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Through André Ricardo’s painting

Ana Avelar


André Ricardo’s painting is pervaded by its surroundings – the views, the landscape and its gaps, the movement. More than just that, it is also encircled by the many different visual and social codes existing in the environments the artist navigates and masters. Contaminated with its surroundings, his painting aligns with “an art production unrelated to canon purism, yet constantly concerned with its time and place[1].” What André Ricardo borrows from the outside – like the reference to a meaningful object from his experience in the urban space – is used as an instrument to simultaneously discuss that experience and the very métier to which he is devoted.


The way André Ricardo conducts himself in the world finds a counterpart in his work: the bits of everyday life he chooses to portray can intentionally shake one’s belief in some purity of painting, downplaying the maxims of its history and exposing the clichés of its narratives. In this process, he draws up specific strategies, such as a restrained gesture – by using small dimensions, spliced pieces, or an ambiguous geometry – and his bold decision to use bright colors. These procedures result in paintings that are stripped of simulating gimmicks, honest pieces, which he pursues.


While in his previous work André Ricardo went into North American painting, toning down its grandiloquent, presumptuous intention to resemble “spiritual acts” (like when it uses vulgar colors or operates Rothkos of tiny dimensions), now he reassesses constructive traditions, so dear to our milieu. The presence of his hand becomes apparent in this precarious geometry (to use a term often employed to construe our social structure), yet it is a subtle presence, undoing the virtuosity and assertiveness of the gesture. No mannerisms or dexterity.


His small pieces are completely autonomous, not studies whatsoever. They are imprinted in the rarely-referenced history of non-heroic painting, i.e., objects that can be around in a domestic setting, living with us so we can look over them ordinarily. Looking into these art pieces, viewers can see a magnitude of relations that challenge the need for big dimensions to allude to monumentality or the sublime – between color field and frame, between their internal divisions, between different paint saturations, between layers of colors that overflow and see through each other, between triangles and their shadows (more recently). All that is encompassed in small things we can hold in our hands.


His spliced pieces also take a direction opposite to the scholarship, addressing the sphere of Making. In his spliced art series, the technique tends to hinder big movements and requires the actual construction of the surface. (It is not unfounded here to evoke Lygia Clark’s Modulated Surfaces, calling to mind the not-at-all industrial modernity in which our constructive project was inserted). Additionally, these pieces descend from the bulldozer shapes on which he was working earlier, which in turn are a powerful presence that spills over the canvas as they cannot fit the discussion of the pictorial space. These restrained shapes then gain unusual prominence, like the dump beds before them.


The geometry in these paintings (self-contradictory because ambiguous) works as a way of intermediation to manipulate the shapes of which he makes use. So, it is not about a process of abridging toward abstraction, but rather the recreation of the thing itself, which, exalted as the center stage in his painting, makes us reconsider the significance of objects that have been traditionally privileged (so long, bottles and spools).


It is this specific geometry that conveys a graphic character while also suggesting a place, a space, sometimes just a glimpse of a landscape – especially in his new series of “awnings,” which does not have a close focus on the object, as it has been the case for his dump beds and bulldozers in the past. André Ricardo seems to tell us that this is what the urban is about – somehow indistinct, frequently intuitive, continually waggling.


Once again, local architecture and art history resonate with the exhibition title –elemento vazado, the hollow element through which light from the outside reaches the inside, seeing through inside out. In André Ricardo’s paintings, it is also about adding and subtracting the symbolic fields in which he operates – the painting and he himself have this screentone and membrane feature, a skin porosity that reveals the permeability of his painting.


Nevertheless, on the surface of his painting you can see an extensive, careful research on materials – from preparing the canvas to using oil, acrylic, casein, or egg tempera paint –, which creates events. These events, along with the power of his color, result in compelling, awe-inspiring paintings. In this sense, it is aware of its pop heritage, yet intelligent according to Robert Morris’s idea that simplicity of shape does not necessarily equate with simplicity of experience.


There is no room for a conciliatory, silencing painting; in the contemporary city, it must take a stand. 


[1]I borrow an idea by Tadeu Chiarelli regarding the contamination of mediums, which he elaborates in his work “The contaminated photography,” a loose translation of “A fotografia contaminada” (in: Arte Internacional Brasileira. Sao Paulo: Lemos Editorial, 1999).

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