Adriana Rocha



The work of Adriana Rocha

In the painting by Adriana Rocha, her Settings of Paradise series has spanned the last few years. This production constancy grants us worthy leave for inquiry. We embark on a search for the reasons that explain her placing her work within paradisiacal domain. In our quest, we are furnished a clue and allowed an affective approach by Adriana herself. We talked in her atelier. Quite suddenly, she reaches for a cupboard and retrieves from it a worn-down book, scarred from excessive albeit careful reader leafing. This illustrated volume called Jardins et Paradis is comprehensive, spanning from Paradise as depicted in the Bible ali the way to man-made gardens. The book's reach extends from the Gardens of Babylon up until the 19th-Century public parks. This volume, the second in the collection called La Gallerie Pitoresque was published by Gallimard in 1959. The name couldn't be more appropriate, as it stands as a reminder that picturesque means "that worthy of being painted." It was in the company of her mother that Adriana made her acquaintance to the both familiar and mysterious world of gardens. Her familiarity with nature stems from childhood days spent on a farm but her rnarvel in gardens finds its roots elsewhere; namely, the imagery contained within the much-read book. The girl's bewilderment at the illustrations was such that it led her to demoting the study of French (mum's objective) to a secondary rank. The strong impression made on her by the settings of plans and perspectives, allegories, botanical registry and ornaments such as fountains, statues and railings, sheds light on the reasons for many of the signs present in her paintings.

In recently written notes, Adriana mentions labyrinths -these being microcosms that are both open and shut at the same time ascribing to them the role of metaphorical guides yielding one to gaining an understanding of her work. The idea of labyrinths, which symbolizes a search, triggers memories in me of author Jorge Luis Borges as he has always held searches truly dear to himself. My memory takes me to his poems and to one in particular that begins with a question: There was a Garden or was the Garden a dream? Borges goes on to inquire whether that memory, prone to failing as it must, wouldn't be there only to play for us a consoling role or noto Likewise, whether or not the story of Adam, his happiness and fali, WQuld be nothing more than a magical imposition set by virtue of the whim and will of God. In his wanderings between fantasy and reality, the poet takes step to the uncertain path leading to myth: to Eden, from which we have ali been exiled. This garden is one of imprecise contours within lhe reaches of memory, yet I know it exists and will persist in doing so, even if not to me. From the reminiscing, two thoughts spring at the same time: the belief in a given paradisiacal setting and the ensuing nostalgia that comes from the awareness it is unreachable. Memory is associated to loss -Paradise lost as in the Bible- so too is imagination off setting loss. The alternation between things imagined (the realm of fantasy or dreams)and the perceptible (empirical worldly experience) hints at the instability of things real, just as is the case throughout Borges' writing.

Such as in Borges poetry, the painting by Adriana is similarly permeated by nostalgic strokes, which transpire in the shape of fragments of the imagined. They are recurring signs. In the words of Barthes, a signs is lhe name or something that repeats itselt. Without repetition no sign could exist because we would not be able to recognize it as such. It is on lhe basis of recognilion that lie the foundations of a signo. Nevertheless, there could be nothing more distant from contemporary art than the concept that holds signs to be mere reflections of things; not even contemporary photography is bound by such a rule. It is on this ambiguity, this state of permanent tension between representation vis-à-vis the real world, and the eternal versus things transitory that Adriana's painting feeds. Her works are bare fields from which figures rise, seemingly at the verge of disappearance. From the quietness of these pictures stir rumours allusive to the silent images crossing. This virtual motion evokes the fugacity of the signs captured in the painting as if caught by surprise in memory.
It all begins on a dark background to which the artist adds some notes of texture by means of plaster and pigmento.Continued thin overlays of white are added. Over the wet paint the artist will alternate between the light spraying of water and the removal of excessive wetness by pouncing with a rag or will perhaps allow the paint to drip. These procedures in varying arder continue, until some colour is added into this mixed medium, resulting in nuanced effects. These effects do not however, perturb the evanescent, ethereal conditions of the timeless atmosphere into which the floating figures are placed. There are no visual boundaries to the picture space, which conveys the impression of having been contrived to go beyond the borders of the canvas. On the occasions in which two or more figures coexist, there are no traces to suggest a bond amongst them, either formal or narrative. The figures happen to be there inasmuch as they could just as well not have been present, having slipped out from the spectator's reach. In an unassuming way, Adriana subverts the basis of painting and destabilizes the traditional relationship between background and subject. In the absence of scene or composition, the idea of the picture as being a "window" takes no hold. These procedures illustrate the specific way in which the painter incorporates advances of modern art over traditional pictorial representation, thereby placing her work within the problematic field of contemporary painting.

In spite of the apparent refusal of sense, the painting still has a firm grip, eliciting an undeniable seduction. The non-contextualized presence of the figures in the manner of ghostly apparitions coupled in ad-hoc combination to elements originating from an array of diverse repertoires, are a summons to feelings of extraneousness. Photographs, delicate geometrical assemblies, sketches, bits of cloth and mass-media diffused icons ali co-exist, much in the way planets inhabit the void of the universe without touching one another. Stemming from the iconography of gardens, a few captions find hold: the rase, the bouquet, the exotic plant, the layout of a garden maze and a bough. From printed news media, portraits of characters unknown and from parts of drawings zoomed-up for close view, these "clippings" are on the one handalluding to callage while on the other they deny the cutting and pasting procedure, since the joining of the different parts does not add-up to make the whole. To Adriana painting is a diffuse medium, ethereal, made up of misty hazes or formed in argental albescence and crossed by images. The space engendered is not bound by pictoriallimits. Within the realms of her works what surfaces does not necessarily come from subjective memory but also reveals a cultural taint. The revival of imagery exorcises the feeling of loss brought on by the passage of time.

From the original in Portuguese by Maria Alice Milliet, 2001

Translated into English by lan Fraser-Downey