The Piano Factory
Published in the catalog of the artist’s exhibition Daniel Senise. The Piano Factory, at Andrea Jakobsson Estúdio, Rio de Janeiro, in 2002
The artist is interested in the thickness of things. From the most abstract, such as signs — like the mathematical symbol for the infinite or animal images painted on cave walls, ciphers whose origins are unknown to us but that nevertheless reach out through time — to the most specific things, like objects found by chance, objects that have been used and discarded, condemned to vanish slowly, eaten away by the clinging atmosphere, by the acid contact with other materials. Although replete with images, his pictures are never obvious, they are not objects that we can glance at quickly and absorb their subjects, though there is no doubt that in most cases we identify the figures, the signs, the situations taking place among them. In one of them we find a reclining girl, seemingly levitated above a landscape; in another a monkey grasps something, his arm raised in front of him; in a third, the composition blends the front lower limb of an animal — a cow? with a French curve. The narrative situations and their degree of mystery depend on the effects of the material impurities that constitute them; in general the artist uses materials and procedures that are foreign to painting, that invariably crumple and bloat, as though insisting on demonstrating the irreducible distance that separates them from us, as though all proximity were undesirable.
Take the case of the series of three canvasses entitled Boomerang [Bumerangue], each of which is presumably attempting to describe the possibility of flight for this object, its wake left in the air. There is surely no need to allude to the object for the eye to follow the movement across the ample horizontal space of the canvas [2.65 meters], where ellipses intertwine in a series of circles that start and end at the same point. The design of a trajectory of this type is something that is produced from memory; it does not occur during but rather after the event. The object streaks through the air, which rapidly closes up again after it passes, leaving no scars. After the action, it is as though nothing had really happened, like an act with no witnesses. But this is not what occurs here. Its passage leaves traces, not exactly a series of points as stipulated by the postulates of Euclidean geometry, but rather a dilacerated wake as though obtained at some cost, as though the friction of the air were no less than that offered by water. And it is precisely water that is involved here. The marks are obtained by nails arranged on the surface of the white canvas and then soaked with water. The water and heat open up cracks in the metal and oxidize it, which in turn ulcerates the fabric, wounding it with its rusty hue. The pure character of the geometry is consequently swept away by the power of the matter, incarnate. The painting oscillates between representing and constituting an ideal construct. The thickness of the sign, whether its meaning or its physical aspects, can become even more compressed. This is the case with the canvas entitled Almost Infinite [Quase Infinito], where the same catalyzing principle of oxidation was used, offering us a design close to a horizontal figure-eight, the cipher that Jorge Luis Borges explained [regarding 1001 Nights] consists of the contact with zero, split between the end and the new beginning. But in this case the sinuous line does not cross itself but remains on the boundaries of the enunciation. It is as though the drawing of the cipher, burdened by the rusted material, refuses to assume an explicitly ethereal dimension, preferring to suggest a vital throbbing force. Stressing the ductility of the sign, testing it as in the case of the horizontal figure-eight equivalent to the infinite, the artist manages to create disturbing images, such as The Kiss of the Missing Link [O Beijo do Elo Perdido]. In this canvas, the ostensive physicality of the sign is replaced by its capacity to stimulate the imagination. On a smooth, flat gray ground, two sculptural symmetrical heads, enigmatic heads, perhaps of birds, also gray and stripped of predicates other than the gaping holes of their eyes, couple through their mouths or beaks, intertwining in a kiss that blends them into a single body, a kiss that turns their clearly-outlined contours into a symbol of the infinite. The faint lighting comes from above, making them stand out from the ground, and producing shadows that conceal the extent to which they are separate from it or are outcrops. From the sign representing the infinite to the representation of a spiral trajectory, it is worth noting that these are forms that contrast with the monotony of the circular movement. The symbolism of the spiral line suggests that the return to the starting point takes place at a new level, and is not mere repetition.
