“What do I shoot? Silence itself. Or, in other words, in the midst of all the turmoil lies silence. That is what I encounter, that is what I photograph, that is what I paint. Because people may be there, all of them occupying the same place, but each one of them is within his or her own private and silent universe.”
Marta Penter: Tempo Flutuante - Floating Time
By Kathrin Rosenfield
Marta’s latest works are mid-sized canvases with great impact. Her subject, in the first few of them, is the well-groomed bodies of the beautiful people. She bathes the perfect youthfulness of cover girls in antiseptic splendor. There is a sovereign power in the unapproachable beauty of these perfect women in their perfect swimsuits, as they rule over... a void. The canvases are hung very high, which enhances the semantics: the vacuum of the blank space in the lower half of the canvas evokes an ambiguous and vague domain from which these deodorized and depilated beauties have somehow emerged, all of them held together by the monotonous gestures (Bourdieu would say their “habitus”) of contemporary hedonism. There they are, bodies from the most diverse regions of the globe – from Brazil to Vietnam – transfixed in images as they hover on pink or apple green floaters, immersed in leisure of metaphysical proportions.... A detail makes us guess the pool at some resort by the sea... the whole exuding the atmosphere of constant and compulsory self-representation tramsmitted by Facebook, Instagram, and other mass producers of sublime delight.
Then, suddenly, the sequence jumps off its rails. In this Olympus of narcissism, in this Paradise of inert half-goddesses anaesthetized by overwhelming leisure, Marta refocuses the spectator’s eye on something more essential in life and art. Two large canvasses in subtle grey shades dissolve the previous scenario into abstract forms. The air mattresses become sculptural shapes, volumes transposed into the bi-dimensionality of the canvas yet irradiating some immense occult energy. This dynamism appears not only in a couple of figurative details – here a tight hand makes one guess the contorted face and body breathing life into the enormous volume; there a fragment of a leg suggests some agent behind the abstract form. But everything you don’t see about these bodies is visibly engaged in a Herculean effort to animate the flaccid, gelatinous indeterminacy of those volumes which grow in the spectator’s eye and mind. All this drama comes out as the figurative painting disappears. Figures recede and give way to abstraction and reflection; away from the glorious resting bodies, there is room for the contemplation of something more sober and demanding: we enter a dimension difficult to name – art in its purity and abstraction, maybe? Or the spiritual energy of some immense effort, of the struggle to convey form, to obtain volume and depth and multilayered texture? It is as if the painter’s passion made itself present and tangible in these canvasses. As if the canvasses presented her in absentia.
There is some dry humor in this sequence of canvasses and photographs which reminds me one of the funny lyrics of one of Vinicius de Moraes’ songs: “Para viver um grande amor, tem que ter peito – peito de remador!” (To live a great love, you just need lungs – the lungs of an oarsman!)
Marta definitely has the necessary lungs.
*Kathrin Rosenfield was born in Áustria, but has lived in Brazil since 1984. She holds Bachelor of Arts in Languages at Université of Paris III (Sorbonne-Nouvelle) (1981), Master Degree in Historic Anthropology at École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (1981) and PhD in Literature Science at University of Salzburg (1984). A CNPQ Researcher, she teaches in Languages and Philosophy post-graduation programmes at UFRGS (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul).