THE EYE AND THE HAND

RUI MASCARENHAS

Between a color, a taste, a touch, a smell, a noise,, a weight, there would be an existential communication that would constitute the “pathic” (nonrepresentative) moment of the sensation (…) The painter would does make visible a kind of original unity of the senses, and would make a multisensible Figure appear visually. But this operation is possible only if the sensation of a particular domain (here, the visual sensation) is in direct contact with a vital power that exceeds every domain and traverses them all. This power is Rhythm…”

Deleuze – The Logic of sensation

THE EYE AND THE HAND

The line and the trace, the color and the color-patch express in painting as much the most radical distance as the most intimate union between the Eye and the Hand. When there’s the will to achieve the similarity of what you do to what you see, the line that gets to the eye rules over the trace that the hand executes. The color that the eye recognizes as equal to the model determines the color-patch that the hand spreads. What the eye recognizes the hand copies. It’s not that the hand paints only the possible. There’s a place for great hallucinations of the look, for images of dreams, to fable worlds and gods. It’s not that the eye knows nothing about the hand. On the contrary there’s a big receptive hand in the eye and only by fumbling you can see the ruggedness of the world, its profoundness, its outlines. As there is also a big eye in the hand that grabs into the air to capture the glimpse.

Geometry in truth doesn’t need the hand. Neither does the color. We can see points, lines, planes and volumes without needing the hand to sketch them. The tones of the colors and their luminosity vary without the hand being able to touch them. There is a pure optical space where the hand is only a meantime, an obstacle, a friction. The tactility itself can disappear, everything gets smooth, everything flattens, all parts dilute like a division of a whole. You see it already with closed eyes. It’s made out of fore-seen figurations. A painting can be a division of squares painted with primary colors. A painting can be painted with one only color. The relationship between the work that you see and the explanation that you hear reach there a possible inversion. You see what you pre-comprehend. You no longer need the hand, you choose: Ready Made.

Tracing maddened lines, on its part, doesn’t really need the eye. Neither does color-patching. We can produce marks, traces, cuts, folds without the order of a look. The type of handling and its intensity vary without you really being able to see. There’s a pure manual space where the eye is a mere spectator. The optical itself can disappear, it’s all about handling. A painting can be the action of painting. A painting can be dancing on a canvas. The connection between doing and telling reach there a possible inversion. You do what you pre-comprehend. You no longer need the eye, you decide: Performance.

In earlier times the Byzantine mural and the gothic line already staged this oscillation between the eye and the hand mingled with the desire and the understanding. There is no doubt that the classical representation, which after them invested in the pure space of geometry and in the simulacrum of perspective, in search for the representation of the intelligible forms in the sensorial world, has re launched an tactical-optical space with its figuration, its illustration and narrative. The Master eye then dominated a slave hand, under the empire of a voice and its explanations and histories, the celestial will despising all the terrene desire. At that time action was reduced to execution following the plan of the eye and the purposes of one and only omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent voice. This will ruled the representation, determining the figurative essences, its relation distributed over an organic foundation, as part of an organized whole.

This whole organism shudders when the Voice that would give it the unity of a whole, the foundation of a world, the fundament of a truth fails. The eye hallucinates, the hand gets crazy. The painting is made of a frame and of a color or of traces and patches that fill it totally. With the abstractionism and the abstract expressionism the modern eye and hand stand before a deaf and speechless heaven. It is therefore normal to occur a continuous talk of the end: the end of painting. Its end is its lost sacred finality. The end is spoken and is heard while the hand paints and the eye appreciates what always comes back into saying and hearing: life.

Painting was never about talking, but about feeling. Its goal never was as much to reach an organized statement as to compound a durable sensation equalling the ruling purposes. Its role in the figuration, in the illustration, in the narrative, was always more about returning the sensation to the explanation than to complementing it or even less replacing it. The use of the painting for explanation does only distract us shortly from experimenting it, from entering the sensation that it compounds, from testing its limits. To speak here of finalities is only to postpone a little more the will to do and to see painting. Maybe a moment of mourning, maybe an impotent melancholy.

When the artist paints aiming to compose a clear and permanent sensation, he can apply to frenetic traces and color-patchs, he can plan lines and colors, he can combine randomly the hand and the eye, but he must not believe that in the end the sensation can be guaranteed with an explanation. Sensation resists to being ordered by explanations. Sensation makes itself of the modulation of forces more than of the determination of forms or codes, it’s more impressed by the richness of the materials than by the quality of substances or media.

