional, in which he talked about his love of this environment, sparked by a trip to Santos, on the coast of São Paulo, when he was still a boy. At the end, Mário confesses: “I really like the sea; and it’s next to it, on some beach in the Northeast, that I want to live”. There are some similarities between Mário’s desire and the set of unseen artworks by the artist Guilherme Santos da Silva, produced between 2023 and 2024: the sea in the Brazilian northeast. For Mário, it’s a dream. For Guilherme, it’s painting with a dreamlike appeal, but not surreal or fantastic. Like the writer, the painter loves the northeastern sea so much that he has created a visual world of his own, almost magical, in which solitary sailboats appear as more or less identifiable geometric shapes.

The Bahian artist Yêdamaria (1932-2016) did this in the 1960s, using a seductive palette of intense blues and reds, marked by her experience of being born and, at the time, living in Bahia. Guilherme does something similar, but his palette is cold, the tones subdued, in low contrast and avoiding the varnished sheen that could be applied to time-consuming oil paintings. While Yêdamaria shows the beauty of geometric shapes reinforced by objective names such as Barcos (Boats), Barcos com frutas (Boats with fruits), Barcos na rampa (Boats on the ramp) etc, Guilherme calls his sailboats empty of human action in You understood that you come from there, It’s the sea of those who wait, I would sing all the way or We’re always hoping.

The candles appear more or less explicitly in all the works, sometimes hoisted, moving, as in Juazeiro and First job in São Paulo, sometimes difficult to identify, because it is the natural landscape that takes center stage in a pleasing synthesis of form and color. In Untitled I and Hitchhiking, both works are organized in nocturnal tones, between greens and greenish blues, reminiscent of the colors used by Tarsila do Amaral (1886-1973) in A Lua (The Moon), 1928, during the artist’s surrealist phase.

Guilherme was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1987, but the Rio de Janeiro sea didn’t attract him as much as the memories of his grandmother’s backyard. There, bodily contact with the drying sheets and the swaying wind offered a soft refuge. In one of our conversations, he emphasizes that he inherited from his grandparents the feeling of always being out of place. Coming from Paraíba in the 1950s, the arrival and settlement of those relatives was fraught with melancholy, the effect of their forced displacement from Cajá, their homeland without a sea. One work that evokes this feeling is I’ve come with him and our children, when Guilherme shows his taste for juxtaposed tones, as in other works in this series. An L-shaped strip in this work features discrete variations of dark blue, which occupies the foreground of a composition in beige, almond, linen, brown, khaki and brown. Although it is a clean painting, the use of these colors sometimes evokes the aridity of the browns used by Cândido Portinari (1903-1962) in works such as Marias, 1936, when the earth lights up the sky, dirtying it with soil. Finally, you can glimpse the shades of sand by the sea in works such as I would sing all the way, We are always expecting, I’m so moved by this comeback, Untitled II and Mandacaru flower.

In our first conversation, Guilherme said something that helped me understand his pictorial research around the northeastern sea idealized in this series: “Geometry is good for me, because it establishes boundaries”. This observation comes at a time when a significant proportion of contemporary black artists have chosen realistic figuration, the description of things, people, memories and experiences. However, like another group of artists, Guilherme has opted for geometric figuration, which helps him achieve his poetic goals.

So the candle won’t fade, the title of the exhibition chosen by Guilherme, makes a pun between the cloth candle and the paraffin candle used during the Samba da Vela performances, where once the wick is lit, the candle dies in approximately three hours of singing. The painting, on the other hand, is fixed and requires lengthy contemplation, as Guilherme is a demanding artist who discards what he doesn’t consider to be resolved. Thus, the constructive and delicate geometry we see in his poetics conceals a passionate relationship with each new composition.

I would like to thank Guilherme for inviting me to think about the fate of current Brazilian art with his artworks, and Janaina Torres and her team for making the production of this project operational through dialogue.

Alexandre Araujo Bispo
Curator

[1] KUNZINKA, Emanuel. Dictionary of Kikongo proverbs. Luanda: Editorial Nzila, 2008. p.165.
[2] ANDRADE, Mário de. The Sea. In: Táxi e Crônicas no Diário Nacional. Text, introduction and notes by Telê Porto Ancona Lopez. Belo Horizonte: Editora Itatiaia, 2005. p. 433-435.
[3] Name of a samba circle that was created in the city of São Paulo in 2000 by the musicians Paquera, Maurílio de Oliveira, Chapinha, Magnu Sousá.

Alexandre Araujo Bispo is an anthropologist, social scientist, art critic, curator, researcher and cultural producer.

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