Painting Cinematic Art. A study on abstraction, expression and experimentalism in visual arts and cinema from Brazil, 1922 - 1931 and 1950 -1968
19 December 2018
Stadscampus, Klooster van de Grauwzusters, Promotiezaal - Lange St. Annastraat 7 - 2000 Antwerpen
Organization / co-organization:
Faculty of Social Sciences
Prof Philippe Meers
PhD defence Juliana Froehlich - Department of Communication Sciences
This doctoral thesis concerns the relationship between cinema and the visual arts in Brazil, specifically painting. My predominant concern is to analyze the form of artworks and films in search of authorial gestures. To this end, the conceptual preoccupations of this study center upon the interrelated notions of abstraction, the experimental, and expression. Such notions crucially undergird the understanding of modern and avant-garde art and cinema. Additionally, I suggest with this study an interpretation of phenomenological approaches by artists and filmmakers to their world. Thus, I propose to investigate phenomenologically the chosen motifs of the artists in question, assessing their selection of specific expressive conduits in painting, installations, and moving images. This phenomenological approach to aesthetics originates in Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of modern art, especially in three essays Cézanne’s Doubt (1945), Indirect Language and the Voices of Silence (1952), and Eye and Mind (1961).
In those texts, the philosopher discusses the relationship between author and work, as based on the notion of expression, as well as the distinction between classical painting and modern painting, and modern painting as the expression of thought. Among my guiding questions are the following: if Western art has shifted paradigms in painting, then in what sense is cinematic art in dialogue with those transformations? Thus, how does expression in modern and avant-garde painting dialogue with expression in modern and avant-garde cinema? Moreover, how did Brazilian artists and filmmakers make advances with regard to modern and avant-garde art and cinema? According to the aim of this thesis, these questions govern the theoretical and methodological discussion of Chapters 1 to 4, as well as the analysis of visual works and films in Chapters 5 to 7. I interpret cinema on the same footing as painting (Le Grice, 1977). However, for this to be well-motivated and at all propitious, in the chapters dedicated to the analyses of films, I interpret films on an equal footing with paintings and visual artworks that derived from the experimentations with painting. The first of such films is the paradigmatic Limite | Limit (1931) by Mário Peixoto, the only avant-garde film made in Brazil during the 1920s and 30s, which went unmentioned by the modernist movement. Peixoto’s only film is studied here alongside three paintings by Tarsila do Amaral, in addition to Férnand Léger’s only film, Ballet Mécanique (1924), which is similarly grounded in abstraction. My study of Limite hopes to situate it between European avant-garde, abstract cinema and Brazilian modernism.
Moreover, this thesis examines Brazilian avant-garde and modern art and cinema in the 1950s and 60s in a similar vein. To this extent, this study brings together abstraction in painting, installations, and the participatory artworks of Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, and Hélio Oiticica, in tandem with modern Brazilian cinema, specifically the films of Glauber Rocha (the leading filmmaker of the Cinema Novo movement), and Ozualdo Candeias (hailing from the Cinema Marginal movement). The modern films analyzed in this study are: Pátio (1959), and Terra em Transe|Entranced Earth (1967) by Glauber Rocha; and A margem | The Margin (1967) by Ozualdo Candeias.
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