Sunday, January 1, 2012

Santa Catarina Road trip: Fourteen Paintings: the first four


The BR 282 near the turnoff to Urubici, oil on card, 13/ 11cm

Campos Novos: a view from a hotel, oil on card, 13 / 11 cm

Campos Novos: the evening skateboarder, oil on card, 11.5 / 13.5 cm

Industrial building on the outskirts of Maravilha, oil on card, 14.5 / 11.5 cm



Day one: Florianópolis- Lages- Campos Novos
Day two: Campos Novos- São Miguel do Oeste
Day three: São Miguel do Oeste- Paraíso- São Miguel do Oeste
Day four: São Miguel do Oeste- Chapecó- Curitibanos
Day five: Curitibanos- Orleans
Day six : Orleans- Florianopolis


Five nights and six days driving and stopping: fourteen paintings. Doing more in my little Celta would be hard as my right arm started to ache badly: it's a city car really. 

But I feel I've won a good sense of the state: there isn't now a region I haven't visited. The most interesting, both culturally and topographically, is the Serra from Lages through to Orleans, where Brazilians of usually Central European descent live in a landscape of considerable variety, with amazing mountains and valleys, where the temperature varies much and little communities heft there way forward, steadily in coloured wooden houses, like characters from Growth of the Soil.

I've no truck with the rubbishy modern Brazil of identikit shopping malls and degrading television. Nor do I find much in the Brazil of Carnival and foolishness, which serves as a palliative for low educational expectations and squalor. I don't like the Brazil of Brasilia and of bureaucracy and politics and greed and legal minds. I detest the disorder and filth of the big cities, and those rich Brazilians in their preposterous four-wheel drives and Barbie wives and smugness, cruising from their costly prison-condominiums through dismal streets where beggars and drug-addicts sleep in thousands, to office blocks whose only architectural qualities are their lack of distinction. And I find the holiday Brazil of beaches and sungas indescribably banal.

I sense an intrinsic worth to the communities that patiently tend their allotments late into the evenings, and who are polite, conservative and, at least superficially or sentimentally, religious. I like the sun hardened faces of the people with their stern lines and reserve, I like seeing them with their cattle or driving their trucks and I like how they don't say too much and are modest and tough.


I don't entirely like travel, with its dislocations and the mental travails that it brings in the melancholy of strange evening hotels: does the work make it worthwhile?

Glancing over, there are good individual pictures, but across the series there are too many repetitions of design, often a consequence of using the same level of distance from the motif, usually with little foreground.

And I'm wary that I'm starting to use and re-use certain "catchphrase"  brush strokes- typically a certain whiplash line-a mannerism, I should be careful not to habitualise. The solution is to re-think the entire architecture of the painting: to begin at another point: though quite what that means in practice I am not clear as yet. It has something to do with classicism, to do with reinvesting in the underlying construction of the work and the conscious rejection of  easy gestures.

Also, the small standardised format is becoming too much the same: it's become a limitation. So I need to vary more, with some larger pieces, about A5, I reckon.

There's a sky-land dichotomy which all landscapists face: an obvious central contrast defining the composition from the onset.  But when landscapists like Klimt rebel against that format, the result often appears contrived, as if the novelty of composition has taken over from the actual perception of nature: so I’m somewhat uncertain how to vary this, or even if it is in vain to try.

The landscapist makes a peculiar claim to be painting the world (at the other end of the spectrum is the still lifer, though those philosophically minded might say that there is no less of the world in a flower petal than in a an entire Alpine vista) and from this derives the ecstasy that landscapists feel: a pantheistic joy so glamorously conveyed in van Gogh, Munch and Turner. Ergo, there is a weight of responsibility upon him, not necessarily present in other genres.



  1. Very interesting essay Tadeusz. About Brazil, I've nothing to say. About landscape, I can't yet agree by my own experiments, but all your thought have already convinced my mind.

  2. Hi Patte ,

    I hope the New Year give you the chance to produce a lot more work.

    All the best,