Daniel Senise

Blood and Sand, Open Gates

Marcus de Lontra Costa

Published in the catalog of the artist’s exhibition in Galeria de Arte Centro Empresarial Rio, Rio de Janeiro, em 1984.

Painting as a combat technique, right at the heart of the stage, in the arena, the taut canvas, the scene of the action. The artist and his lions and gladiators, paints, brushes. Daniel understands that, throughout history, combat is something faced by prophets and warriors. He has chosen the latter. In his work there is no place for subtleties or delicate elegance. The artist incorporates tragedy as an instrument of struggle. This is the driving force behind his painting, a beast to be fought, against which and by which Daniel relentlessly seeks a victorious outcome, round by round, painting by painting, moment by moment of a battle between the certainty and doubt of mankind.

The atmosphere is chaotic, suggesting a number of stories, the gaze roams, perplexed, across the field, with no chance to rest. The palette is purposely limited: black, white, gray, red. Why use more than this? What matters here is the volume, the mass, the workmanship of a painting that makes its presence felt as matter, or a body. Today, when an untaxing, everyday, disposable art is the norm, Daniel has changed tack: he incorporates the object, the painting, and accepts the inevitable authoritarianism of the painted object and the expectation that it will one day collapse from the wall, like “heavy, rotten fruit.”

The artist reveals moments of identification with the history of 20th century art (the German expressionists, Bracque, Picasso, Guston, and others). These moments, however, do not occur in an orderly manner. They despise didacticism. In contrast, it is confusion that pervades the work, the pendulum of history, the past, present and future, tears at the work like a furious brush. Tragedy and struggle are the rules of the game, paths through the arena.

It is worth examining the initial appearance of the work in the form of sketches, previously created by the artist. In these, the presence of that which is constructed stands out as the almost hidden basis of the work. The drawings clarify the process, lay bare the ideology. Then, on the canvas, the artist vomits up the information, glue and paint, the material rejecting any evidence of order, the painting emerging at the moment of the act, in the gesture, in the movement, in the breath of the artist and in his arms that guide the perplexity of the gladiator before his lover and his tormentor.

The image ermerges from the same open gates that allow access to history – archetypal and bold, recoverer and rebuilder. Beasts, human arms, weapons. Everything relies on an immediate registration of shock, of conflict. The pendulum of history rages and the organic, the natural, hints at the automated, the robo-elephant, the Bible and Flash Gordon, gladiators and warrior astronauts, conquerors of space. The tension of the final image reaches the point of tragedy. A smile creeps onto the corners of the mouth of Sansom, the blind, tragic sucker masterfully embodied by Victor Mature, as he takes pleasure in crying out for God, and in bringing down the mighty temples. The tireless and insatiable Sansao discovered that, in the face of so much strength and suffering, pleasure can also be found. The tragic message that Daniel’s works strive to suggest is that he carries, in his womb, like Samson (in Delilah’s womb…), the troubling presence of true contentment. And it is this ambiguity, this insertion of irony, an element that transcends the vague limits of tragedy and comedy, that transforms the mighty Samson into the loveable teddy bear from a fairy story, who asks, scared: “Who ate my porridge?” And it is exactly at this moment that the always tragic and combative work of Daniel Senise allows the glimpse of a smile to appear, which threatens to spill over onto the four corners of his own history.

Rio de Janeiro, July, 1984.


Translator: James Young