Daniel Senise

XVIII São Paulo Biennial

Wilson Coutinho


Published in the catalog of the artist’s exhibition at the XVIII São Paulo Biennial, in 1985 

I once called the painting of Daniel Senise a “theater of mutilated feelings”. This was the first idea that I had of this work, which with its rhetorical and stage-like disposition constructed, as it were, somber monuments, set in an atmosphere of catastrophe and nocturnal terror. However, Senise`s objects of perceptions are neither grandiose nor abysmal. He gathers for his perception things that are sometimes very easily overlooked, like this huge swan – which the artist painted using a tiny perfume bottle as a model – or the ambiguous figures that are weaved into his canvases, whose meaning is not perceived at first sight. Suddenly, Senise`s world – so unlikely as a theme – overpower us. He has painted enormous airplane propellers and seems to have made this object as terrible and as phantasmagoric as D. Quixote`s windmills, captured in a delirium. All these images have something, they are extracted from psychic and biographical events, which the artist explores as if he were recomposing them in a theater, in a scene, where the subject has just left. A theater of painting, with fragmented forms that seem to recall a Samuel Beckett play, where on stage there are only mutilated bodies and a voice in off, in tortuous language, offers us the dubious and disquieting presence of something both present and absent at one and the same time. Very often Senise`s painting resembles a noir series of partial objects, that are metaphorically transferred on to canvas. Senise`s palette – black, white, traces of red and blue – not only makes his images even more dramatic and disquieting, but also makes us feel as if we were present in an expressionistic scene. There is something grandiloquent and Wellsian in these “meaningless” images. He seems to have shaken up the art of quietude, as if it were too indifferent. The objects, to which Senise directs his perception, are loaded with narrative, filled in expressions, bits and piece of something that has become intimate, that was lived. From this intimacy with objects, Senise has built, with his voluminous forms, a heroic sensation – a monstrous physical sensation of the objects. Senise has turned obvious and commonplace signs into a drama of mutilated, fragmented sensation. The objects he paints, whether a model, a landscape, a psychic evocation, possess these ruptures, these mutilations. At the same time, this art, which plays with the non-meaning of things, flows back in an ambience, whose stage-like space is accentuated to receive it. It is the vision which occupies the scene, transforming the mundane, the commonplace and the easily overlooked into something “possessed” by the disquiet of things. Senise’s art is, in the 1980s, something which seems to find a way round one of the limits of painting: how to continue producing something unexpected when there are no longer any expectations? Something similar to what the theater of Beckett offers us as a start to the action.