Contra o vazio
Contra o vazio
text by Rafael Vogt Maia Rosa
I first came into contact with Dudu Santos’ work while researching artists from since the early 1960s who had approached painting as a motif for developing theatricalized processes. And this was so because even his earliest series involving fish and flowers would confirm the impression that his output operated discontinuously, in deliberate restarts intended to test not only questions relating to the audience’s reception, but especially the extent of its commitment to this language’s ability to correspond to an untamable subjectivity, one whose sole belief is in an ethic of indifference.
Once I’d had the chance to interview him I realized that in fact, what connects him with well-known projects from our literary tradition, through Borges characters such as Pierre Menard or Herbert Quain, is a parable to Santos himself: he once had a vision of a famous painter who goes blind, but decides to hide this fact, with the complicity of his model. Later on, by dinner time, she blindfolds and guides him into his studio, where he resumes painting into the late hours of night.
In the present reality of those artworks, what would be a setback is in fact the only strategy forcing him to stick to cursive writing, waiving pictorial procedures akin to the block letters with which we fill out the most formal of papers, detached from the innermost aspects of our personality. Moreover, this does not prevent an analysis of the results; on the contrary, that is his primary goal: in any of his works, the denial of solutions is in line with an absolute artistic vocation to be integrally criticized by his own self. This antithesis, born from and borne by a gestuality that is always pictorial, promotes an attitude that demonstrates the discursive tone in every painting, without ever absorbing them in terms of the very notion of solution, of convergence, of synthesis. That is why his only abstract phase ever proved less satisfactory, which is easily understandable: in all his works, the question stands as to whether the marks one sees are consciously outlined by him or by the bodies which should serve as models to him, whereas the abstract elements are clearly deliberate and inscribed upon reality by the artist himself and his erudite gaze. In his case, those are analogies both with traditional procedures and with the conceptual ones which he spontaneously drew closer to, and in both cases they exist as a rebellious, albeit not-so-radical counterpart, in the sense of a complete denial of the purely artistic in the object, through the replacement of that same ambition with another satirical one: “art is purposeless” in theory, not practice.
What is left, thus, is the subject who conceives, like the others, an aesthetical product which has been created in the condition of an alterity, an artist who would be incapable of seeing. The fact becomes enigmatic that some things which affirm themselves as vigorous painting, so to speak, in chromatic and gestural terms, which converse with the best of Jorge Guinle’s pictures, in our context, for instance, do not claim a personal achievement, but instead demonstrate to be the outcome of the actual relativization of any effect of unquestionable quality. Should it point to a healthy avenue of affirmation over planarity, over what has been polished down through renunciation or deliberate suffering, to colors and brushstrokes heroic or rare in their intimism, that will be replaced by a blind path where singularity is only found at the end, as the blindfold is removed and he meets with himself cleansed from self, like an other.
A critical view of Dudu Santos’ work, thus, going from his earliest series until this point in time, where there are hints at an anthological character, recognizes a mirroring in the inner critical process carried out by the artist, the most characteristic and consistent aspect of his poetics. But what would its purpose be, we inquire in our attempt at deciphering, without the artist, the contents that emanate thereof? By all indications, it is to demonstrate that no merit resides in being the only free individual in a society where everyone observes grueling rituals of self-censorship and self-erasure. The painting which explodes like in an emblematic episode can only be seen, by him, as prosaic, an approximation halfway between Da Vinci’s sfumato and a mold stain on the ceiling of a prison cell, to be sustained for over half a century by planned-out and factual deconstructions. Or perhaps it is ritualizations which respond to the speculation that he would be indifferent to a trajectory whose initial predisposition is always more meaningful than its prodigious outcomes.