Simultaneously engaging with and resisting the constraints of lived experience, Gabriel Lima directs his work towards the pursuit of a representation of consciousness. Proximate drivers is his second exhibition at Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel | Galpão and features eleven recent oil paintings. These ethereal paintings embody Lima’s dynamic and exploratory approach to his practice with images ranging from distinct people and animals, to surrealistic landscapes and pure abstractions.
The cohesive body of works included here defy a singular reading. Through his fractured manner of depiction, Lima encourages various visual and conceptual reconstructions, questioning the relevance of painting within and beyond the confines of the exhibition space. Inspired in part by his interest in the socio-geographical complexities of Brazil—such as massive urbanization in conjunction with corporate domination of rural lands—Lima continues the long-standing tradition in painting of analyzing man’s relationship to nature.
Several of the women portrayed by Lima bear dubious expressions, which translate essential and universal vulnerabilities and strengths that convey a shared sense of resolve. What are they looking at? Are they protecting themselves, searching for something, performing some sort of labor? Or perhaps they are simply observing. Or waiting. Lima’s emphasis on their interior states suggests both a sense of displacement as well as a transcendent presence.
Perhaps their sense of displacement is due to the landscapes that accompany them. The landscape paintings are hung in-between the portraits, suggesting that the subjects must find their way through these environments. However, rather than portray an inhabitable spaces, these paintings collapse time with their diffuse depictions that at times may be read as halcyon pre-Anthropocene settings, and at times as post-industrial, or other-worldly, wastelands. In several of these landscapes a sun in the distance appears at first to be setting, though there is no horizon line beyond which it can fall. The expansive depth Lima creates throughout these canvases is abruptly flattened by the inclusion of a black ghost-like form that appears throughout the works on view. Heavy in tone, but light in form, the contradictory nature of this motif at once breaks down and expands the canvas.
In one of the largest works of the exhibition, a capybara floats above an abstract composition Despite their natural habitat of savannas and forests, capybaras have adapted to live on the shores of São Paulo’s highly polluted rivers. Rather than dictating how viewers understand the presence of this animal—as symbolic of environmental destruction or unexpected survival—the possibilities for interpretation are left open. This interstitial space within which one finds oneself while examining Lima’s paintings is the essence of his practice.
As John Berger writes in the opening passage of Ways of Seeing: “It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it. The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.” To accept Berger’s statement is to accept the potential that lies within such an indefinable space. Lima is doing just that—pushing painting beyond matters of looking and seeing in order to pose questions of being.
Gabriel Lima was born in São Paulo in 1984. He lives and works in New York. He graduated in Fine Arts from Cooper Union (New York, 2007-2010) and has a Master’s degree in Painting from the Royal College of Arts (London, 2011-2013). His recent solo exhibitions include: life, vest; coffee, tray, Kai Matsumiya (New York, 2016); Hanoi, Hanoi, Galeria Múrias Centeno (Lisbon, 2015); Autêntico, Union Pacific (London, 2015); Us And Them Forever Bound Up In Here And Now, Galpão Fortes Vilaça (São Paulo, 2014); world interior, Galeria Múrias Centeno (Porto, 2014). His participations in group shows have most notably included: The Third Hand, Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel | Galeria (São Paulo, 2017); Nimm’s Mal Easy, Ausstellungsraum Klingental (Basel, 2015); Jac Leirner, Albert Baronian Project Space (Brussels, 2015); Ex Materia, Berthold Pott (Cologne, 2015).