Alfredo Volpi and Ione Saldanha: the freshness of luminosity (Alfredo Volpi e Ione Saldanha: o frescor da luminosidade)
By Paulo Venâncio Filho
It is extraordinary, but not a coincidence, that the traditional facades of Brazilian popular architecture originated the initial pictorial structures of Volpi and Ione SaldanhaThe rhythmic simplicity of the door and window of modest houses, houses and townhouses have been transferred to the painting of both. Absent the rigour and orthodoxy of concrete art, the architectural elements and their precarious geometry, repeated, gave both the foundations of a free, flexible, lyrical geometric abstraction. The concatenation of forms was there, present, before them, in such a way that the abstract geometric structure of their paintings comes from a circumstantial, affective, disinterested approach to other interests beyond the simple representation of their motives, without program or ideology. The facades are flat, the canvas is flat, it is by this natural condition that both communicate and make it possible to transpose one into the other. They absorb not only architectural geometrization, but also colors, simple, clear, timidly pure, that characterize this painting on the edge of Brazilian constructivism, neither concretist nor strict neoconcretist. For Volpi, the rough facades of the modest houses of the coastal town of fishermen - Itanhaém - produced an abstract visual sensibility, such a clear portrait of Brazilian experience. The same happened to Ione in front of the imposing colonial houses of Ouro Preto. That grandiose architectural ensemble, although opposed to the diminutive Itanhaém of Volpi, also manifested the same imprecise organization, the same rhythmic, almost careless emanation of the architectural structure, and there all its grace - the painting almost like a score on which the syncopated rhythms of doors and windows are placed.
Apart from this, dislocated from the artistic centrality, in heterodox and non-programmatic positions Volpi and Ione revealed in their paintings certain eccentric aspects to the Brazilian constructive experience; without them a certain non-conformity to this movement would be lacking, something that would distend and go beyond the strict prescriptive rigidity. In Volpi and Ione are absent the impulse of the vanguard, the theoretical concern, the desire for rupture. Both were artists less of the possibilities of experimentation than of intense concentration on doing. Not for that reason, they expressed a true and authentic aspect of the difficult and rapid Brazilian modernity. When in the 1950s the vectors that more or less put pressure on artistic transformations, which start from unequal and disarticulated planes, cross in the plastic arts, the one with the greatest impact is the constructivism, to which both respond and react in a convergent sense. Volpi and Ione are on the same side of the constructive experience as the Brazilian experience.
It is not only the disregard for facts and local color that has characterized Volpi's painting since its inception, in Ione the literary, narrative, allegorical element is also absent. All these elements so suggestive both will disregard, ignore, and propose a construction space, a real and abstract, living environment. To this end, the lyrical, non-spilled, anti-retrophorical contribute that one and the other manifest. Both speak little, in a syntax of few elements, direct, the result of a rigorous and economic acquisition of their own pictorial means.
Let's put a Volpi next to Ione.
In both there is an almost impressionistic background, a vibration that fractures the light and makes an uninterrupted musicality beat. Within the Brazilian constructivism, Volpi and Ione develop lines that touch and play; frank colorists, the southern luminosity that runs through their paintings is like the guarantee of well-being that a sunny morning provokes, the small format intensifies closeness, intimacy and brings things closer - the closer, the more intense.
The economy of the means was little enough to build an advanced way of thinking and even more to accomplish. To eliminate from the screen everything that was accessory, or rather, to start from the simple things themselves, from the immediate. It was not a pre-established program, it was part of daily action, the acts of life. Avoid complicating; which does not mean that painting is not complex, seeming easy, of wide and general reach. This is a quality of Volpi's art. The comparison makes sense, shows the rooting in an experience of great communicability, like few in Brazilian art, is how this experience so widespread has similarities with the pictorial expression they convey.
Volpi is the inventor of joy in Brazilian painting. The same one found in Ione's bamboos. A healthy joy, like few others, in Brazilian art. The painting of both requires the clarity that the demand of the beautiful bill hides, that same beautiful bill that eliminates, or rather, disregards. Only then, I believe, can they be understood as "primitive". Volpi and Ione, however, insisted on the domain of the unstable, fragile and precarious that suggests the still alive, unfinished, but this unfinished had to be accomplished in the most meticulous and concentrated craftsmanship without which their painting would not be possible.
