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Movimento _ Marcela Gontijo _ 34.jpg

Curator: Felipe Scovino
11|05|22 - 12|03|22


Apparently, Marcela Gontijo's most recent works, called Mutações (2020-), refer to the field of abstract-geometric production in Brazil, particularly its beginning, in the early 1950s. They are canvases that materialize a grid, or a succession of intersections of vertical and horizontal lines, that build layer upon layer and evoke geometric games. Contained in these works are Marcela's interest in Gestalt, in the optical game typical of the legacy that concretism and neoconcretism left for Brazilian art in the passage from modern to contemporary. A substantial heritage that, even today, leaves its traces in artistic productions that investigate the association between geometry and the body, for example. However, Marcela designs her own path. She does not abandon, of course, the referent of geometry, but constitutes a method that makes all the difference in the production of her most recent works.


Marcela uses the I Ching, which she discovered while living in Hong Kong, to construct her paintings. This oracle, also known as the Book of Changes, is the starting point, the essence, and the method for this series of works. By tossing the coins, the odd or even ends up deciding the chromatic composition of the hexagrams that make up each of the paintings. Each toss represents a color, the composition of a hexagram. Also, still on the coins, the even number decides for the broken line and the odd number generates the whole line. The chromatic sequence is decided by chance, and it is this that, paradoxically, constitutes an order or rule for the construction of the paintings. I would say that one is no longer talking only in the field of creation, but in the field of invention: the game - or oracle - consists in inventively manipulating the forms, producing a maximal order of visual information, establishing semiotic processes that force artist and spectator to break conventional perception schemes and exercise this new proposed order. There is an appreciation of the effects of the research and invention of forms, there is a "faith"; because, after all, we are also talking about spirituality, in the power of chance in formal creation. Facing the traditional scheme and the robust past of geometry in the field of Brazilian visual arts, Marcela breaks a dominant formal scheme and the whole system of significations from it, necessarily sympathetic. What stands out as decisive is the way the artist deals with the paradox between her very objective system of rules and the chance of the I Ching.


Spirituality and its association with abstractionism bring Marcela closer to Kandinsky than to the Neo-Concrete artists, although the differences between her and the Russian artist are enormous. It is not a matter of comparing the works or the projects (even because the Russians were close to mystical practices which are different from Marcela's interest in the realization of Mutations), but to point out that which escapes what is expected, a deviation from order, that is, in how things of the spirit go through a "scientific" research. Spirituality (or transcendence) in the arts has been treated at various times and in many ways. Let's remember, for example, John Cage's vigorous studies about mushrooms, or his play Music of Changes (1951), which made use of the I Ching as part of the compositional process. There is also Matisse's project for the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence, built between 1947 and 1951 in France. And we cannot forget the Church of Our Lady of Fatima, inaugurated in Brasilia in 1958 and adorned with a tile panel by Athos Bulcão and a fresco by Volpi. To the initial question, what is the differential of one more work of constructive tendency in the history of Brazilian art, Marcela answers breaking this visuality, of apparently easy recognition, introducing an element of oriental culture to the process of creation, and discussing, as a result, the strong presence of European heritage in the formation of visual arts in Brazil.


Marcela's choice for the I Ching discontroys perennial associations regarding the visuality of the grid. The idea about an image derived from rationalist, objectivist work, privileging mathematical procedures and a positive integration in society is superimposed - I say this because the artist does not annul these references, but her way of conceiving them - by a method that values intuition and unpredictability.


It is important to emphasize that the interest in geometry has always outlined Marcela's work. In her last solo exhibition, New Territories (2016), the artist made use of the installation as a support, but without losing the Mondrianic instance of the grid. Marcela was making reference, at that time, to the chaos of the metropolis and the fast pace. As I wrote at that time for the exhibition folder, "the artist makes use of newspaper and magazine clippings which, pasted one next to the other or superimposed, and then covered with a layer of paint, reveal a cacophony and visual disturbance that are typical of a city in convulsion, growing, expanding, activating all the components that make it a metropolis". Mutations is the result of this research that is interested, in particular, in color. In this exhibition, color also has an autonomous value, a value in itself, metaphysical, relational, and not the constitution of a field or area that functions, basically, as a space divider element, part of the informational dynamics of the work. Color, decided by the tossing of coins, holds a subjectivist origin that triggers, in turn, an end, a result. The paintings in Mutations are a project, but it is important to point out that they cannot be seen in isolation as something purely mechanical. It is the presence of the imponderable, the assimilation of ineffable subtleties that distinguishes them from the objectivist realm of mathematical formalization and pure visuality. The I Ching is the first step, it is the decision about the gesture, where it walks and where it procreates. Marcela twists, rips and bends a certain mechanical automatism in the making of the grid. Mutations is not an organic painting, as part of a certain contemporary repertoire in the arts is conventionally called, nor does it exactly require the body.


When one becomes aware of the procedure in which the paintings are made, what most intrigues me, at least for me, is to speculate and imagine the roll of the dice - that is Mallarmenian chance - and the way in which the hexagrams are constructed, the choice of colors, the forms that are gradually being formed. Of course, Marcela also discusses typical situations of painting, such as gesture, plan, space, color, scale, etc. All these elements are concentrated in the grid, a synthesis of the interests and debates raised by the artist throughout her trajectory, be it the dissimulated grid, cut and folded in installations, or the two-dimensional plane associated with procedures that lead us to think about its open and unpredictable structure. Diverting our attention to the gesture of data, to what is pure imagination, that is, a process that cannot be foreseen, is the strength of this series.


Felipe Scovino

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