Painting as a harsh thing
To do images justice is a hard task, but to do a painting justice is next to impossible. Words – first instances in the world's order – are a condition for visibility: Hamann says "Speak that I may see you!", but when it comes to expressing the experience of a painting words back away and seem to go empty; instead of rendering a precise meaning they seem to become indistinct echoes. Firstly because painting is not an object, nor an image, nor a concept; secondly because words are slave to meaning and signification, and painting is slave to nothing but itself. However, this is not a case of autism, but rather of an absolute concentration; it is the intense gesture of he who turns to himself.
Paulo Brighenti's painting may be inscribed in this universe. The history of painting is the history of its gestures: gestures that keep the possibility of repetition and the conviction that the successive strokes on the canvas create sensitive fields and enable the experience. This is not a painting of characters, but rather one of shadows and reflections: it is a water realm, always reminding us that each construction is but a ruin and that each face is a skull. Sunk deep in that world of shadows and reflections, the painter is the great reconstructor: patiently, he collects, rebuilds, and presents for viewing.
"per aspera ad astra" (the way to the stars is made of harshness): this is the motto of he who recognizes that time is on his side, who knows time does not fight the paintings, but rather brings them into existence, enhancing them. The path that leads to painting is harsh because it is a path made of things that do not shine like polished surfaces, but are rough with the natural roughness of all that exists. He who touches this roughness gets hurt and feels different things conquering space: all there is pierces the skin and gains a place in the inwardness to which each painting confers an image. Thus, the painter is he who finds himself while getting lost in the outside: it is in the moment when he recognizes the existence of things distinct from himself that he becomes aware of the lines that draw his territory.
The suffering associated with harsh things originates from the need to choose – supreme sacrifice – and from the disintegration of the visible: painting does not exist without dismantling the visible; painting only exists if with a gesture one can take to pieces – layer after layer – the veil that covers and filters the visual field. Thus, it is the painter's task to imitate that which he sees: but through the copy the original is set free and the mimetic action unchains the poetic gesture, and the painting filed becomes the place where all the intensities and depths of the horizon are synthesized. A field made out of folds and roughness.
"Radiohead" is the name of the new series of paintings by Brighenti. It is a set of perplexities turned into painting: the largest relates to the ever mysterious occurrence that is the actual existence of painting. We will never find an appropriate answer to 'why' painting, only to the 'how', and what Brighenti does is to continuously execute de movements of redefining and repositioning the image in/from painting.
Lisbon, September 2006