Cassina Projects is pleased to announce Notas pessoais de fé, the Italian debut and first solo show at the gallery by Brazilian artist Gustavo Nazareno (Minas Gerais *1994, lives and works in Sao Paulo, BR), curated by Deri Andrade.
Presenting a new body of oil paintings and charcoals on paper, Nazareno expands on his spiritual and visual exploration of the Orishas, deities venerated by the syncretic Brazilian Umbanda cult and other religions of the African diaspora related to the Yoruba, who found their way to most of the world as an emanation of the Atlantic slave trade.
Hybrid forces, ancestral spirits and mythological negotiators between human and divine world – prophets of wisdom and incarnation of historical legacies –, in Nazareno’s poetic universe the Orishas are glorious figures of a poignant pantheon where African traditions, Brazilian rituals, Spiritism and Catholicism coalesce.
Through the enigmatic light-and-shadow play and the depiction of divine entities and landscape alike as allegorical, universal manifestation of beauty, Nazareno ponders on the heterogenous attributes of identity and on the nebulous contours of our earthly experience as he confronts the persistence of colonialist narration.
Gustavo Nazareno (b. 1994) was raised in Minas Gerais, Brazil, and is now living and practicing in São Paulo. Self-taught, his artistic practice is guided by oil painting and charcoal drawing, with references ranging from Renaissance and Baroque iconography to the history of fashion and its contemporary developments. His work is based on a detailed study of human anatomy and nature, in addition to carrying a personal spirituality influenced by the Afro-Brazilian Yoruba pantheon, which manifests itself with all its mythical force in the pictorial field.
Notas pessoais de fé - Gustavo Nazareno
curatorial essay by Deri Andrade
A mythical charge emanates from a waterfall, enveloping the symbolism which imbues this work by Gustavo Nazareno. The central element of Lamento as aguas bears upon the spiritual power that the pictorial landscape conveys in the Afro-Brazilian artist's most recent works. Depicting the intensity of the myths of the orixas, his work reveals the ties between image, beauty and faith. Fairy tales he has invented serve as groundwork and inspiration for these paintings that evoke the desire to honour the Yoruba entities in a perpetual experience with the sacred.
In Notas Pessoais de fé, Nazareno’s technical ability to give shape and unveil the faces of the orishas seems to stem from a certain intimacy with these gods of the African pantheon. As the intention of enacting them drives the action, the technical rigor gains further artifice imbued of an equally important significance. Here, it is essential to emphasize the incorporation of the landscape in his new paintings. Much like in the work mentioned above, in the other works on show the landscape is also looked at from a point of view which evokes a mystery and reveals its ancestral mythological essence.
This intimacy with the orishas is one of the precepts on which Nazaren's production focuses. When it comes to the themes he addresses, his artistic action comes in first place in written form, as an initial gesture of narrative sophistication. In the process, the search for the unspoken is affirmed in an enigmatic way, rooted in aesthetic constructions that draw from the canons of the Renaissance. His studies are mainly based on the human body, on anatomy as process of exploration and experimentation with the image. By revealing it, what is not presented in a mythological key is also revealed, since the expression conferred to the orishas marks the point of confluence between terrestrial and spiritual planes, personified with human features. These works are created in an almost trance-like state.
Going back to the work I was discussing above, the new element assimilated into its context lives up to its title. Although the figures resting in the foreground are distinctive of the artist's production, the poetic narrative that envelops the image is hidden in the flow of its waters. In the mythology of the orishas, Oxum dominates fresh waters with wisdom and beauty and protects rivers and waterfalls. In this canvas, the orisha is not exactly represented, but fills the space symbolically, in the imminence of a movement that is about to occur in the gurgling of the waters.
This tale is governed by its own unique force. As the end of one cycle gives way to the beginning of another, this element plays out in other works of the exhibition. The intrinsic relationship which each work is bound to manifests itself as the conjuring up of something greater. It is not only the image that matters. Although the artist is in fact a creator of powerful images, his visual narrative is steeped in mysteries and intricate meanings. The layers of paint, frames of a ritualistic composition of ideas, forge a figurative language that distances itself from usual references. Figuration is a path, not a harbour.
From this relation, in which the search for what hides within springs out during the process, the images reflect the most intimate moment of creation. Human incompleteness in the presence of divine entities, leaves us with nothing but belief. It is here that Gustavo Nazareno's work finds its essence. In religions of African origin, the orishas guide us along the path, sometimes disclosing it. Within the artist’s practice, this path uncovers new possibilities for interpreting and contemplating the work of art. On the threshold of these frontiers, new worlds take shape from the cosmogonies that orient them. At the crossroads of these passages, the artist asks the orishas for their blessing to continue.
Deri Andrade (b. 1987) is a Brazilian art researcher, curator, and journalist. He is currently Assistant Curator at Instituto Inhotim. He is currently pursuing a master's degree in Aesthetics and Art History at the University of São Paulo (USP). He is specializing in Culture, Education and Ethnic-Racial Relations at the Center for Latin American Studies on Culture and Communication (CELACC–USP), where he has expanded his research on Afro-Brazilian art, investigating the correlation between content and form in the narratives of black artists. Developed the Projeto Afro platform, the result of a nation-wide mapping effort of black artists, as he understands art as an important field of reach, and also a catalyst in the anti-racist struggle. He has worked at major Brazilian cultural institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo, Unibes Cultural, and Brincante Institute.