A chuva cai ao contrário, by João Jacinto
23 drawings by João Jacinto (Mafra, 1966) are gathered at the National Fine Arts Society in Lisbon, in the exhibition A chuva cai ao contrário, curated by Manuel Costa Cabral and Nuno Faria and organized by Fundação Carmona e Costa.
Declining the invitation to hold a retrospective exhibition, João Jacinto, together with the curators, displays 23 drawings conceived in 2018, depicting the very same image – a path lined by two masses of trees, mirroring each other, culminating in a black blur.
Blindness arrives as we step into the gallery. The white wall cloth must be bypassed to encounter the drawings, all with the same height, assembled in a frieze, on two walls facing each other.
Trees, path, blackness, trees, path, blackness, trees, path, blackness… the image is uninterruptedly repeated. Nevertheless, each drawing imposes itself differently. What was at the origin of the initial drawing is also at the origin of the following one, and the origin of the latter is polluted by the former. Each drawing extends but also destroys, re-enacts and remakes the previous.
The beginning is also the end and the end is the beginning, an eternal return to the origin suggested by the very path depicted. We walk through it, feeling that we got ahead without ever leaving the same place. The time implied by the path points to the inevitability of death, evoked through the skulls depicted halfway through one of the courses.
“I don’t believe in anything that cannot cause our death”, João Jacinto would say. In turn, Jean Genet mentions that “an art endowed with the odd power to penetrate the realms of death is necessary”. Is that the reason why the experience of walking the path depicted in João Jacinto’s drawings can be as disturbing as it is overwhelming?
This perennial cascading recidivism found on the same image, as if the following drawing were to overcome the latter’s failure, is something recurrent in João Jacinto’s body of work. As he himself points out, Samuel Beckett – failing, failing again and failing better. He operates in solitude, something also approached by Genet, a solitude that simultaneously inhabits “the image on the canvas and the real object depicted by it” and, in that solitude, one knows the beauty of painting. Is this drawing or painting? It doesn’t matter.
The drawings are summoned through a pile-up of substances of different sources, sedimented on paper – charcoal, dry pastel, crayons, chalk, oil, acrylic, spray paint, cigar ash and others; gloves that fall from the sky, raven-shaped black rags, bottle caps in the middle of the road. Enigmatic, odd and unusual elements that entertain minds, “accidents” caused by frustration and achievements experienced on the studio’s day-to-day life are impregnated with meaning in a single fleeting moment, confronted with the painter’s glance and gesture.
The depiction of the path is oddly dark and brightly illuminated. The black spots are crossed by hues or spots of colour more or less vibrant, marked by a more or less clear sky, generating atmospheres that are equally terrifying and reassuring.
Is it possible to affirm that João Jacinto’s drawings suggest a reflection on the world, on life, its origin or its end? In the artist’s mind, the image of the path recalls The Origin of the World, painted by Gustave Courbet in 1866, in which the tree rows could be associated with the legs of Courbet’s wife. As we walk, will we go further, will we always be in the same place or will we return incessantly to the very same spot? Albert Einstein said that, if we are still alive, it is because we have not yet reached the place we should.
A strange, odd and mysterious landscape, enwrapped in seductive darkness, filled with movement and rigidness, where the night is day and the day is night, hypnotizing and disquieting, where rain certainly falls upwards.
The drawings of João Jacinto can be seen at the National Fine Arts Society until 20 July.