The suppression of the medium in André Ricardo’s paintings

Carlos Eduardo Riccioppo

Whether it is about something they retain or something they restore (it is not possible to know for sure), it is noticeable that André Ricardo’s paintings have that sort of “double quality” that refers to centuries of tradition: from near, they are one thing; from far, they are something else.

However, before one supposes that these paintings claim the intermediary space between these two distances as a dimension dedicated to their own experience (or, in other words, before one suspects that they are a play between the effect they produce from far and the pictorial events they show from near), it must be said that their double nature can do without the communication between these two elements, because regardless of where they are confronted, they are too inflexible, accurate and straightforward in their response to request one step forward or one step back.

From far, his paintings are convex and repellent. In some of them, the vibrant variety of yellows and oranges often laid on their surfaces makes them strident; other paintings are the extreme opposite: the variations of blacks and dark blues give them a decisive and nearly blind opacity. No suspicion falls upon the gesture, there is no doubt they are made to display their nearly neon brightness. They are images composed of incandescent figures that are also geometrically cut out (or condensed to the limit of recognition) forms of dumpsters and bulldozers, always highlighted against the backgrounds; and these “backgrounds”, in relation to these “figures”, are either entirely contrasting or equally bright in a way that the paintings share the standardized identity found in traffic signs – if it is really not possible to say that André’s paintings, with their evident urban theme, echo the vocabulary of the city and even borrow from it its “black and yellow” visibility standard, the absence and the excess of luminosity. These objects, dumpsters and bulldozers must not contain any interiority; they are reflected or returned to the front of the surfaces of the paintings.

One would expect that, from near, these paintings would then be concave and appealing. In fact, a closer observation reveals the “events” contained in those surfaces: series of pictorial incidents that deal with a temporality that is incompatible to that of the incandescent images – from near, there are gestures, brush strokes, overlaying of paint, and layers to be discovered.

But the surprise lies on the fact that the closeness to the painting involves a lack of scale relationship that would enable us to sense at which moment the impression of depth emerges or disappears; or to notice at which moment the artist’s pictorial operations start or stop to result in the bright effects that are seen from a distance (and not only regarding large paintings; in small paintings, the intransigence between the two elements increases as the distance between them decreases – “figure” and “background” contrast much more with one another, or, are much more “equalized”, and the incidents inside each field now demand the eye as close to the surface as possible, in order to be noticed).

André Ricardo’s paintings seem to accelerate the distances. When one is close to the paintings, one is a great deal inside them; when one is far from them, one is a great deal outside them – it seems that the intermediary space no longer belongs to painting, or at least tends to be suppressed in their polarization. The curious aspect is that this is the place from where one can see the three-dimensional folds of the objects depicted by the artist – objects marked exactly by their containing feature, which is reinforced by the dumpsters and bulldozers being depicted in side view, three-quarters or according to a series of perspectives. However, a few steps back, the surfaces extend these codes up to the point that they disappear in the high frequency of the colors; a few steps forward, they are lost among the other incidents in the painting. This may be the explanation for the impression that in André’s paintings there is no possible access to the objects they display.