Adriana Rocha



A rose is a rose, is a rose, is a rose

Gertrude Stein

Over the last 10 years, Adriana Rocha has been painting in a way in which the figure, more exactly the icon, floats around the canvas in a way that is not connected to a story or has any other formal means of support. By doing so, she has created a condition of existential emptiness, as the isolated image does not find any formal connection or possible interaction in the field in which it appears. Once this principle has been established, variations appear in some of her paintings although they do not alter the concept. To the unwary eye, these works look like those of some of the artists from the same generation, where fading images emerge against backgrounds that are almost monochrome. However, a closer look will show the unique features of this work and the viewer will reach the conclusion that this painting is not as simple as it looks at first sight.
You need to stop in front of the work. We seldom stop in front of an image for a long time in today’s world. We often see the same image a lot in a recurrent way or in different locations but rarely stop to look. In the case of Adriana’s paintings, a glance seems enough to learn the few signs the work contains, as they almost do not attract the attention since they are not aggressive in form or color, nor provocative in content. They do not shout their message. They whisper.
The public tends to appreciate them in a superficial way and like this inoffensive appearance or feels an unexplained disquiet faced with the emptiness of the compositions. When we examine the first reaction, we could say that there is a certain relief when the viewer finds a work of art that is "understandable" because it is beautiful and along with the smoothness of the color that soothes the spiritual tormented urban lifestyle there is some recognizable form that is oddly relaxing. Other people do not feel at ease with these paintings and become perturbed by the "poverty" of the composition. They cannot stand the lack of stimulus and think the images are banal and easy to paint.
Adriana’s work demands a closer look. When this happens, you start to see something that you had not noticed before, i.e. the loss of credibility of the figure/background relationship. Questions arise. Where is the figure? Where does it come from? Why is it unattached? What is conventionally regarded, as the background behind the figure exists by itself in this painting? The creative process partly explains this.
The artist works by superimposing fine layers of paint on the canvas and the result is surprising. Although the final color is always in a range of pastel tones, the original base is black. The color is never uniform in the finished painting and shows the underlying layers creating a surface that is rich in nuances and slightly textured, like an old wall. The figure is often a drawing, at times shaded. These are easily identifiable images – an Apollo-influenced nude, a leaf, an ornamental vase, a man’s head – in the large format works with some of the compositions made of connected parts. The smaller canvases feature the rose and the grid, which convey the plan of a labyrinth. A closer view shows that damask fabric was used in two of the triptychs, applied on the screen and painted all over some segments.
Once the recognition has been made and the complexity confirmed, the simultaneous feeling is one of familiarity with the iconography and the strangeness of the situation. A more in-depth analysis would say that the apparition of the icon out of context, in a fantastic way, proposes giving some thought to the uses and abuses of the image in contemporary society. Here, iconic signs that are almost silent, originally created by mechanical means and appearing in large circulation publications, reappear in an unique scene. From the uncertain state of painting at the end of this millennium to the hushed image, another voice appears. Those in the know will argue that this was a procedure adopted by Pop Art. That is correct but there is a difference.
Adriana goes back in time. Take the rose for example with its built-in risk as a feature of embroidery, soap wrapping, rose water label, chintz print, tracing paper, postcard and appointment book. She brings to her painting this image which has become banal because of its excessive exposure, by the sentimental romanticism which, despite this, still exists among us and echoes the myth: the mystic rose, the rose enclosed in the garden, the sword and the rose, eternally feminine. It is this profusion that this painting deals with. Its pop is Brazilian and therefore popular, originating in a culture that thrives in the countryside, the outskirts of cities and empty spaces of mass communication.

Article for the catalogue of the exhibition at the Galeria Nara Roesler, São Paulo

From the original in Portuguese by Maria Alice Milliet, 1996