The spiral contradicts any mistaken belief that everything has already been done. To the contrary, it fosters the notion that, although it is not possible to be the first, it is possible to invent something new, and that difference is born from repetition. Senise’s poetics feed on the transit between different materials and ideas, always guaranteeing the thickness of the results, as though the density of the canvas were the confirmation that this is a field grounded on experience and that is later hung before our eyes.
Portrait of the Artists Mother
The artist travels towards the past of Art. It is natural that he should do so, that everyone should do so, as this an irresistible impulse, because there are increasingly large numbers of tempting publications of all sorts of artists with an extraordinary volume of images, available from the newsstand on the nearest corner; But the artist does not do this in a very systematic way, just as he does not linger on any portion of the past in particular: No particular school or trend interests him more than another; but rather some specific work or other, paintings, engravings, drawings and schemes that are scattered through time and space; a painting by Caspar David Friederich, an Etruscan fresco, an XIX century engraving cut out and remounted by Max Emst, a photograph that he could not remember and later discovered was Eli Lothar; the diagrams of the course followed by a boomerang taken from one of these encyclopedias that children enjoy paging through on rainy afternoons, and the famous portrait that James Whistler produced of his mother in 1872. We will linger on this work.
The versions produced by Senise of the Portrait of the Artists Mother [Retrato da Mãe do Artista strengthen the idea that he who travels through time is in fact an immobile traveler: The present is the shore where the remainders of the past return, the fragments of a world whose unity is lost forever. From the bison drawings in the caves at Altamira to the latest unfinished work of an artist who died a minute ago, all the works of art that we discover are the real travelers. And even someone crossing an ocean for a close-up view of the restored frescos of the Sistine Chapel, is faced on arrival with a work that has traveled through many centuries, on a lengthy course that is not concealed by the bright colors with which it was repainted.
Stripped of its original context, under the eyes of someone immersed in another time and space, the remnants of the past suffer and will suffer infinite and increasingly unforeseeable readings. From the classic canvas by Whistler, Senise retains only the main image. The setting vanishes, the passage to the left, the small picture with the white passepartout hanging in the top center, the stool on which the woman portrayed rests her feet, the details of the chair in which she is seated. Even her features vanish, the shawl on her head, her hands on her lap. The locus is the shape, more specifically and once again a silhouette. A recurrent resource, the silhouette is equivalent to the shadow cast by bodies when touched by the light. An indication of the presence of something that cannot be properly seen and that in this case the artist keeps to the left of the canvas, proportionally shortened in its width, in relation to the original canvas. The image is built up through a layer of paint, to which a second layer is applied, obtained by the oxidation of hundreds of nails, a procedure used in other works, as already noted.
Once again, obvious care has been taken to guarantee the thickness of the image. Close up, this rusty hued silhouette turns into a mesh of old nails, tossed there at random. The spurious materiality, corroded and corrosive, a prosaic element designed to hold different things together, a sign of the fixity whose presence alludes to the violence of the mallet hammering it into the wood, is what replaces and offsets the absence of the image. The times of the things are deposited there as though decanted. The refusal of the image to vanish is no less extraordinary, its sturdy persistence in reacting to the fury of the elements. But it is possible to foresee its transformation into a hazy blur, the final stage before the silence.
The second version of the same canvas by Whistler replaces the flat plane that is characteristic of the silhouette by a slight rotation of the figure, in an effect that endows it with a certain volume. Shifted from the center, it emerges from a black background covered by a fabric whose contours are outlined and lit from the right. Coming from the past, the image conserves its enigmatic status. Endowed with a spectral and majestic aura, it floats in the darkness.
The versions continue. The silhouette of the seated woman obtained from layers of paint and iron dust will be thought individually or even mirrored, as in Offering [Despacho], 1993. If the silhouette of something corresponds to its condensation, the artist assesses its power by examining its formal possibilities, resulting in an inversion of the hierarchy, reversing the space that until then has served as the background. Facing each other, the two shapes blend in the upper part of the canvas, while preserving the pale area of canvas separating them. From this negative space appears another shape that, like a vase, will be the starting point for new experiences.
