Daniel Senise

Even when she is not [there], she is

Paulo Reis

Published in the catalog of the artist’s exhibition at Galeria Canvas, Porto, Portugal, in 2001

“Although abstract art might have renounced to representation, one can never stress too much that it follows the informal and free compositions seen in the nature paintings made by the great artists of the late 19th century”. Meyer Schapiro

The redefinition of contemporary paintings space operated by Daniel Senise in his work throughout the years makes us reflect about the real meaning of being an artist in post-modernity. Looking at his works, and comparing them with others by artists of his generation, a question arises: does contemporary art live only of boutades, allegories or scornful smiles about the conditions of the works presentations? Daniel Senise, even being the mature artist, the master of an unique aesthetical autonomy, allows himself to experiment and to elaborate visual games, so that only someone with a minimum of knowledge about the history of art can understand his references. While some artists prefer the periphery of quotation, thus sketching only an illusory game Senise dives into his research, extracting more than a visual game, an epiphany.

The essential inner characteristic to the aesthetical act in Daniel Senise is to be able to share his reading, his matrixes with people. Meaning that, through his shared vocabulary of pre-existing images and ideas, as everything that is or is not on the canvas is somewhere in the art, is the link between the artists point of view and the public’s point of view. It is a double-hand of associations and needs. What Paulo Herkenhoff draws attention to as symbols of an excess of knowledge in the history of art, “resolved in a post-metaphysical memory, as the empty bottom, before the symbol, lies like the desert of abstraction of the history of arts”. For the critic, Daniel Senises iconology, which might spring up from a fragment of a painting, is the vestige of history of art, “a readymade symbol”.

If in the past Daniel Senise was able to appropriate fragments of images by Rafael, Fra Angelico, Hobbema, Goya, Whistler or Caspar David Friedrich to build a representation beyond the simple reference, bestowing autonomy to his creation, even today his attribute is special. Endowed with a strong imagination and technical dexterity, the artist often conceives a painting full of references impossible to recognize if one does not know them beforehand. Senise’s imagetic is not symbolist, not even made of icons but, before anything else, indicational.

The logical principle of art for the artist is basically the problem of the cognizable image. I.e., it reunites and co-ordinates within a framework the different categories of signs that art pretends to demonstrate. They are images in the theoretical meaning of the word, also icons and analogies but above all plastic, as its forms, colours and spatial organization are their own. With his art Daniel helps us to search, in an interaction of the visual sense with minds bottom, to decipher at the conscious level what is being seen in a systematic but also pleasant way.

His art is modelled in the effect of apparition, as the image is recognizable, and disappearance, where the image blends with other images, creating a differentiated effect from its genesis. If post-modern art is modelled in quotation often the price paid by artists for their visual experiments has been very high. Given post-modernity’s current trend to refer to and to understand a work’s verbal deepness, art in the 80’s has paid for making classics banal, as Francesco Clemente and Sandro Chia did. Thus the question: if others did it better why redo them this way? Just for quoting purposes? Why should then this work exist? The reference’s problem is far from being a new one, it goes back to the very roots of Western art tradition, as Michelangelo, Rafael, Vermeer and so many others made references to painters they admired; nevertheless their works are admired on their own.

The artist proposes in his paintings more than a mere case-study in painting. For artist ant theorist Marco Veloso, Daniel Senise’s art is the proposition of art as art, of art as a context for the comment of art’s possible contexts. The critic Ivo Mesquita will underline the same thing as primordial in his work, where paintings established from the beginning a direct connection to the history of art, with the universe of images and their modes of construction and perception. For Mesquita, Daniel Senise’s work retains the lessons of history, but criticizing still traditions idealistic dimension. “His legacy is made of time-worn images, plastered and oxidized, surfaces to which every operation and discourse’s order has been infringed. As in a burned-down landscape. What you see are vestiges of things”.

As in this series of interiors, where the artist goes and reinstates his painting plucked from the ground, going back to his first works. The artist glued in his New York atelier’s floor, in the floors of the Parque Lage’s School of Visual Arts, in Rio de Janeiro, and in the floor of an American museum, pieces of cloth that were later on plucked. These pieces of cloth, loaded with pigments, dust, dirt and steps were cut in “slices” which still allowed to perceive a darkened flesh coloration, brownish, assumed throughout the time of their exposition to the ground, their involuntary hibernation.

Afterwards, those slices were glued to other canvasses, this time assuming an architectural space’s shape wished by the artist. These spaces were “created”, taken from pre-existing spaces, like the Die Art Center, the Galician Centre of Contemporary Art, the Lange’s House, in Krefeld (the city where Beyus was born), the Parque Lage’s Stables or an access corridor to his atelier. Other spaces were taken from paintings by Velásquez and Rafael. In both procedures these spaces are real, as a painting reproduces the interior of an existing space portrayed by the artist. However, the architectural spaces created for museums are destined to exhibit art. The spaces inside art are spaces of a painting to be located in the exhibition spaces. It is in this motum-continuum that the indicational game is developed.

The procedure of “painting” over a surface to be then glued to others reminds us of the painters in Antiquity. Before Renaissance they made their paintings over cloth which then they glued to the walls to create frescoes. They are, then, pictorial spaces of representation before being historical, which for Daniel contains the history of the history of painting. This game might seem dangerous and unstable for some artists, but with Daniel Senise the result is marvellous. The artist makes us enter in another virtual space of representation. The whole series of interiors he has been developing, be it the representation of a space of the museum, the atelier or of a work by Saenredam, is a proof that Daniel has not departed from his territory of the theatre of painting. The theatre of mutilated sensations, of sombre monuments, set in an atmosphere of catastrophe and nocturnal terror, offering itself as a rethorical and scenographic apparel, as adverted by the critic Wilson Coutinho at Senise’s beginnings as a painter.

That series of interiors is like a comeback to the beginning of the 80’s. In a Nietzchenean way, Daniel lives by going back to his obsessions: painting and history of art. A risk for artists who lack themes or afraid of departing from the cherished as a discovery. One should remember, however, that Daniel Senise, trained as an engineer, was always close to constructions, interiors, columns and frontages, and that those elements appeared scattered in his directing. His painting was always interested by the expression of the closed space, and made of the theme an allegory of culture, a human construction in opposition to the painting of nature, a mimesis of divine creation.

As an artist conscious of the nature of art and of his role as a creator, Daniel Senise incurs in the risks of an adventure, controlled by the experience of the daily exercise, of the effect of painting in modern times. That makes clear to us that the quality of his work is not due to the security of a priori defined routes. As a troubled artist he creates alternatives for his painting extracted from his own territory. A phenomenon that turns his painting into a permanent large figuration, full of references to art and history, coupling a high standard of artistic dexterity with a refined plastic result. With his art Daniel Senise helps us to cross the in-common sea of thematic specialization found in the artists of his generation. And that is in itself a remarkable feature of his painting.

Translator: José Paulo Moura