by Nathalia Lavigne (2017)
There is a needed distance when looking at Renato Castanhari’s works presented in this exhibition. Despite the inviting reduced dimension of the canvases and objects, one must stand afar in order to observe the game of shadows created by the artist – whether with lighting effects, or with painted fictitious silhouettes. Or even the transparency of the canvases that are left with very little paint, revealing the structure of the wooden chassis.
At given times, this distance becomes nearly mandatory, such as when we come across an iron bar, painted in black, that is transversally fixed to the wall, occupying a space that forces a detour. Subsequently, a small painting invites us to an opposite movement. Our gaze seeks a new approximation: whether to closely see the minimum layer of paint that still shows the fabric’s weave; or, at another moment, to understand the subtlety of an object created from a folded textile dipped in acrylic paint, which becomes a tiny canvas (2x2 inches) with somewhat imprecise shape and volume.
The conflict between distance and proximity that seems to give rhythm to this exhibition has a few classic precedents. Barnett Newman – for whom the disorientation caused by seeing large paintings up close, such as Vir Heroicus Sublimis (1950-51), was an essential part of the experience, even when the natural tendency was to contemplate the work from afar – is maybe the clearest example referenced by the artist. But, in Castanhari’s case, the reason for this clash is a little different. Even though he deals with similar issues, like the canvases’ limits, his greater interest lies in confronting the ambiguous relation between these works and the space. These objects contain a latent desire for leaving the two-dimensional medium, despite remaining on the wall – they are somehow trapped in this condition.
Although the expansion process of the paintings towards the space isn’t completely realized, it is still outlined in a gradual and fragmented manner. That way, the sense of erasure (which titles the show) is an essential concept. If in the artist’s initial production one could already observe the removal of certain elements, colors and layers, this gesture also becomes an attempt to dematerialize the medium. It starts in the paint application reduced to minimal operations – like in the painting that is restricted to a concentrated paint mass on the left bottom corner. Then, in the fabric pieces that seem to break loose from the canvas – or other pieces that are already completely detached and become autonomous objects.
The way some of these textiles are exhibited – vertically stretched and stiffened after being dipped in acrylic paint – also reveals the artist’s preference for this format. A corporeal verticality appears as a direct reference in this choice, in a proportion duplication that is realized in the coming and going movements, somewhere between the distance and proximity in constant definition.