Gisele Camargo | Day for Night or Invisible Moons

Moonlit Days, Painted Nights



The moon is a source of light in the sky that human beings have endowed with numerous symbolic meanings. A black hole of gods and fears, the moon is Jaciand Magritte. The moon is romantic love, delirium among tribes, the challenge of the Cold War. The moon is a yellow-white-red-golden ball hanging in the air;it influences lives through the zodiac, changes the tides, it lies within reach of children’s dreams. Who, after all, wants to go to the sun? Children always want to go to the moon. The moon is Oriental, Western, straddles class divides, brings on trances, inspires poetry. Waxing and waning, new or full, the moon is part of the daily lives of us all – perhaps our strongest visual point of reference, since different from the sun, we can look at it for as long as we desire. At the deepest level, perhaps the degree zero of this great love we bear it, the moon is a ball of light. Full or not, we are fascinated by this sphere that illuminates the night sky.

Gisele Camargo’s painting presents a very specific operation and is at the same time generous in its quest for inspiring images and motifs. In recent years, the moon has become one of these images captured by her gaze and transformed in an almost intimate manner. In a high building with windows looking out over Guanabara Bay and the city’s hills, the full moon that appeared monthly to Gisele gradually became part of a composition that transcended any romantic myth. She became fixated by this perfect ball that contrasted with the buildings of the city with their upward pointing lights. Gisele came to see the imposing presence of the moon joining with the shapes of the world. The historical dialectic between culture and nature manifests itself here in yet another of its many contemporary versions. Afterall, Gisele isbasically a landscapepainter. And when the moon definitively becomes her landscape, new plans, new perspectives, new surfaces and new divisions of space need to emerge.

In a suggestive melding of form and content, the floating satellitealso makes the supports float on their compartmentalized montage – a formatthat increasingly points to the consolidation of a new development in Gisele’s consistent body of work,beginning with the decisive step she took with Capsules(2013). Without a fixed place in a supposed sky, without no need to represent the light or to appeal to a pictorial allegory, the moon here assumes its full graphic power and becomes a narrative element in the subtle interplay of planes of perspective. Clouds, solid objects and liquids all modulate the moon, as they modulate its colors. Developing another central feature of her painting, Gisele also digs out space, creates bottomless holes, suggests exits that go nowhere, produces planesthat do not stretch beyond their abrupt boundaries. Her straight lines produce a dream-like architecture in landscapes that leave us in doubt as to whether we are looking at the moon in the sky or setting foot on its surface.

The works of this Day for Night/NuitAmericainethus invite the eye to explore their multiple perspectives. Gisele presents us with vantage points that preserve the scene butgive us the option of editing – or synthesizing – this landscape. The moon is more than a subject for the painter; it is yet another theme full of possibilities for the adventure and experimentation that painting is. Without hiding the fascination of the icon, she does not shy from revealing its dark side, full of emptiness and mystery. The solid forms and black backgrounds are features of a painting technique guided by procedures, by a very personal way of thinking about planes, surfaces, and volume, producing a balance between the figurative and the abstract. There is a play of depths, tones, textures (different paints, different techniques), in a world in which much is going on and into which we can dive without being obliged to focus on anything in particular. The unity we perceive in the series may derive from Gisele’s willingness to explore to the full an authorial approach to painting, presenting us with situationsbased on a geometry that does not frame the world but opens it up to new poetic spaces.

In our conversations about this exhibition, Gisele sometimes mentioned the François Truffaut film from which it took its name. Not because of the film itself, but because of the film-maker’s idea of playing on the term for the technique of simulating a night-time scene in the studio during the day. The central theme of the exhibition is this effect of simulated night, of a moon that does not need the night to appear, of a day that can easily have the moon in its sky, oreven a moon that simulates night in the daylight of the studio. Gisele uses a shape (the moon’s sphere)to work on the multiple meanings it suggests within her pictorial vocabulary.She has experimented with a range of different connections and juxtapositions in the course of her career as a painter. Just as Truffaut’sfilm provided the title of the exhibition, I shall conclude with a quotation from a Brazilian film-maker, Ivan Cardoso, who,for his filmNosferatu no Brasil (1972), needed to shoot the story of a vampire in Rio de Janeiro onSuper-8,without recourse to the technology of “day for night”.Cardoso resolvedthis budgetary and artistic challenge by urging the audience at the première of the film to “see night, where you see day”. Night and day appear simultaneously in the broad works of Gisele’s exhibition.