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The Stone Age
Paulo Venancio Filho

Exhibition text - Gabinete de Arte Raquel Arnaud, São Paulo - 2001

Why stones – such barren, pointless things? Stones are stones, no mystery, allegory or symbol – useless things, fit to be kicked. And these drawings refer to stones in various ways. They nearly amount to a study of the solid purity of the mineral. Matter, shape and weight are conveyed here in two dimensions. But they appear particularly as everyday objects, devoid of any attraction, thrown together by sheer chance, forming what is no more than a still life of stones. This is truly something new; if we imagined land art in miniature, we would have Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty on a table, posing. The reference to sculpture – and to monumentality – is not out of place here, for these drawings, in an indirect way, contain the entire process of dematerialization of sculpture that has been going on ever since the advent of modernity – the certainty as to what is inside and outside bodies that sculpture has gradually eroded.

The mutual invasion of spaces traversed by Beth Jobim’s drawings reveals the contiguity and continuity of two forms of perception that are part of everyday life. When we observe something, we are inside a whole; the thing observed is the part of this whole dimensioned by attention. It is attention that gives the thing observed a dimension that disappears, or is relativized, when diverted; and everything is redimensioned once more. Here a leap from one scale to another wavers between the inside and the outside of spaces, whether physical and sensible or imaginary. Floating attention overflows the limits that can be dimensioned, and we leap from the macro to the micro.

These drawings specialize in a topological diving technique – a plongée, to use a French word that means both “plunge” and “high-angle shot.” The shapes follow the disorientation of the liquid flowing between fluidity and solidity, rather aimlessly – between depth and flatness the only option is to flow, to drip. By creating an imaginative space that is abstract enough and minimally corporeal, topologically mutating, the drawing tries its utmost to attain a state of constant flow – matter dissolved in time.

To be inside the stone is to see it from the outside, by leaping from the inside to the outside. That is why, of course, the (Matissean) metaphor of the swimming pool points to more than the merely visual. A synesthetic transit of the senses establishes the circularity between nature and still life, life and object, representation and existence. Here we have a discreet exercise of experienced space, along two directions. The painstaking ordering of elements and the calculation of the horizon line expands up to the plunge, where “the body’s atmosphere” is dominant. On the other hand, we are led to focus our attention on a historical genealogy of the stones. What is attractive is the physical purity of solids. Here are stones of all ages, some old, some young, some still in their infancy and others in doddering old age. Stones, things that now come close to having souls – something that no still life ever had.

The drawing/painting moves through the phenomenal undecidability of things, and a fluid perception intently considers the reversibility of the experience of the world – inside and outside. One wonders whether a city surrounded by stones and water is not also present in these drawings.

Elizabeth Jobim

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