Like so many other works, the Whistler painting travels through time until running into the present. Like a magnet, it attracts the gaze of its viewers, and will continue to do so; it will live in their memories where, as time goes by, like a malleable, porous body, it will undergo mutations, additions and suppressions until emerging again, reborn, transformed, with a different appearance, something else, until turning into something that someone finds familiar, although unable to say exactly what this involves.
The Last Supper
It seems as though all the data of visual language has already been launched, but instead of halting in a single position, they continue to jostle among themselves in ceaseless movement, but with varying cadences and rhythms, giving rise to new combinations and opening up fresh possibilities. The images and the systems that organize them are there, and even if it were possible, it would perhaps not be necessary to claim to invent something new at this stage. What should rather be done urgently is to study and assess them, in order to speed up the process of enmeshing the various visual structures, mixing and matching them, swapping and skewing them from their original use; in a word, subverting them. The artist operates within language. In such, viewing his work as a source where meanings proliferate, Senise makes his canvasses a crossroads for signs and temporalities. The white surface of the fabric loses its status as an ideal territory, a quadrilateral of purity and silence, to be peopled gradually by a cloudy atmosphere with patches and fragments of matter, a fertile field for the emergence of isolated images, either sharp or blurred, even Siamese-images born of a fusion with the found objects he attaches to the surface — like a metal holder or a door-knob. Images may be extracted from paintings that are historical and culturally prized, or on the contrary, they may be images from any ordinary source,ones we might have viewed with indifference. They may be images of a precise meaning, or ones that expand according to the imagination of the viewer. As no purity is possible, while these canvases are painted – a procedure that the artist undertakes increasingly less frequently — they may also be transferred, scraped, scrubbed, glued and even laid face down on the floor, picking up the debris that he scatters around.
Playing with the logic of construction and the meaning of the image proves to be one of the most fertile games. For instance, ever since Da Vinci painted the Last Supper in 1498, publicizing the miracle of the multiplication of the bread and wine, its image also was miraculously multiplied through reproductions, printed on glossy paper for souvenirs, dishes, glasses, and ties, etc., to the joy of believers and tourists.
Leafing idly through a newspaper one day, Daniel Senise saw an advertisement for pots and pans: a frying pan, a milk pot, tall and flat recipients, squat and slim, forming a semi-circular group around a teapot, identified by its spout and the curve of its handle. The association with the image of Christ flanked by his Apostles was immediate, however odd. This gave rise to the allusion, in a double parody, to the famous title of the work with the same name. Subsequently, looking at the work of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, the artist noticed the scene of the Last Judgment, a detail of the fresco bringing Christ to the center with his right arm raised above his head, surrounded by men and women as though emerging from the clouds, that exhibited an even greater similarity to the advertising shot. Brought together in silhouettes produced by iron oxide, suspended in the pictorial space, the banal is decked with circumstance, indicating that the images and their syntax span the centuries, reverberating like an archetype in the eyes of all those who are concerned with producing pictures, This also demonstrates the Ieveling-out of images in the contemporary world and the utter lack of hierarchies, the bankruptcy of a project that places the artist and his allegedly brilliant flights of imagination above those of other men.
Hobbema consists of a front view, hazy and crossed by patches and smudges, of a road that appears only through the presence of the tall, skinny trees lining its entire visible length and that follow the laws of perspective, shrinking as they move towards the horizon. Stolen from a painting by the XVI century artist, the similarity of the scene is strengthened by the use of perspective, a strategy intended to annex the space of whoever stands in front of it, forcing the viewer’s gaze to travel along the path, and clash with the fact that it is painted with silver metallic paint of an emphatic artificiality. As though insisting on the negation of this resource promoting an illusion, fine-tuned by centuries of Naturalistic Art, the artist glues silver-painted rulers in decreasing order, by size, running from left to right. The eye of the spectator hesitates between plunging into the picture or crashing against its surface. Perspective, understood as the structure through which an imaginary narrative is corrected and endowed with the tenets of truth, does not occur in real space, contrary to appearance. Here the artist confronts traditional perspective by applying rulers — the tools used to create the illusion — to the surface of the painting. More than unveiling the rules of assembly for the genre of illusion that the painting produces, this picture displays the tools with which they are all constructed. ln these intertextual plays, parodies and palindromes, the artist abandons the mask of the demiurge to display the instruments with which he works.
