Galerie Karsten Greve is pleased to present Brazilian artist Lucia Laguna’s (1941) first solo exhibition in Europe. The exhibition will show to the public about twenty paintings and collages, most of which were created especially for this occasion.
Recently discovered amongst the panorama of contemporary Latino-American artists, Lucia Laguna began her artistic career after she studied at the Fine Arts School of Rio de Janeiro, mentored by the painter Charles Watson. The Cândido Mendez Cultural Centre in Rio de Janeiro devoted a first exhibition to her in 1998 and her work would very quickly capture widespread attention in Brazil. In 2012 her participation in the São Paulo Biennale definitely settled her career. Today, her work is part of many important Brazilian public collections like the Museu de Arte Moderna of Sao Paulo, the Museu Nacional in Brasilia and the Museu de Arte Moderna of Rio de Janeiro, where she had her first solo-show in 2016.
Lucia Laguna’s paintings plunge us into a tropical atmosphere where a masterful juxtaposition of bright colours and shapes, at once organic, geometric and urban, imparts a feeling of perpetual motion. Laguna’s creative process is based on various uses of collage and overlapping. The starting point of her work is never a white canvas — on the contrary: the artist starts to work on a painting that has already been done by one of her assistants, the subject of which they had previously discussed. This process gives the artist the opportunity to be continuously confronted with new material challenges and it brings the very notion of ‘creator’ into question.
The studio becomes a laboratory and even though the final piece is the fruit of Laguna’s work, it is simultaneously the result of the dialectic relationship between her vision of the piece of art and that of another artist. Laguna’s approach is not limited to overlapping layers of colour, on the contrary: her decisions mean preceding images are expunged. Her pictorial language is thus ambivalent: it occurs through accumulation, however it is icon-consuming and yet deconstructive all at once. It destroys what the other creator made and rebuilds it according to its own rules: it takes our initial perceptions of objects; deconstructs them to heighten our familiarity, and then reassembles them differently. This disjointed analysis brings to mind what the cubists were striving towards, but in Lucia Laguna’s painting, the way this is looked upon, whilst complex, is not meant to attain absolute knowledge and a synthesis of the object. The desire to piece things back together is frustrated by uncertainty and by the pace that governs modern-day life. For the artist, the act of painting holds the power to salvage one’s ability to perceive slowly and deeply: something that is otherwise lost in the chaos of images crowding our contemporary cities. In her paintings therefore, we get back to a dimension of duration, we are returning to the accumulation of experiences that have made up our current identity. Laguna’s artistic quest makes this notion of duration visible: with time the pieces change and take shape thanks to touch-ups and stratification.
Laguna’s process involves re-evaluating pictorial creation: indeed a common stance amongst new generations of artists. Reverting to painting is nonetheless not a neutral standpoint. Choosing to paint means placing oneself in the midst of an evolutionary history comprised of theories and ranks, with its own masters, iconography, experiments and revolutions. Choosing to paint today does not only mean confronting the history of how we depict reality, but it also means facing up to what has gone beyond this. The stance of contemporary artists therefore becomes a modest one that remains far from the heroic whims of striving to innovate at all costs: because painting itself is quite naturally a traditional medium. Moving beyond the concern of how legitimate the depiction may be, and of how ultimate truths about the essence of art are sought after, Laguna paints what is around her in her daily life and what she sees through the studio window, thus connecting the external environment of the city and the intimacy of her working space. Her painting is at once representative and abstract. The relationships between colours and the accumulation of layers that comprise her paintings reflect the complexity and fragmentation of the city of Rio de Janeiro where she lives, showing the contrast between the bourgeois neighbourhoods and the favelas climbing up the mountainside. This fragmentation in Laguna paintings echoes a certain surrealism, in fact using the collage technique — dear to the avant-garde movement — allows her to associate figurative elements with ample flat areas and with zones left almost empty. Her interest in synthesis and constructing space is visible in her love for artists like Paolo Uccello, Matisse and Giorgio Morandi. For all of these artists, space is worked upon as a sort of pure shape, far from the hierarchy of perspective, thus plunging the subjects into a suspended temporal dimension. This is exactly what we also see in Laguna’s paintings: a sort of topography of what is seen where space and time have lost their reference points.