It is the "archaic" craftsmanship of both that brings them to such consideration. Volpi's method; sawing the laths, washing and uncoating the fabric of the canvas, preparing the temper, was nothing more than the material and external expression of a science of the organization of an intimate experience; in the same way, reports Ione, the bamboo must be cut, let dry, have its interior perforated from top to bottom so as not to crack, take layers and layers of a preparatory white, to finally receive the first brushstrokes. And it is from this time-consuming, purified and manual knowledge that a painting fundamentally instantaneous, alive, fresh, insubstantial emerges which, still insisting, seems to me the register of a moment of satisfaction and completeness of a doing and joy. In this permanence of what is fragile, in its constant replacement and repetition, in the suggestion of the precarious, painting surrounds transparency at its limit. In them the taste for the fluidity of color, for the freshness of color, makes it a tenuous, minimal impregnation on the surface - color has no weight.
The sky blue is the measure of painting; it is luminosity, it is space, it is the background of all things, the human environment. The celestial blue is the constant, the measure of all things. The brushstroke is placed on the canvas, also the color, also the structured forms with the "dramatically precarious and rich manual invoice of its matter" (Mário Pedrosa). This superficial, transparent, liquid solidarity, uncertain pictorial quality, fragile, unfinished, that it produces, paradoxically guarantees the integrity of painting. The background of the canvas, if you can see what is behind it, provides a vivacity to look at this slight trembling indefinition that the brushstroke leaves on the canvas.
Let's take an example: the famous little flags. It's a "find" of observing the world around. It is both the square where a triangle is missing and the decorative element of popular parties. And if the real flag coincides with Volpi's geometric "flag", this is further proof of the kind of activation that a pictorial intelligence can exert on a popular visual form with which it coincides.
Ione, when abandoning the chassis and the canvas, did not make a movement of rupture, of abandoning and going beyond painting, on the contrary, his intention was to continue painting, that is, to continue it on other surfaces.
Volpi's "flags" and Ione's bamboo have close connections. The "little flag" is a shape, the bamboo an object, but the little flag is also an object and the bamboo a shape. The proximity and distance, the correlation between form and object is what arouses the interest. The bamboo is a "find" or an "invention", not the result of experimentation, research, investigation, even less a theoretical problem. No one had ever painted a bamboo before, but he was there and Ione found it. And it turned into a cylindrical "canvas", a pictorial object. The bamboo has no sides, front and back, it's a continuous, circular surface. And there is also a plastic connection between the natural verticality of Volpi's bamboos and masts, the so frequent diagonals that cross the canvases from top to bottom.
The painting completely involves the bamboo, it's total. Kinetic, because it suggests movement, the rhythmic enchainment of the forms leads to the need for the visual outline of the work, the end returns to the beginning. The verticality present in the paintings, derived from the initial architectural structure, finds the perfect object; on the one hand geometric form - cylindrical - on the other organic matter; geometric rigor with organic plasticity. The natural is surpassed by a process that transforms into an object. The path is lengthy, stages and more stages until it reaches the appropriate surface. But in the end, exhaling the presence of the living thing, the same freshness of luminosity that shares with Volpi.
Alfredo Volpi occupies a special place in Galeria de Arte Ipanema. The first work acquired, in the year of our inauguration in 1965, was a work by Volpi. His mastery and charisma made him much more than a represented artist, but a very close and dear friend.
Until his death 30 years ago, we stayed close. On any trip to Europe we always brought temperament to his work, without forgetting his pecorino cheese.
That's why, throughout our history, we have always sought to honor him, whether in individual or collective shows, it is in 2006.
Main exhibitions by the artist Alfredo Volpi, at Galeria de Arte Ipanema.
This time, with "The freshness of luminosity", we brought together works by Volpi with those of dear artist Ione Saldanha, and invited the critic and curator Paulo Venâncio Filho, who beautifully drew admirable parallels between the two great painters.
With this exhibition, the gallery also wants to honor the excellence of Brazilian art.
Luciana Sève and Luiz Sève