When questioned about the meaning of his work and the possibilities for painting today, Daniel Senise discusses the spectral presence of the past and its malleability when facing the present. He notes that what we call the world is nothing more than the shards of a stained-glass window that can never be put together, or on the other hand could be fitted together again in myriad configurations. As a general rule, the artist assesses and offsets the vacuity of signs by endowing them with both material thickness and meaning at the same time. The mystery of the duration of images and the systems of organization of ancestral images, the subtle manner in which they permeate and impregnate us, is expanded through their coming into being, by means of a coarse phisicality and the entwining juxtaposition and overlapping of images garnered from the real world today. In this play, thinking about the spectator is a crucial aspect, obliged to complete the intriguing propositions tossed out by the artist.
Literally or implicitly, the spectator is the protagonist of the set of canvases entitled Three Paths [Tres Caminos]. The silhouette of the girl profiled on the right of the canvas is possibly our representative, her eyes sprouting thick spiraling lines, similar to those in the Bumerangue group.
We immediately recognize her imperfection, her rough and incomplete finish. And from this stand-point, she coherently translates the inability to resolve the basic problem that has built up between us and the world, the abyss that separates us from everything, the space that we must cross in order to attempt to reach the other, the things that refuse to reveal themselves to our eyes, that do not disclose their inner workings. The gaze circles round and round in the process of scrutinizing the visible, pausing on things, perceiving their textures, their colours and even their porosity – a predicate that suggests their weight… there is no doubt that it suffers from a certain instability, perhaps because of the territory it thrives in, of the special affection devoted to the light, letting itself be swept away by the enchantment of glints. For the canvas in question, the gaze moves along three routes, following three paths in order to return to the starting-point. From the standpoint of the person who is on the outside, gazing at the scene, there is the delicate but incisie movement of a line sweeping over the field and always converging on the same point: the eyes, the starting point and finishing line of our relationship with a vast world.
The second work in the “Three Paths” [Tres Caminos] series features two silhouettes – one within the other – connected to each other through lines similar to those on the first canvas. Although more entangled, these lines do not have a clear point of convergence. They struggle for our attention with the silhouettes of the two girls and with a large number of suspended elements, indecipherable fragments that float between them, on them, or orbit around the center. A worker of language, the artist construct ambiguities: he is torn between producing a metaphor of the encounter and a metonym of the noise. Regardless of the purpose of the narrative, the fact is that it constantly runs the risk of being submerged by the weight of the concrete matter, which does not stand for anything, but functions as an ineffable substance. This is precisely the case with the third work in this series: the quadrilateral of the canvas is covered by lines similar to those of the previous works, but stripped of the silhouettes that endowed them with a more clearly defined meaning. Like an abstract discourse, a voice free of the subject that issues it, the line lances through the pictorial space, leaving a luminous and indelible wake behind it.
