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Somewhere inside us there is silence. A silence even more profound than the impossible absence of sound. My state of mind is a search for the extemporaneous dimension, where I might get an aural glimpse of silence. - Gabriela Gusmão

Gabriela yearns for the “extemporaneous dimension,” “embraces the unfathomable” and conjures a “meeting, however fleeting, with the ineffable eternity.” Facing the inherited phallogocentric tongue open-mouthed and adapting it to express one’s own “silence” has seeds in Clarice Lispector who writes, “Defining eternity as a quantity greater than time and greater even than the time the human mind can sustain as an idea didn’t allow you, however, to fathom its duration.”

The serial works of EXTEMPORÂNEA “sustain an idea” not so much by detailing the path of its progression but by being none other than the very idea itself. It is this different language of visual art with its attendant intertwining of the conceptual and the sensual that most kindles the artist’s explication of the silence inside her. Here Gabriela is charged with the powers of thought and touch equally, and it is a magical mind-body fusion for which the artworks attest that something immeasurable has in fact transpired.

Ladders bisect a crumbling building’s gaping spaces in the monotype “Oculto” from the “Segunda Deposição” suite. The lack of any figure is startling and absence slips into disappearance. The terror and alienation riddling “Oculto” and all of “Segunda Deposição” are associative for me of Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. “He had to follow the road until the end. Then only, when he entered the darkness with open eyes, had he conquered the right to sleep and not to be wakened any more.”

From the title “Second Depiction” to the visual iconography, the series’ confrontation with Judeo-Christian tradition initially eluded me. Seeking a symbolic liberation from the image of the cross as conveyor of sin and guilt, Gabriela posits the ladders, one for each millennium, as means by which to step out of institutional Christianity’s oppressive mores.

Taking stock of, let alone questioning, belief systems is key to making conscious decisions about how best to live on both individual and societal levels. EXTEMPORÂNEA may have begun as the outward manifestation of the artist’s internal dialog with dominant religious tradition, but its effect is to yield the conditions for an authentic bond between self and other.

In 2015 (three years after her first residency) Gabriela returned to the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica Venezia and the “Madonna Extemporânea” suite was borne of her hands touching, warming, bending, and conspiring copper wire. Reaching anthropomorphic form, the wire representation of the Madonna and Child was then iterated and interpreted variously, cumulating in 12 works on paper, 4 in copper plates and a sculpture in murano glass.

“Anima” is both a copper plate and—in a provocative incursion into the ordinarily unique-matrix-to-multiple-prints relationship—the one print that the artist chose to strike from it. That Gabriela printed from the “Embracing” plate repeatedly and the “Anima” plate singularly lends a musicality to “Madonna Extemporânea,” especially regarding the correlation between its visual composition and the artist in the process of composing.

A panoply of warm and cool color fields, morphing concentric shapes and fluxing negative-positive space, the monotype “Cósmica” emits an irresistible call to abstraction. Gabriela takes such dualisms as inside-outside, surface-depth, and light-dark, and utterly and exquisitely confounds them to near non-existence. No wonder that at the center of this auto-destructive universe is the womb, not to mention a mother and her baby. In both “Cósmica” and its sister “Deep” Gabriela sites the maternal figure as herself also the subject of maternal nurturing, albeit by a “mother” even more cosmic and profound than she.

She is in the world. She has the world inside her. She is the world.

In the case of the works on paper comprising “Lírica” the copper wire in the artist’s hands takes a surprising turn whereby Nature herself in the element of air blowing from different directions cradles and carries the female form. To describe “Lírica” as intoxicating and rife with ecstatic abandon is no hyperbole.

“Oh, maybe she was exaggerating, maybe women’s divinity wasn’t specific, but merely resided in the fact of their existence. Yes, yes, there was the truth: they existed more than other people, they were the symbol of the thing in the thing itself. And woman was mystery in itself, she discovered. There was in all of them a quality of raw material, something that might one day define itself but which was never realized, because its real essence was ‘becoming.’ Wasn’t it precisely through this that the past was united with the future and with all times?” - Clarice Lispector, Near to the Wild Heart

Lispector’s seventy-year-old thesis on “becoming [woman]” (preceding by decades French philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s related thinking) and the artworks of EXTEMPORÂNEA make for intriguing conversation. If the author is captivated by kinesis, so too is the artist. If the artist is enthralled by the act of creating, so too is the author. If they favor desire to know the world through their own subjective responses to it—coupled with a close analysis of given responses, a critical self-awareness—over goals, proofs and endpoints, then power to the feminine.

Just as words are ingested and come to be spoken other than in their originally intended sense all the while maintaining active relations, so also do the components, including line, shape and color, of visual language. Unrestrained capacity for conceptual and material movement comes from disregarding the authoritative and embracing the extemporaneous. Only at this juncture devoid of fixed power relations can the artist be fully immersed in her craft. By transposing her interiority into material life and by trespassing the bridge between the subjective and objective many times over, she embarks on revelatory ventures.


Caroline Gabriele Koebel  2017
Columbus, Ohio, USA

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