THE FLESH OF COLOR
Drawing is the male sex of art; color is the female sex. In art, color fulfills the role of the female, of feeling; it is subjugated to drawing in the same way that feeling must be subjugated to reason. It adds charm, expression and grace to it.
Grammaire des arts du dessin (1867)
Color adds decoration to painting: but it is just the lady-in-waiting, since it only makes the true perfections of art more appealing.
How should the nuances and contingencies, the dangers and delights of color be perceived? In a culture that has questioned the sensory, color holds a dubious, secondary, servile status. An “accessory”, as Kant said, upsetting the judgement of taste. And in the many disagreements and discussions which, over the centuries, have discussed the primacy of drawing or color in painting (between Rafael and Ticiano, Poussin and Rubens, Ingres and Delacroix), there is no shortage of arguments that condemn or redeem it.
In the imaginary that condemns it, color finds its analogy in the female, in its alterity, and the original sin that dragged humanity to its downfall. The threat it poses, allied to its strong appeal to the senses, its materiality and seduction, make it morally bankrupt in the eyes of its detractors: color bewilders while drawing leads to reason, they argue. While drawing might speak, color is not limited to the word, surpassing language and exposing the silence that cuts the flesh of the visible. Color directly addresses a tactile eye, an eye that is so enticed that wants to touch it.
And so, for those who defend it, the uprising of color is the uprising of the fragment, of alterity, of resistance. The celebration of the flesh, of what is colorful – the ultimate place of pleasure and emotion where desire lurks and takes shape – is also the life-breath which, in the painting, animates the bodies represented there, the bodies in their absence, the bodies that are missing. And it is also color that pulls us towards what is inhumane, towards the ultimate pleasure experienced in vertigo and the sudden drop, towards that “joy of the descent” that Baudelaire speaks of. A joy that Matisse transforms into a surface and skin of color, leading us by a serene flow of sensations.
Maria Lynch paints the flesh of color: bodies that are yellow, green, blue, red... On occasion, we see the outline of an unfinished body, a drawing that was never completed or was left on the canvas as a vestige of something promised or something given up. Traces of a design or of something missing? On other occasions, in thicker brush strokes applied with more substance, the pigment gains relief, the colour is projected out of the painting, out of that rectangle that tames and confines it. The eye is tactile and wants to stroke the world that embraces it.
This is why these bodies of color migrate from the canvases. Sometimes, they spring out of one corner or another, shy, like tiny details overflowing from it. Other times, they emerge inanimate, made of fabric, cotton and foam – bodies of color inhabiting the world at rest and in silence. Or else they cover the human-like bodies like second or third skins, confounding boundaries as they solicit movements and touches. Hybrid, performing bodies that do a ballet of coloured beings.
Every body is lacking, every body is a hint and a promise, a remnant and a project for an unlikely unity. Through color, desire is manifested as a threat or redemption, as flesh or as the body’s ultimate extreme. Through color comes the dream of animating the missing bodies, the fear of finding what is missing from the bodies.
In the paintings in the exhibition at Galeria H.A.P, there are portraits of women, but we might say that they are portraits of color, if color/flesh can be portrayed. After all, are the seduction of appearances, the sensuality of touch, the passing, fleeting pleasures color gives not associated with the other side of the female, this model of alterity to man? And why? Maybe because colour, like the female, is this other side of the more concrete sensations whose secret one wants to fathom and own. Or because the painting is this other, this indecipherable something in the midst of the substance of the world one tries in vain to fathom. The other that is painting itself.
Marisa Flórido Cesar