Another canvas is divided into two halves, the upper portion pale and the lower dark. In the upper part, the silhouette of two girls with the same coloring, one in front of the other, with their feet set firmly on the ground. The one on the left, slightly larger, supports in one of her hand an empty shape resting on the ground that recalls a horizontal figure eight. The same sinuous circle, the symbol of the infinite, presented in another canvas. The second girl carries a rod in her hand. A bone? (Incidentally, it should be said that this is another recurring element in the paintings of Senise.) Apparently, this painting draws up an inventory of the other paintings by the artist. There is a certain familiarity. As spectators, the presence of a landscape offers an irresistible invitation for us to tour a painting. However, everything here is floating in limbo, undecided whether to offer a welcoming familiar scene peopled by two children, whose shrill giggles we can almost hear, the babble of their speech. However, the painting refuses. The atmosphere is silent, and the gaze, instead of moving freely from the lower edge to the horizon line, immediately becomes enmeshed in the surface of the painting. This is because the canvas is produced through overlapping layers of voile on the surface of the cretonne where the painting took place. Placed one over the other, with alternating meshes consisting of fine, transparent lines, the result is a diffuse field, a liquefied ground able to attract the gaze while preventing the eyes from moving deeper into the canvas to guess the exact content of these childish images, to discover what they are, what they are doing.
The work-space of the artist is not exactly what might be expected of a painter’s studio. There is certainly always a small heap of canvases leaning up against the walls, others hanging, while still others are laid out on the table or on the floor, deep in the production process. But the metal shelves are packed with a wide variety of objects that do not include the usual tubes of paints, paint brushes and spatulas. Lately, there have been squeegees, huge jars of glue, and glass containers packed with small blades with sharp-angled points for cutting the fabric ripped from the floor into exact strips. At other periods, there have been nails, metal containers, cut-out iron sheets, French curves and rulers, drop-like glass ornaments, and endless amounts of left-over materials, such as plywood chips, wood and metal scraps, small rusty items, waste waiting for some destiny other than the garbage dump.
In any case, and from almost the start of his career, it is quite clear that the paintings of Daniel Senise would never become pure matter, and would not be produced on a clean, stretched fabric, to which layers of paint would be applied, taken from tubes of paint purchased in art stores, or even pigment in its natural state, which must be blended with some chemical fixative. And if one of the classic definitions of the artist, more precisely that of Aristotle, is that which defines him as a demiurge, a demi-god able to infuse life into raw material, then Senise’s retreat from the enshrined formula begins right here.
The presence of other materials, and more than this, other objects on the surface of the canvas ensures us that there has been a deviation, a rupture with what should be the origin of the work. The work is not grounded in a specific time, but rather infiltrates some other past by taking over something that is foreign to painting. The odd aspect is that, as already stressed, this relationship with an earlier past does not only occur in terms of the objects but also in terms of the materials. Mixed together, they produce strange and complex situations: Such as the image which is not removed complete from its original source, but rather undergoes all sorts of alterations when applied to the new surface, where it will start to exist. Likewise, the materials and objects used to construct the work carry word of their past function, purpose for which they were originally intended. The recent case of the paintings produced by ripping canvases off the floor, bearing the marks of the parallel wooden planking, with their cracks and textural variations, indicates the level of synthesis attained by the work: the image of the inner environment of a museum printed on the canvas is in turn obtained by the transfer from the studio floor. A space is seen while at the same time a floor from some other place is experienced.
The untitled work produced in 1995 measuring 2 x 1.5 meters features in its center a tangle of hard cut-outs and scattered metal chips, the silhouette of a monkey with its arm raised. The field of the painting is divided into filled and empty portions, between the pale gray rough surface of the fabric canvas and the hard, dark surfaces of the rust-colored flat shards, between parts patched by stains and parts with reworked material. The silhouette of the monkey is subject to the same type of treatment as the metal scraps, so that for a moment we wonder whether its identification depends more on the efforts of our imagination than on the accuracy of the cut-out. Even if this is not the case, as we recognize the level of adherence of the shape to a more evident meaning, the fact is that this situation creates a predisposition for us to move outwards, trespassing on other fragments of possible meanings. Similar to most of the other canvases produced by this artist, this canvas becomes a palimpsest; within the canvas there is another and so on, in an endless chain.
