The centre of the Universe.
At the end of the 1970s I lived in Assis, in upstate São Paulo state, where the centre of the Universe worked. I would get my bike and travel along sleepy dirt roads around the city until I found a loose mango tree in the midst of endless pastures. Art haunted me at the top of that mango tree – and also below it or even far away – and on the horizon I could envisage not only soybean plantations and red-hued twilights, but also the dancing bodies of Carlos Castañeda, Rubem Fonseca, Chitãozinho e Xororó, Jimi Hendrix, Werner Herzog, Glauber Rocha, Carlos Zéfiro and Hugo Pratt. It was in this scenario that I discovered Ranchinho.
In fact I already knew Ranchinho before, but as the crazy person of the settlement.
Ever since I was a small child, I had noticed this dilapidated figure, wearing a frayed suit, and limping his way to the Cathedral, oblivious of the boys who surrounded him and mocked him. A crazy wanderer, so I thought, another Don Quixote to face windmills through the streets of the city. Ranchinho was not unlike Carlitos, the character portrayed by Charlie Chaplin.
Only later did I discover that Ranchinho, more than a crazy person who would go to Mass every day and grunt unintelligible words, was a restless yet inventive artist. Using gouache paints and cardboard boxes, he would reproduce the visions produced by his roamings around the city and neighbouring areas: a burial, chickens on a farm, a train sliding along the tracks, cattle grazing, the characteristics of a mambembe circus, a night lit by a full moon. The view of these pictures, for me, had the effects of a revelation.
Through the person of José Nazareno Mimessi, a resident in the city, researcher and art collector, I could gain better knowledge of the works of Ranchinho. Mimessi recognised the impressive talent shown by this great man and helped him, by encouraging him to paint and also publicising his work in exhibitions of primitive art. However, in Ranchinho’s paintings there is no distinction of primitive or naive art. There, one could contemplate the construction of a pictorial world which transported Assis to beyond any map or geographical location, and laid it down beside Arles of Van Gogh, from the standpoint of someone travelling on Enterprise, the spaceship of Star Trek.
I decided to make a documentary about that man, which was sure to also be a documentary about that city. Equipped with a Super 8 camera, I started to follow Ranchinho closely. Initially, he was inconvenienced with my presence and also with the camera – even after Mimessi explained to him that I admired his paintings and so wanted to register his daily activities and the way he painted – but later he got used to the arrangement and started to show a feeling of affection towards me and also, I believe towards the camera as well.
I filmed Ranchinho on his daily journey through the city and also his constant visits to the Church. I witnessed his obsessive attraction towards burials and funerals. I also recorded the way he worked – inspired by a documentary he had watched about Jackson Pollock -, in a corner of the wooden house where he lived, a small building in the yard of a larger house, where his relatives lived. Ranchinho painted in the same way as he walked through the streets: he seemed to move within a dream, or an invisible gear system which sent him to a different atmosphere.
I filmed several of his paintings and then tried to reproduce them by filming, throughout the city, all the images and situations which apparently inspired those work projects. I would wake up at four o’clock in the morning and would then proceed to a railway junction seeking the train that would cross through Assis, coming from São Paulo and heading towards Presidente Prudente. I reserved a whole afternoon for filming chickens on a distant farm. The wait for a circus arriving in the city delayed the end of filming by some weeks.
When the film was ready (with a soundtrack which mixed heavy metal and violin music) I enrolled it in some Super-8 festivals. I can’t remember if I held an exhibition in Assis with the presence of friends, Mimessi and some other people who admired Ranchinho’s work. I can also not recall if Ranchinho ever got to see the film. I do remember, however, that some years later, when I was already reading architecture at a University in Santos, the film was shown in a classroom, and the ten to fifteen people present applauded the strange images about a strange city, and an even stranger man.
I then kept the film in a box and many years later saw that it had disappeared. However, I did not lose Ranchinho’s paintings, which have enabled me to take the centre of the Universe with me, wherever I may be.
A pictorial-psychedelic experience?
On being invited to an exhibition together with Ranchinho, with my paintings simply alongside his, I thought this would be difficult; however, when I opened the file they had sent me with photographs of his paintings, the pictures really struck my retina and instantly my mind formed the idea of making “copies” of those paintings. I had imagined them the same size, as identical as possible, being distinguished only by the use of my “method”, which means firstly drawing on a photographic projection on the screen, then carrying out the painting itself on the markings of the drawing, and then finally applying a thick coat of paint to some areas defined with the cuts on a mask or stencil. And this was done.
I call my versions replicas because they are different, for example, from the famous versions of Picasso for paintings by Manet or Velázquez, where the evident subversion of the original paintings was given at the outset. In my case, I tried to maintain a characteristic of imitation in such a way that from afar they seemed identical to the originals, with the distinction only being perceived from close up, thus trying to surprise the spectator and create different levels of relationships with the originals. Here, the presence of the pair – the original painting and the replica, side by side – is fundamental. Only in this way is it possible to see how similar they are, and yet how different. This is the name of the game.
The process has put me in an uncommon position, which is that of imitating the painting style of another artist; in this case, the quick, anxious and one-breath style with which Ranchinho painted. I used rounded paint brushes, like the ones he used, normally bigger and more mangled than required by details. And I shall try to keep the same speed, something which for me is only natural, as I myself have similar urgency. It is strange that I have to use my full skill to imitate an awkward set of gestures. And, on painting “in the same way” that he does, I somehow entered his busy mind, which opened up to myself a strange yet interesting psychological space.
