April 1 – 24, 2021
Maybe quarantine is not so bad after all. If you wildly disagree, see Marina Perez Simão’s paintings at her New York debut exhibition, Tudo é e não é, at Pace Gallery. Mostly large scale, each of the 23 oils on canvas translates Simão’s observations through her São Paulo studio’s window into liquid landscapes. Beyond what the eye sees, they defy geographies, optics, and harmonies of the material world. Materiality, in fact, is clearly an imposition to toy with throughout the paintings. In them, she chronicles her exercises with transforming physical restraints of mandatory isolation into a portal towards a freer place. Unburdened by operations of a seeable order yet affected by the dismay of an unforeseeable future, Simão lets her head and hands operate in search of comfort. Omitting a defined idea of comfort, however, she maneuvers through abstract chimeras of alluring colors and shapes. Eventually, Simão expands the architectural and mental borders of a studio with exploding hues and wide-reaching gestures that evolve into a plethora of possibilities, both comforting and triggering the viewer. We wander through heaps and oozes, lush pinks and blues, sharp-edged waves and scorching suns.
Daydreaming, wanderlust, and nostalgia—indulgences of a mind that yearns for the immaterial over the visible—morph into zigzags, circles, lines, and curls. Simão renders them in thick brushstrokes, not leaving their diligent marks over canvas to chance. Serpentine indications of her hand’s travels over the surface are nearly performative. The artist may be absent now that the paintings rest on walls, but Simão’s presence lives unmistakably through her impressions. There is occasional dabbling with capturing the likeness of things—be it a coral or curtains—as well as curiosity to subvert scales to shift our perspective. Colors and shapes are layered, similar to the artist’s initial looking out of her window: they function akin to theater stages with soaring curtains heavily draped on both ends or earthly formations framing further vistas ahead.
Among the paintings, which are all untitled, one from 2021 shows a stream of blue flowing into a puddle of dark green enveloped by a lighter, grass-colored tone of the same hue. The juxtaposition resembles a horizontally gushing waterfall captured with the serenity of an afternoon sunset rather than a powerful stream’s rupturing energy. Fittingly, the background is reserved by, in my limited terrestrial observer opinion, a fiery sunset with stripes of orange and yellow colors. The bottom half of a hovering sun is rendered pinkish at the top of the canvas, hinting at one of those eye-popping color explosions of summer dusks. A handful of paintings convey a sense of fragmentation, as if they were cropped bits of larger constellations, maybe endless multiverses. A chrome formation spills from a corner with a lead-like thickness; elsewhere, a ruby burst spreads generously sucking or releasing nearby shades of blue to protect them from nearing yellow; or a purple leaks from a top corner towards the entire bottom where the thick drip accumulates into a bulbous mass, with a scorching sunset afar.
After a year in which the visions seen in person and those experienced beyond the physical have coalesced, Simão’s waves resemble sudden moments of recollection that snap in our memories and entertain our otherwise uneventful routine for as long as they stay. Her horizons, in which suns in many different colors prepare to sink, echo with bodies lying next to us with their curved waists—whether we are in fact with a lover by our side or alone in our beds. Whatever Simão paints, the energy between the familiar and mysterious yearns to burst. She makes each painting unapologetically lush, not shying away from grand gestures that occupy prime real estate in the canvas. They are similar to instants of remembrance on an idyllic day, with bursting dashes of other places and times, but unlike those instants, they stay with the thickness of the artist’s paint and insistence of her hand.