The work which follows the method of the previous painting, Great Hall [Grand Salon] is one of the best examples by this artist of a canvas that is understood with a plethora of meanings. Although the dark, rusty shade covers the entire square of the canvas, resulting in a tonal flattening, a darker region is demarcated in the upper right towards the side, like the entrance to a set. This architectural situation is subtly underlined through the perception of a lighter vertical element — a column? — set slightly further back from the entrance to the environment ln contrast to this situation, we distinguish the silhouettes of some ants, moving across the flat ground of the canvas, alongside a few plated metal fragments, including a chunk of ornamental grillwork. Thus, in the midst of these waste materials, a vortex built from spent, corroded matter, the suggestion springs forth of an empty setting, simultaneously with that of another environment viewed from an expanded detail, of a floor infested with gigantic ants.
The One Not Here
All images are metaphors, the sign of something that is not there. Reproduced, submitted to new connections, they will be irreversibly altered; once studied, the range of readings comes to stick to the surface like the patina of time. In fact, the readings of a work over time guide and shape the gaze of spectator. They draw it further away even from the painter himself. It is quite obvious that Velásquez did not share the comments of Foucault on Las Meninas, just as it is quite clear that it is impossible for us to view it in the same way after having read these comments. Not to mention the way time imposes itself on things, macerating and fading them. In the case of painting, it is well known that time modifies its light, or, to the contrary, may turn the paint transparent, letting the original line show through, the structural sketched-in outline, or even other things that had been painted earlier, and that the artist, having second thoughts, subsequently decides to cover up in a gesture of repentance (pentimento in technical terms). This is a matter of wondering whether the first image, which was covered up by a later picture, refers to some other topic or not, some other metaphor, or even to some other way of seeing that was exiled and that is finally returned to the light after many years gone by.
Daniel Senise produces paintings in the footsteps of an age-old tradition. In practice, this is carried out in the midst of the reverberations of an extraordinary body of images, an endless flow whose vitality is derived from its transfiguration. The images produced in the course of the history of art, even through their ongoing reproduction, they gradually wither; and lose their bloom as they coarsen through a flow of vague fragments, weakening and blending with other images. There is no way and no reason to deny this tendency, since ultimately it is what allows for the reinvention of these images. Aware of the floating nature of the world in which he lives, the artist, with his feet fixed in a present that does not reserve a grandiose niche for him or his labor apart from other men, carries out his work in favor of this flow, without attempting to endow it with an untimely, empty grandiosity.
The past cannot be removed, says the artist, and here he joins the choir of the new practitioners of the science of restoring works of art. A series of four canvases, all the same size [1.9 x 3.5 meters] “The One Not Here” [Ela que Nao Está] deals with this problem. This refers to the famous [for more than one reason, as will be seen later], fresco portraying the Death of Saint Francis, painted by Giotto in the Bardi Chapel at the Santa Croce in Florence around 1325. As a way of providing protection against the plague, this chapel was whitewashed during the XVII century, and later some burial urns were raised against the walls with the frescos concealed by the layer of white wash. Bringing back the entire original image was to take place during the XIX century. But this measure was not to be the last; according to the new parameters for restoring works of art, in the mid-XX century it was decided to remove the repainting of the parts damaged by the old burial urn. This work — The One Not Here [Ela que Nao Está] — presents an image that actually contains two absences; the portions of the painting by Giotto that were definitively removed, coincidentally with a view of St Francis on his death bed being revered by the members of his Order, and the burial urn that would one day be laid up against it and partially obliterate this work. There is nothing of the original image or even of the architecture that was one day projected into space before the canvas. Only the traces of an unexpected encounter.
The monumentality of Mother and Child [Mãe e FiIho] (2.80 x 2.5 meters) is impressive due to its simplicity. It consists of two circles, the larger located at the top of the vertical axis of the painting, with the smaller circle placed just below it and somewhat to the right. The appearance is one of a random occurrence, as though this were the outcome of two metal-bottomed recipients forgotten there, that have somehow overflowed or leaked, marking the surface of the canvas. But perhaps something more than this is involved. Today, when ingenuousness no longer exists, and artistic expression is nourished by intertextual references, intertwined quotes, the canvases of Daniel Senise require the spectator to arm himself like a hermeneut; remaining attentive when facing any image whatsoever, alert to the possibility of decoding what may be obscure at first sight After all, meaning depends as much on the thing as on the person looking at it. This is why the matter, however trivial it may be, is ineluctably symbolic. The remnants left behind bear witness to their capacity to turn themselves into something else, to shift perpetually. And the fractured, interrupted rings of varying thickness, accompanied here and there by drips and drops, indicative of a centripetal action, may be read from another standpoint, and may be turned into enigmatic, powerful ciphers.
