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In the age of global boiling

   “The age of global warming is over, now we are in the age of global boiling. Climate change is here. And that’s just the beginning.”[1] UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ diagnosis could be considered alarmist, full of pessimism, far from concrete and real. However, the fact that July 2023 will be the hottest month in history is confirmed by the various events that have affected us, buried us or collapsed upon us—despite several warnings. In August 2019, the smoke from the Amazon fires blanketed the south-eastern region of Brazil at dusk. Around 17 million animals were killed in the terrifying fires of 2020 in the Pantanal. Recently, floods and fires in different parts of the world have reached record intensity, with an atypical storm in 2023 killing dozens of people on the northern coast of the state of São Paulo.

   Disco celeste (Celestial disk), by Felipe Góes, is part of this fearful context and advances in tune within a universe in which the elements of the pictorial are successively rearranged and progress in typical ramifications for the milieu: the catastrophic zeitgeist in a macro-historical context, in which global warming, climate change and deforestation make ecology a central discipline for human survival. On the other hand, micro-narratives, the small motions of everyday history and the archaeology of the sensible have never been so highly valued.

   If we look at the history of art, it is important to note that the closer the demise of painting seems to be, then like a phoenix, this language revives and, under a myriad of approaches, investigations and materialities, seems to undermine any fatalistic diagnosis. “(...) It is the question about the (still) possibility of painting that is at the beginning of the end, and it is this beginning of the end that has been our history, namely what we are accustomed to calling modernism,”[2] argues theorist Yve-Alain Bois. “Indeed, the whole enterprise of modernism, especially that of abstract painting, which can be taken as its emblem, would not have functioned without an apocalyptic myth.”[3]

   The pictorial configuration of Disco celeste still has a component that a priori may sound ambiguous, but it says a lot about the multifaceted production of art. The title of the solo show refers to the defining image of Pintura 441 (2023), which is the image of the Nebra Sky Disc, an archaeological artifact from the Bronze Age, around 1,600 B.C., found in Nebra, Germany, near Leipzig. Perhaps the most archaic depiction of the sky, it may also have been a type of calendar. And, at a glance, the pizza-sized object bears a resemblance to a primitive, playful, childish drawing.

   Góes’ chromatic, volumetric and palette work endows the whole piece with a violet-purple background, highlighting the astronomical elements of the gold piece which, at a glance, resembles a rudimentarily cheerful face. Something between a Smiley, the symbol of the acid house music genre, and a (overdone) emoji. The artist’s chromatics, which could be seen as something more akin to the dramatic and the romantic, therefore draw links with a hyperbanality, almost a remnant of today’s pulverized mass communication.

   In parallel, we also see a search for more vernacular sources, from other less agitated and more perennial times and periods—not surprisingly, in a more general sense, we see a greater emphasis on the rock art of places like Chauvet, in France (captured by the German Werner Herzog’s high-tech cameras in a 2010 documentary), and Serra da Capivara, in Piauí, for example, as well as an astrophysical curiosity, a gaze at the firmament that has magnetized man since ancient times and still generates enigmatic and open answers (forget the manifestations of flat-Earth and anti-scientific militancy and the fight against intellectuality, among other current scourges).

   In his particular research into the genre of landscape, Góes shows points of contact with previous phases and, in another sense, the selection for Disco celeste appears, if seen as a whole, to be a new moment in his production. For example, in the group show Fragmentos de um discurso pictórico (Fragments of a pictorial discourse) (Roberto Alban, Salvador, 2017), the canvas Pintura 311 (2017) already had an atmosphere close to a cataclysm. “If previously there was an atmosphere of an ‘evil’ near to eruption, today there are no more half-tones: the horror (of nature’s own rhythms, of man’s crimes against the environment, etc.) expels its traces of fury, like a volcano exploding and then melting and destroying everything that stands in its way,”[4] says the author of the exhibition catalog.

   Currently, in Disco celeste, the São Paulo artist seems to comment that we are immersed in the midst of this lava flowing continuously from different ducts, and yet the context seems frozen, a paralyzing lethargy. Something like a post-catastrophic panorama seen in a flash. The colors lighting up this tragedy are also connected to the previous 311 and also to 299 and 306, from the same year 2017, and today, in 2023, on the path to reconstruction, they can be seen in the selection of works shown in the exhibition in the canvases Painting 416 (2021) and Painting 430 (2022), for example.

   In his skillful handling of different scales, Góes, however, introduces reconditioned elements in order to stimulate our perspective on the present day. In Painting 431, Painting 433 and Painting 439, all from 2023, what unfolds in front of us has to do with a landscape whose vastness is cut off in the middle by a flow of something. The chromatics strategically create a locus full of ambiguity, through the use of tones between gray, blue and green—very little with pink and violet. Could such a downgrading indicate some kind of pacification or the search for something similar? We don’t know. And this uncertainty helps to make the artist’s body of work mobile, which opens up various possibilities in the green and yellow of canvases such as Pintura 414 (2021) and in the witticisms with the layers of memory, affective or collective, of the Nebra disk. Together with the other paintings, this opens up possibilities that are still very permeable and that don’t decree an exhaustive closure or eventual irrelevance of the universe of brushes, paints, surfaces, concepts and materialities.



Text by Mario Gioia

August 2023

Solo exhibition Disco Celeste held at Zipper Galeria, São Paulo, Brazil.


[1] BORDALLO, Emmanuelle. “Global boiling – July 2023 will be the hottest month in history, warns the UN”. O Globo, World section, July 28, 2023.

[2] BOIS, Yve-Alain Bois. Painting as Model. Cambridge, Mass., Mit Press, 1993.

[3] BOIS, Yve-Alain Bois. Painting as Model. Cambridge, Mass., Mit Press, 1993.

[4] ROBERTO ALBAN GALERIA. Fragmentos de um discurso pictórico, 2017. Salvador, Roberto Alban Galeria, 2017.

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