Paper Biennial.

Turbulenzen in Papier: Aproaching the Unpredictable

Gustavo da Liña was born 1961 as Gustavo Castro between Sant'Ana do Livramento in Brazil and Rivera in Uruguay. His pseudonym says something fundamental about his way of life and his artistic principles. His native town lies on the peaceful boundary between two nations which since his childhood has given him the experience of moving across borders, of both change and exchange. Gustavo da Liña, a child of the border, has always been a border crosser, one who with all his senses shares in the experiences of others, their life choices and working ways. Brazil's multiculturalism bombarded him with many influences, enabling him to absorb very different ethnic, religious and artistic currents. The balance between staying within bounds and overstepping bounds constantly spurred him to new explorations. In this way, the experiences of his childhood and youth, and the development of his early artwork constantly challenged his sense of family and love of his homeland. To know ones origins as well as being willing to move towards the unknown creates a solid foundation for the artistic relationship between tradition and innovation. Tying and untying bonds have determined Gustavo da Liña's life and artistic development for two decades. His travels, his shift of focus to Europe, and his cosmopolitan orientation have been necessary and consequential elements. The artist, who today lives in both Brazil and Germany (Berlin), is thus intensively participating in the globalization process, as exemplified by the worldwide movement of art and artists.

From these unique experiences, Gustavo da Liña has developed an unmistakable signature style marked by a sensual treatment of color and structure. He does not proceed conceptually but empirically. His unique approach and the tactile pleasure of his material provide each new work with an a priori experimental character. Above all in his current work, he brings together sensual and spiritual impressions from two continents. The unique handmade paper that the artist uses exclusively for his paintings is extraordinarily appealing. When the artist was on a trip to Madagascar in 1990, he fell immediately in love with this material. Even today he has this rare paper shipped to him from that country. It is called Antaimoro paper and is made in accordance with a very old tradition. Over eight hundred years ago the Antaimoro tribe ("those who live on the coast") took in stranded Arabs and intermarried with them. The new arrivals were literate, coming from an advanced culture that was strictly religious. They brought the know-how of making paper to Madagascar. As raw material they used the Avoha, a native bush that grows wild. Antaimoro paper is still made in the traditional way by crushing the Avoha fibers with a wooden hammer. From the resulting pulp, sheets of different sizes are poured into wooden molds and left to dry in the open air. In this way the paper becomes firm and, at the same time, elastic. It is resistant and durable.

In a wet state Antaimoro paper can be embossed and has an aesthetically pleasing surface structure. It invites you to touch it and pick it up. You feel its texture and associate it with parchment, leather or even skin. Antaimoro paper, which is imputed to have magical power and was used by medicine men for their books of magic, appeals seductively to our sense of touch. The sensory experience of this paper blurs the boundary lines between touching, groping, scanning, grasping and stroking. Gustavo da Liña uses both smoother, even pieces of paper as well as almost three dimensional rougher pieces with landscapes resembling hills and valleys. He often gives the larger surfaces a relief character by embossing them. In any case, Antaimoro paper is not level, but is rippled in places. With the hand of the artist it gains a sculptural form, with a recurrent compositional basis of a square, circle or rectangular bar. In this way the paper, even before any color application, is given substance and fullness. The artist's pictures, which can more accurately be described as objects, do not incorporate conventional painterly illusions, but are physical and thus very concrete. Paint does not cover the objects like a blanket but follows the surface structure with great sensitivity. In this way Gustavo da Liña attains a high degree of synthesis between materiality and spirituality, between picture structure and concept, and between work principle and experiment.

The large central painting has just such a three-dimensional character. The fold the artist has made in the middle makes a three dimensional object out of the paper. With a slight rise, with highs and lows, the "cleft" develops into a dramatic component. It is this verticality that orients the work from bottom to top and gives it a greater sense of airiness. The stronger colored cleft stands out against the more planar parts. With this cleft Gustavo da Liña mediates between the imaginational world of the Toltecs in ancient Mexico and the sacred power of the fiber of the Avoha bush. The clefts the Toltecs made in the cracked earth were places where they achieved a passage into other dimensions. In this way they gained access to infinity, to other worlds and to the exploration of consciousness. About his paintings, which in their integrality and density are extraordinarily spiritual, even sacred, Gustavo da Liña says: "The different coats of pigment that I layer over one another, together with the fold and the structure of the paper, form a unity and create a mysterious, three dimensional landscape."



Dr. Prof. Frank Günter Zehnder

Paper Art 8. 2002/03 / Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Düren.