31 October 2023

Larger Than Life: The Flowers of Santido Pereira

"There are too many waterfalls, here, the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down to the sea, 
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops
makes them spill over in soft slow-motion
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes."
   - excerpt from "Questions of Travel" in Geogrpahy III by Elizabeth Bishop, written shortly after she moved to Brazil in 1951.

The Brazilian artist Santido Pereira (b.1996) calls his print technique "incision, cut, and fitting." You can see the results in the bromeliad at left; for the past five years he has focused on  the tropical plants of the Atlantic rain forests of northern Brazil. Bromeliads are said to symbolize thes human connection with nature, with its healing and regenerative qualities. Native to South America, they have stemless leaves and a deep calyx, and they are attractive to butterflies...

Composed of a wooden sheet and thick layers of paint, Pereira's engravings have spurred  a renaissance in Brazilian prints. At the same time, his work honors the scientific tradition of botanical illustration which developed on the 6th century. Plant species are placed at the center of the page, seen against a neutral back ground.

Born in Curral Comprido, in the northern state of Piaui, one of the country's poorest, Pereira spent  his early years in close companionship with nature; not surprisingly, his work is viewed through a lens of nostalgia.  He trained at the Acacia School in Sao Paulo.

Image: Santido Pereira in untitled (Bromeliad), wooden sheet offset with paint, dimensions estimated  as being about 4' x 3', Xippas Gallery, Paris.

15 October 2023

Two Women Crossing A Field: One Of van Gogh's Last Paintings

 Vincent van Gogh  died in July, 1890 at age thirty-seven. During his last few months van Gogh painted dozens upon dozens of landscapes. In July he wrote to his brother Theo that had immersed himself in "the immense plain against the hills, boundless as the sea, delicate yellow."  The young green wheat fields of May enthralled him, "vast fields of wheat under turbulent skies." He averred that his "canvases will tell you what I cannot say in words, that is, how healthy and invigorating I find the countryside." At the time he painted Women Crossing a Field, van Gogh had temporarily stilled the turbulence within him. There is a gentleness in his brush work, his chosen colors are harmonious, the scene is tranquil.

Image: Vincent van Gogh - Women Crossing a Field, 1890, oil on canvas, McNay Art Museum, San Antonio.

02 October 2023

Georgia O'Keeffe's Autumn Leaves

"The falling leaves drift by the window,
The autumn leaves of red and gold,"
     excerpt from  "Autumn Leaves," the English Lyrics by Johnny Mercer

Hints of red and gold circle the center of this early (1924) painting by Georgia O'Keeffe. This one reminds me of some transitional works by Piet Mondrian, the familiar pared down to its most basic elements.

Twenty-one years later Joseph Kosma, a Hungarian emigre to France, under house arrest and forbidden to compose, teamed up with French poet Jacques Prevert to write Les Feuilles mortes, known in English as Autumn Leaves. It was recorded by Yves Montand and more than a thousand others, making it one of the most successful songs  of the twentieth century. Kosma also wrote the scores for a number of French films,  including Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game (1939), regarded by many film critics as the greatest film of the century. A scathing satire of wealthy people oblivious to the clouds of war gathering on the horizon, its message was subversive so it was cloaked in a love story.

Image: Georgia O'Keeffe - Autumn Leaves - The Maple, 1924, O'Keefe Museum, Santa Fe.