Piano Factory 01
More than ever, silence and emptiness are the subjects of this group of canvases produced by Senise over the past few years. From the beginning one is attracted to these images of uninhabited spaces, images that in general have the scale of the body of the spectator, who is drawn in due to the similarity with the space in which he is located. The imposing perspectives and the complex construction that seem to force people to seek out the center of each of these scenes, invite the viewer to wander through them, sweeping them with the gaze from top to bottom, spying out what is going on through this door or that, imagining what is happening in the other room, always waiting for some other protagonist to appear and break the feeling of solitude. Drawing close, one can see that its colors, variations in shades of gray through to earthy yellow, result from a surface that is packed with patches, nodules, cuts, scratches, scrapes and lacerations, like a work produced by chance, subjected to a variety of accidents. Simultaneously, it becomes clear that the surface of the canvas was obtained through systematically cutting the initial fabric with well-honed knives, sharp blades, and then re-assembling it in long contiguous segments, defined by fine, straight edges. And this examination also reveals the recurrence of the organic pattern of the woodgrain in the floorboards, which shows that the surfaces of these paintings were obtained from the floor, ripped off the hardwood floors and that are now raised before us, forcing us to run our eyes over their concrete, tangible nature. Since the late 1980s, Daniel Senise has been using this process, which consists of placing a canvas with wet paint (on which he has already begun work) face down on the floor, lifting it up after some time. The result is an exchange between the two surfaces – technically a monotype – from the area that passively receives the left-overs of the process: surplus paint that is more or less viscous, dripping off during the production of the painting, making the floor an active territory that leaves its marks printed on the painting, along with bits of refuse. The method’s incorporation of the random functioned as a comment against the transparent nature of painting, its vocation to sublimate its status as an object bound to the world, in order to offer itself as a placid vehicle for images. Glued the canvas, converted into an accidental fact of the surface, the dirt from the floor merges with the picture produced by the artist. And if this picture in itself were endowed with interest, a more detailed examination would reveal the presence of other elements that are equally interesting, although spurious, and that in principle do not belong to what commonly associated with painting. In fact, reviewing the history of painting, it is noted that until quite recently only pure materials were used; regardless of the origin of the painting, piment was a type of seed, its essential raw material. Always running counter to this and other rules, Senise is a painter who paradoxically refuses to paint, preferring to situate himself as someone working to expand the understanding of painting as a surface.
In this new series of works, some prepared in an old piano factory in the Bronx, New York, where the artist has been living over the past few years, instead of superimposing the accidental with the calculated result, the artist has developed a new process. Once the monotype has been produced, with the floor printed of the canvases stretched out on the ground, the next step consists of the artist cutting these canvases into precise pieces, that may well be the place where the work was produced, an art school, such as the Visual Art School in the Parque Lage, Rio de Janeiro, or may just as easily be stolen from a photograph in an architectural magazine, or even from some painting belonging to the history of art. Once broken into a series of pieces, the fabric strips are re-assembled and glued on the basis of their texture. The differences between the textural patterns, outlined by the fine edges linking the various planes, creates the representation: a perspective drawing of an architectural interior.
If painting, with all its additions and subtractions, with its calculations and its clashes against constraints of all sorts, were always an affirmation, then the printed floor of the artist’s studio evokes the footsteps taken, the marks left by the those who are now there and those who have already departed; all have left traces of their actions behind. In his pictorial process, which begins face down fused with the ground, Daniel Senise auscultates the present, impregnated by its density, in order to better think about the past and the present of painting.
