What can one make of the works of Gustavo da Lina? They are circles, rectangles, squares, diverse colors, and nothing else. Noting else? In reality, they include every form that exists in the world, a repertoire that, at first glance, seems small. But an initial analysis of his works cannot preclude a spiritual element. The harmony of his paintings is not superficial, but a true effort in the search of perfection. This perfection and harmony are reflected in the enclosed geometric forms that not by chance were considered as references to God at the beginning of the Middle Ages.
Are the pictures of Gustavo da Linã mere jokes without commitment? Does the artist avoid dealing with explicit themes in his work? On the contrary, every single existential and human theme is represented from birth to death. Joy, hardship, struggle, and victory are the subjects of his unpretentious paintings. Within a single piece of Gustavo da Lina's art often everything is said -- observation is the only requirement. His paintings do not distract, but attract. His unpretentious paintings draw ones attention, and demand an internal and spiritual confrontation. His artistic discretion, formal as well as symbolic, defines an element of Da Linã's artistic strength. This reductionism is not a loss, but a plus. And when we concentrate, how rich and diverse is his work! Even the pieces that are similarly structured differ from each other. These are unique pieces. The exquisite texture and surface relief, produced by friction and pressure, create their dominant structure. We have pictures that resemble a piece of cloth, an old creased map, or even a tanned piece of leather. Are they really only a background? Are these the profound remembrances of his country, or are they revealing new perspectives for creative ideas? It appears that these elements come together as the basis for the most important and dynamic impulses of his art. Observing and analyzing his work leads to a confrontation with the vocabulary present in his art. We have movement: he lives with circles, centrifugal forces, and ascending activity with central alignments. Often one feels that it is precisely this dynamism that, like a funnel, draws the observer into the picture. And then, above all, what we find in his paintings is peace: this tranquility attracts and is also its theme. A certain sense of suspension communicates lightness, and this quietness in the evolution of movement leads to silence. Both essential elements of his works depend on the interplay of light and shadow effects. This is where his work achieves its main structure. His paintings are landscapes; they are also bodies in a third dimension; and are worlds in themselves delineated by their frames. But in the final analysis, his paintings symbolize the universe, with ideas that overwhelm all boundaries.
Da Lina's paintings are made from a special paper. This paper not only bears the painting, but is an integral part of the work of art. The characteristics of this material, from optical to tactile, encourage further examination to understand its nature, which especially highlight its mystical features, for in this material lies spiritual affirmation. It has both a crumpled and fine structure, and its texture generates different effects depending on the size and colors used. These are stimulants, catalytic agents and, simultaneously. a stylistic device. Each leaf of paper achieves a new effect through the imprinted color.
What is the role of color in Da Linã's work? Every painting has somewhat of a solemn tone, sometimes light, other times heavy. These are illuminated pictures, resembling the transparency of stained glass windows or the eruption of volcanoes. These are incandescent paintings that evoke burning embers lit by the sun. At times, they remind us of Rohlfs' color palette. In Gustavo da Linã works, the color blue in particular inspires an infinite sense of nostalgia. When blue is presented in a turquoise tone, it suggests a dip into water or into the painting itself. When the shade is midnight blue and spreads all over the rugged surface, our vision focuses into outer space. The gray paintings seem like smooth walls of fog, as if they were gates inviting the spectator to enter. These are not frightening images, contrary to expectations, but are calming orientation devices. The beige and earth tones are associated with dry sun burnt faded crusts - such paintings look like worlds molded by sand.
The use of color in his work is fluid – dappled or streaked, whether drawing on feeling or challenge, themes the material requires. The paper functions by enhancing the paintings' resolution through an absorption process. This way it does not reject the colors, but interacts with them in such a natural way that it seems to create consistent rules. First, the textured surface serves as a background color. This is followed by brush strokes by means of thick brushes over the paper's structures. This procedure provides the paper with a firm and stable platform. Third comes a delicate touch with fine details, which the artist adjusts by folding and using shades of color and light. Fourth, we get the impression that he gently touches the painting with color.
This pronounced care for his material, and the sensitivity by which he perceives and accepts it are not by chance, but come from the artist's roots and personal experience. During a trip to Madagascar, Gustavo da Linã met the Antaimoro tribe, native people of Arab origin with an Islamic culture, who have inhabited the island for over 800 years. To preserve their traditions and transmit their knowledge to future generations, they created their own special paper. This skin like, elastic paper enchanted the artist. He says: "The encounter with this paper was like love at first sight. It generated in me a desire to work with it. To me, the "Papier Antaimoro" is a live element that offers itself to be worked on by hand. By handling this material I experience the infinite possibilities it offers, and this inspires me always towards new creations.
That the paper is primarily valued by tourists today is a great desecration. The divine power of knowledge and history of the tribe have been blasphemed by clever marketers. Gustavo da Linã' seeks to revive the power ingrained in the paper and to draw attention to its intrinsic value. This paper is part of the Antaimoro identity, but has been lost over time. The artist is struggling to discover some of this identity, to recover it and to renew it artistically. The paper is also a carrier of history and of valuable stories. Along with the enthusiasm that a creative artist such as Gustavo da Linã has for the future is a great respect for tradition. For Gustavo, this means searching for the past in the present. This is not an end in itself for the Antaimoro paper, since its past is not isolated, but must be documented as intimately interwoven with the living present. So the delicate exploration of the paper's surface continues, the painting of the natural colors and earth tones, as well as the unusual themes and the world of meanings, with his dramatic investigative and silent spiritual revival.
Gustavo da Linã comes from the frontier, he is experienced with borders, therefore he is a person that crosses borders. His thinking, through his travels around the world, is universal. The worldly images and ideas of his paintings speak to his cosmopolitan free spirit. The works of Gustavo da Linã move away from the eyes and lead to the interior. Perhaps, now more than ever, we need such paintings. Only those that fear will depart empty. But those that seek to accept his art, will be rewarded with new opportunities for contemplation and the possibility of meditation and a wider perspective.
Prof. Dr. Frank Gunter Zehnder, 1992