“If, to produce a work, the artist invents things (forms, or perhaps even knowledge), none of it is relevant to the work as a work of art.”
In the studio, at the start of our conversation, the artist squeezes a small amount of ochre paint onto the edge of a plastic basin filled with water. Then, moving as he speaks, he carefully pours the water containing the thin paint onto the countless canvases spread on the floor.
Later, after asking whether I want a beer, he opens the can over the same canvas and, repeating his earlier gesture, spreads some of the foam on the surface. We continue talking. It’s hot. We sweat, and he talks about the tension, tiredness and ecstasy (or something similar) he feels whenever he finishes a series of pictures. I imagine that, alone in the studio, he spills more than a few liters of sweat onto those canvases, great sheets, absorbing, printing, marking, memorizing.
Senise’s work of art, a great sheet, a great canvas, narrates trajectories through images and silence. Did I say silence? Why would we want to learn about silence?
Contrary to popular belief, images say little about a work of art. They tell us only that which it is possible to know, about that which is already known, or in other words, forms, histories, ideologies, the piling up of income and expenditure of an ordinary, superficial world. The work, as a work of art, subtly hides and inspires another knowledge, one that is silenced. The point of view of the images is not always the point of view of the artist, his most profound view of the world. The fact that many artists make their work a true portrait of how they view the world is another story, perhaps one to be told in books on sociology or political theory. Marcel Duchamp, for example, was indifferent to what the images in artworks intended to say. He found something else in them: an essential silence.
It can be argued, however, that this is not quite true, that we can collect from the images of a painting marks of paint, the artist’s workmanship, his or her forms, style, technique, all the material contained within a painting, and more than this, the artist’s memory, the aesthetic matrices of their inspiration, their philosophical currents, and so on. But what does this matter? It is true that the museums, the galleries, the art circuit, with its mercantile logic, have their needs. Even the artist, no alien themselves, needs things to be this way, though for other reasons, remaining skeptical about what is expected from them in this environment, the world in which works of art circulate.
A painting, says Senise, is an event in which we recover and print content that is seemingly immemorial.
A painting, I might add, is an event from which we cannot escape unscathed, indifferent to its silence. So we talk, and we talk, and… We talk to try to explain a journey which, if it is not our own, is that of the Other. Of someone or something of which we have no cultural memory.
And we return to the silence of the work.
Discussing a painting he produced for a biennial festival, Senise searches for the words to demonstrate the efforts he made to recover the VG – the verdadeira grandeza, or true dimensions – of the work (but I would argue of others as well), not in scale, of course, but in “forgotten sensations”. By coincidence, VG is also present in Senise’s world as Alberto Veiga Guignard, a modernist painter.
A curious paradox: few things are as distant yet as close as Guignard and Senise. In its silence the work omits the presence of VG, and all that Senise says aloud, in his attempts at description, is nothing more than an intention. Another historical event, parallel to that of the work itself. In the eyes of the public, in the eyes of Senise himself, the painting remains silent on the subject of the (his? our?) fate of such intentions. Perhaps someone more insightful might have looked at the painting and said: “I see Guignard in it!” So what? What are they going to do with this? Did discovering it make them more intelligent? I believe it’s possible to live without confusing aesthetic education with historical knowledge, of art, or of anything else.
What we find in Senise’s work is a trajectory printed in memory (in memoriam) on the great sheet, the great canvas that the artist, in mourning, marks. We either find it, or we don’t, because there are always people who are content to simply recognize in the work a palpable image (modern? postmodern?) of the world, and in this way it democratically offers itself to every choice, to every taste.
Faced with this sizeable work, we contemplate the silence made from an image, discarding accessories, a simple addition to the essential that lies within the work, stalking us. Its silence is an invitation to the imponderable and a denial of the historical, the bland. In the silence we cry out to be heard, we plead for help when faced with the strangeness and disquiet of our intimate thoughts, of the good and bad moods that push us forward and contain us. Where are we going? Where are we? This is the mystery of the event: its eternal return to what is tragic in the subject, its final resting place.
Tragic and to some extent pathetic, Nietzsche asks: “Have I been understood?’.
There is no understanding that explains the tragic event, otherwise it would simply be an old wives’ tale, a metaphor. A painting is not, therefore, a metaphor. So what is invented within it? The invention of someone who talks and talks about their work, who heroically tries to recover in its supposed meaning – which attempts to make history — the attempt to metaphorize the countersense of the work of art, nothing more than this, or all of it.
From the images – ideologies, accumulated knowledge, histories, philosophies, sweat stains, beer, paint, and all the rest – that remain in memoriam in the shroud, we contemplate the work of art, from the inside out, in silence.
Translator: James YoungBack