Piano Factory 02
If all painting is an affirmative act, a conclusion reiterated by the classical pose of the artist grasping the brush, poised before the canvas, it is also true that it springs from nostalgia. Hung on a wall, its existence attempts to eclipse the presence of this same wall, offering a picture in exchange for its opacity. The idea of the painting as a window, the painting as a representation of something, as the sign of an absent body – a project taken to the extreme with trompe l’oeil painting, which seems to find its raison d’être in offsetting the loss of the landscape imposed by building walls. However, even if figurative, these painting by Daniel Senise undermine any idea of compensation. Particularly because, at this stage, there is no way of sustaining any representation, no matter how accurate it may be. This is why he opted for the materiality borrowed from the floor, a reference that is so emphatic that, once identified, it manages to overwhelm the eyes of the spectator, filling them with gravity and torpor. And if the eyes of the spectator are raised, when looking at these paintings, the fact is that they will gradually sink to become aware of the floor on which they are walking.
Although all the canvases in this series represent empty environments with the same low chromatic temperature, varying from gray to murky yellow, bearing the patterns and scratches of various flaws, by checking the name tags it becomes clear that they were taken from a variety of sources. Alongside those which reproduce the places where artists work, studios and schools, are others reproducing the interior of some international institutions dedicated to contemporary art. The Galicia Art Center, the Huntington Hartford Museum, and the Dia Art Center are just a few of the places that have emerged in the exponential expansion of the number of museums and galleries over the past twenty years, the fever that has turned these institutions into new temples for worshipping fetish objects, promising the fruition of works of art as a possibility of a parenthesis in the opaque daily life. The topic of these canvases ends up being the art system itself, but not only; conferring other paintings, we note that like many of his earlier series produced in reference to major works from the history of art, (by Giotto, Whistler, Caspar David Friedrich), they are also about spaces that have been subtracted from existing paintings. A melancholy note runs through the entire series, since the only landscape that is presented intermittently, the landscape that is left to protagonize the paintings, consists of versions of the environments where works of art are displayed, including the painting itself. It is as though the thematic curve of painting were closed. By making use of its own space to turn spaces intended for it or the spaces of other paintings into its theme, the painting of Daniel Senise is located within the labyrinth. His poetic project now seems quite clear, consisting of making use of language to ease his way into another language. There, in ambush, he parodies these codes, offering re-readings with irony, incorporating solutions and processes, becoming his own horizon and destination.
The floor of the studio where these paintings were designed and constructed is the place where the artist thinks and produces these bare rooms where the works of art and those who appreciate them have not yet arrived, or have come and gone – although we can imagine and reconstruct the murmur of the groups and the bustle of the spectators drawing near the work in order to check a detail, the name of the artists and the title of the work. The spaces are monumental, the architecture proudly displays the logic of its structure, the regularity of the grooved beams, the hieratic verticality of the pillars, the vast extension of these clean, blind walls. In this architecture there are no windows. There is no opening to the outside through which the universe may be contemplated, an artifice that is unnecessary: the world of art is self-sufficient, and works of art can exist by themselves, and should be appreciated without intervention. And it is no less strange that, after so many have struggled for a closer connection with life, art is placed in a separate niche.
From the spaces for art to the spaces in art. Similar to the strategy of projecting an allegedly neutral space to shelter and display works of art, the internal spaces in the paintings by Edward Hopper, which is the subject of one of the canvases presented here, are protagonists in the construction of sad scenes flooded by twilight gleams that project the shadows of isolated men and women. But this does not mean that Senise is interested in inventing new narratives. Not in this series. Painting within its classical parameters is visited critically in order to be converted into the basis for a new painting. From the image to the most abstract sign, representation is reduced to its strictest term, regressing to the status of a diagram, whose only possible revitalizing substance is precisely what Senise gives it: the congealed blood of the floor where he walks and works.Back