Claudia De Grandi by Sarah J Lloyd
Claudia De Grandi’s show at Graze gallery is concerned with the dynamic spaces between abstraction and expression, description and presence, looking at and feeling interconnected.
From Sao Paulo in Brazil, but working in UK since 2006, De Grandi trained as a classical musician but didn’t experience satisfaction in the virtuoso world of the classical recital. She quickly realised that exploring the shifting dynamics between inner and outer interested her more than performing other people’s compositions.
Her painting practice is rooted then in her intense responsiveness to the world, but it is not landscape painting in the conventional sense. There is a sonorous depth to the large scale works she developed working at Cooden beach. Making drawing after drawing there, she concentrated on mapping the fast-changing light and form relationships, especially at the transitional points between day and night, making herself look steadily into amplifying darkness.
Whilst we drive to her studio, she talks about her family origins in renaissance Italy, her mother’s lifelong emphasis on the mystery of life and her attraction to Japanese culture through her paternal grandmother’s love for it. She describes herself as between eastern and western cultures, identifying sunyata as a containing, out of clock-time living spacious awareness, but never a symbolic empty void. Real spirituality cannot be ritually imagined without heart and a deep respect for everything else alive; without this, celebrating transcendence can easily become an empty mannered performance too, says De Grandi.
In her studio, delicate calligraphic drawings are as numerous as landscape sketches, and it’s quickly clear that her picture plane perspective, though observed, is not solely the classic western receding into the distance model, but is organised more into related symbolic areas. Sky, horizon, human all present side by side. Turner, Rothko, Reinhardt and Newman are painterly relatives for sure, but there is something more going on here.
These works are not referencing the usual oppositions, sin/faith, mind/body, heaven/hell, nor gendered gaze and identity as dry intellectual theory. These paintings are light made of darkness, empty space made of felt-sense; they are inner and outer, self and other simultaneously present and in a real conversation.
De Grandi’s large works are concerned then with being whole and human in relation to life, others and ourselves. She highlights the human gaze as something received into ourselves from ourselves, but also as something we send out to others and the world.
In a world ever more dominated by an objectifying focus on national identity, possessive ownership and power distribution, these beautiful paintings feel hugely timely and perceptive. Highly recommended.
At Graze Gallery until 23rd July
For more information about Claudia De Grandi, see her website: www.degrandi.com