The artist that is aware of this, progresses with the hand and the eye over the canvas before doing any talking: “Let’s see what the hand tells, let’s do what the eye hears”. By representing graffitted cities or narrating surfers adventures in the seas the artist will not build the sensation of living today following speedy lines in a sub-atomic space, but as cells co-existing on a magnified lamella. The invisible will never show in a photography, but can be made visible in a painting, as Klee would say. Maybe it is no longer the existential experience of painting, of being the agent of painting, the action of a blind hand as Pollock did. Maybe it is no longer the transcendental immersion, of watching dynamic in a pure space-time, the vision of a one-armed eye, as Mondrian abstracted. Maybe it is an affirmation of the game between both, hand and eye, in reciprocal determination, as we find, in an exemplary manner, in Catarina Machado.

The canvas, and the artist knows it, does not contain orthogonal axes following an unique perspective, but it contains one space into which the hand can go, which a trace can split from up to bottom, from right to left and in every diagonal. The gesture takes the space of the architecture. The canvas still does not mirror the colors of the world, but it already contains a general temperature that the color-patchs can warm up or cool down, illuminate or darken. The look dwells by the tone of the earth under the heath of the sun. The hand enrolled itself of the pure knowledge of the eye and vice-versa. The canvas is still no organized plan, but neither is it an inform chaos. It is the place of the composition of sensations animated in aesthetic figurations that embody the happening: Life. The canvas witnesses a continuous catastrophe and genesis, overlapping in profoundness and thickness, the figuration and the composition plan succumbing and resurging with each new trace, with each new patch, all full of dynamic while tracing line, all full of density while seasoning the color. In Catarina’s work a world rises and, with it, the sensation of life in the world. In everything an actuality, in the lines as in the colors, that will remain unspeakable while remaining actual. The forces are captured, not declared. It’s spoken but with a new analogical language.

The white canvas waits full of clichés that wish the recognition, the reproduction, the copy, its pre-visible organisation. The canvas is in itself the expectancy of past experiences. In truth it already contains an infinity of axes of ordinates and co-ordinates waiting to be activated by a trace, a patch, a look. The artist has to liberate himself from the habit of seeing and doing. To progress over the canvas is to feel the need to reduce the means to the essential. What is needed to mould a lasting bloc of sensations that would be able to stand without great explanations or understandings? Lines, colors, a background, the artist will answer, nothing else. But lines and color that emerge from the most unexpected traces and color-patches on the plan. The traces turn into plans, the color-patches turn into lines, all overflowing from the canvases to the frames and the walls.

There is a rhythm giving consistency to all. Very present, very visible. An actual rhythm that runs trough us all. It is not recognition, it’s the resonance of a quotidian sensation: the rhythm of our days.

Catarina faces the chaos and with each task-work a new language is being modelled. The works follow each other in the exploration of a whole space, a re-discovered tactile-optical space, where unprecedented sensations are composed (and nevertheless so immediate her works appear to us in their empathy with the actual look) A micro-physic language is invented, made of inorganic forces, and the worlds follow each other, canvas after canvas, canvas over canvas, canvas between canvas.

A new molecular level is added (because in the sensation nothing is overtaken, it just repeats and varies) and becomes a whole universe of organic forces getting thicker and vibrating in broken tones. The tint, the spray, the pastel, they are all rich materials to raise a renewed syntax. There and then anthropomorphic silhouettes already insinuate themselves before your eyes in the empty spaces among color figures.

There’s at last the addition of an assumed figuration, even, of pure color, as if stammering a presence without profoundness and without thickness, seeing itself wrapped in a world of mutation, simultaneously atomic and molecular. A digital code in an analogical universe: man-blue/women-red. A habit of seeing thrown into the middle of mutation, fighting for its form against color-patches and traces, a line immerging as a surface pressed between both.

The grammar distils a little more, the colors decrease; three, maybe four, the figurations melt with the background interacting with a refrained tension. There’s a mating dance of elbows and knees, torsos and shoulders. A place of meetings and articulations. Always an asymmetric rhythm bringing everything together.

When painting is to create languages by insemination, by cross-breeding, by constructing hybrids capable of assuring the world’s heart beating, to compose sensations is not determined by refusals and options (the figurative, the abstract, the performance, the decision) but by a general inclusion where the rhythm becomes composition and the brain turns into a fabulous resonance machine. To paint the living rhythms of life, the example is here.

 

Rui Mascarenhas, Miramar 2009
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