By Gareth Stevens

All paintings go beyond words. If what is communicated through painting could be better expressed through language then it would be. In her upcoming exhibition at BlackShed gallery, Claudia De Grandi further distills this self evident truth by attempting to express the ineffable. 

Living by the sea can be deeply reassuring. On a daily basis you are exposed to expansive views uncluttered by the verticality and detail of urban space. We have ready access to horizontal lines that can not be taken in fully without a turn of the head or without moving our eyes. Fore and middle ground concede their power to the longer view and everyday perspective and parallax seem like folly. Proximity to the sea and its big skies gives us daily recourse to the mystery and majesty of the sublime. 

Claudia de Grandi loves the moon and the sea. Her paintings are her visceral and heartfelt response to them. In that sense they are votive offerings – her way of saying thank you and her means of worship. They provide us with a visual sensation that can overwhelm and settle in equal measure. They aim to act on our emotions in the same immediate way as music does. It is perhaps unsurprising that De Grandi is a classically trained pianist. 

Fascinated by the boundary between abstraction and figuration, she has produced a set of images that we instantly recognise, yet that also aim to set us free from the relativity of literalism. In this sense the process of representation is not the endgame, but a means to an end.

Great Art binds us to a deeper truth and reminds us of our higher self. It tells us of a world beyond the mundane and guides us to profitable inward reflection.

Some of this series of works is  preoccupied with the moon. Each of these particular works involves seeing the moon, or the light derived from it. Whilst we see the depicted moon, the moon is also looking back at us – and it is this reciprocal gaze that locks us into the divine. The silent yet benign ‘stare’ of the moon challenges us and evokes in us the shame of being tritely obsessed with the everyday. It wisely advises us that the urgent should not always get in the way of the important and reminds of our duty to look after the biosphere and to reconnect with our ‘Mother’.

De Grandi was brought up in Brazil, the home of Candomblé, a syncretic religion practiced by those descended from Africans forced into the slave trade. It is a synthesis of primarily Yoruban and Catholic beliefs. Amongst the pantheon of Candomblé saints or Orixás, Yemanjá, the Goddess of the Sea is perhaps the most well known. Orixás, who are deified ancestors, are the link between the spiritual and the human world. Yemanjá provides life-giving water that nurtures the earth, like the waters of the womb. She symbolizes the divine balance between heaven and earth and is ever present in De Grandi’s work.

The work can also be understood as being similar to that of traditional Mandalas. In many religions Mandalas are geometric diagrams of the cosmic. They reaffirm our relationship with the infinite and provide devotees with a tool for meditation or help to induce trance-like states. Similarly, De Grandi’s paintings are not merely representational, they tempt us to altered states and as such are implements for deep contemplation.

Go to this exhibition with intent, enjoy the sensations the works evoke and take those states of mind with you when you leave.

‘Moon and Sea’, an exhibition of paintings and drawings at The blackShed gallery 29th February – 28th March. Private view 7th March.

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