Despite his apparent lack of technique, Ranchinho was extremely skilful when it came down to ordering their scenes in a view of everything at the same time, in a totality in which his frenetic painting was able to configure in one fell swoop, and with surprisingly acute details amid the strokes of the paintbrush, apparently crude. He had a mental illness, and it appeared that only painting would calm him down. If there was anything psychotic in him, it is sure that in the psychedelia of his paintings he found happiness that he could never otherwise have encountered. On looking at his paintings, we can see part of this happiness, and also something about his mad frenesi. I hope my version can add some more interest to his powerful paintings.
Spot the mistakes games | Ranchinho and Rodrigo Andrade
THE SPOT THE MISTAKES GAME
RANCHINHO AND RODRIGO ANDRADE - 10 PAINTINGS AND 10 VERSIONS
AT THE ESTAÇÃO ART GALLERY
Opens 30 August, at 7 p.m. – Runs until 31 October 2012
After successfully hosting the Brazilian art: beyond the system exhibition, in which popular artists were shown alongside their contemporaries, in 2010, the Estação Art Gallery is now promoting a meeting of these two worlds. In The Spot the Mistakes Game, at the invitation of gallery specialist Vilma Eid, artist Rodrigo Andrade (born São Paulo, 1963) proposes new readings of the works of Sebastião Theodoro Paulino da Silva, better known as Ranchinho (born 1923, in Oscar Bressane, SP; died 2003, in Assis, SP). The results of this “pictophagy” has been gathered in this unique exhibition with 10 unreleased works of the contemporary artist shown alongside the painter who hailed from popular regional culture or cultura de raiz.
Different from Picasso, who modified concepts and established a new artistic school on reproducing Manet’s famous Luncheon on the Grass, Mr Andrade used appropriation, a process of contemporary language, and also sought perfection in the re-readings of the popular master. The artist photographed the works and projected the image son white screens, replicating each and every stroke of the brush.
The differences between the versions are very small and subtle. From afar, they look identical, with the same nuances present in the drawings, and with differences only visible from a closer viewpoint. The title of the exhibition, The Spot the Mistakes Game, comes from this excessive similarity, which is only revealed in the thick coat of paint, a characteristic artistic trait present in Rodrigo Andrade’s works, in a closer look. Musician Tony Belotto, who comes from Assis, the same city as Ranchinho, has already shot a film in Super 8 about the artist, and also signs a text prepared for the catalogue of this exhibition.
Born in the countryside of São Paulo state and a son of farm workers, Sebastião Theodoro Paulino da Silva, or Ranchinho, was a frail and weak child, who had great difficulties to learn and develop. As time went by, he never got established in any job and always lived in derelict houses, collecting waste materials to sell. In about 1970, the writer and art specialist José Mimessi taught him how to use gouache paint and slowly his work came to the city of São Paulo, attracting the interest on the part of several collectors, impressed at the solutions used in the paintings. In 2000, invited by Emanoel Araújo, he proceeded with a re-interpretation of the painting by Almeida Jr, Rural people dicing tobacco (Caipira picando fumo, 1893), which was part of the exhibition entitled “Almeida Júnior, an artist revisited”, at the São Paulo Pinacothèque. Ranchinho also participated in other exhibitions such as the National Biennial Exhibition of São Paulo (1976); the Fifth Centenary Biennial (2000); the Naif Biennial Exhibition in Brazil, at Piracicaba, São Paulo (1994) and also many other group exhibitions, among which we could mention: “Primitive painting in Brazil”, at the Carrillo Gil Museum in Mexico (1980); “40 primitive painters” at the Guido Viaro Museum, in Curitiba, Paraná, 1981 and “Work in popular painting” at the Brazilian House Museum in São Paulo (1982).
About Rodrigo Andrade
He studied at the Studio of Graphic Arts, in Glasgow, Scotland, and also attended the courses in painting and engraving at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, France. Since the very start of his career, he has received a string of important prizes at national art events. He took part in the 29th Biennial Art Exhibition in São Paulo and also received a Vitae grant in plastic arts, in 2004. As from 1986, he had several individual exhibitions in São Paulo (São Paulo), Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro) and Belo Horizonte (Minas Gerais) and participated in many collective exhibitions both in Brazil and abroad. In 2000 he started a series of pictorial interventions in public spaces: the Wall project at the Modern Art Museum (MAM) in São Paulo, SP; Lanches Alvorada, in a bar in downtown São Paulo (SP), and Caixa Walls in the museum of the Federal Savings Bank (Caixa Econômica Federal – CEF) in São Paulo, SP.
The Find the Mistakes Game - Ranchinho and Rodrigo Andrade - 10 paintings and 10 versions
Opening: 30 August, at 7 p.m. (for guests)
Up to 31 October 2012: Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admittance free.
Estação Art Gallery (Gallery Estação)
Rua Ferreira de Araújo, 625 – Pinheiros, São Paulo SP
Telephone: ++ 55 11 3813-7253
Communication Pool – Marcy Junqueira
Contacts: Marcy Junqueira and Martim Pelisson
Telephone: ++ 55 11 3032-1599
THE FIND THE MISTAKES GAME, RANCHINHO AND RODRIGO ANDRADE – 10 PAINTINGS AND 10 VERSIONS AT THE ESTAÇÃO ART GALLERY. Opens 30 August After hosting the Brazilian art: beyond the system exhibition, in which popular artists were shown alongside their contemporaries, in 2010, the Estação Art Gallery is now promoting a meeting of these two worlds. In The Spot the Mistakes Game, at the invitation of gallery specialist Vilma Eid, artist Rodrigo Andrade (born São Paulo, 1963) proposes new readings of the works of Sebastião Theodoro Paulino da Silva, better known as Ranchinho (born 1923, in Oscar Bressane, SP; died 2003, in Assis, SP). The results of this “pictophagy” has been gathered in this unique exhibition with 10 unreleased works of the contemporary artist shown alongside the painter who hailed from popular regional culture or cultura de raiz.