Cristina Bahiense

Reynaldo Roels

Individual Exhibition  [Centro Cultural Candido Mendes]

On view at the Cândido Mendes gallery in Rio, Cristina Bahiense’s paintings have been undergoingsignificant transformations in terms of her conception of pictorial space as well as the treatment of thematerial itself. Previously focused on the investigation of form and of texture, confined to manipulatinga personal yet deliberately limited chromatic spectrum, the eight canvases in her latest exhibition leavesuch elements aside in order that the artist’s field of action may broaden to include a less rigid pictorialconcept. This is in spite of formal elements that are relatively even more restrained than before. Cristinanow privileges vertical strips quite unlike the diagonal (tendencies) that defined organic forms in her earlierwork. In turn, the strips embrace two previous limitations: the broad gesture of her arm and the thicknessof her paintbrush. And, in lieu of harmonious color combinations in which the various areas are almostsymmetrically balanced, the artist’s attention is directed preferentially to the dominant colors that cover theentire canvas.

Almost like a form of compression in which the range of the hues of one color are close enough to allow theemergence of the dominant one.

The transition observed in Cristina’s painting not only evinces a change of direction in her work but also agreater maturity on the artist’s part, one in which the rigor of her investigations is assuaged – so to speak– by the freedom of one who is well-acquainted with the medium. In this case, concentration stems fromthis intensification yet, for this very reason, it allows for a greater ease with regard to reflective differences.Rather than retaining strictly two-dimensional space at any cost and emphasizing the surface of the support,Cristina works within a “shallow space” in which the surface occasionally emerges even though it does notlimit the scope of the painting. In visual terms, it develops quite freely within fixed boundaries, while theeye is led – effortlessly and without external injunction – to fully comprehend the rationale behind all of itsramifications, without ever losing the main thrust behind them.

It is also curious to realize how much the concision and concentration of Cristina’s pictorial languagecomes about in spite of an apparent absence of calculated effect: the gesture of painting is explicitly freeand the material left to its “natural” behavior. Paint runs without restraint across the support (albeit devoidof mannerist excess), no effort being made in order that the strips may reveal the exactness of the straightline. Furthermore, they are obviously executed from a position unlike the one from which they are regardedby the eye: Cristina paints horizontally although the canvases are hung vertically (which further helps toeliminate any effect of calculation that might escape the artist’s intention).

Overall, what the artist’s latest exhibition reveals is the growth of an idea that is devoid of theatrics – onthe contrary, one that is discreet and self-assured, without the rush or anxiety that afflict other good artists.This sort of growth requires of its spectator a counterpart: that these paintings be appreciated in an equallyunhurried fashion, with inner life and tranquility, before they reveal the fullness of their discreet, containedpower.

Reynaldo Roels Jr.