Fernando Barata - Nomadic roots

The appearance of photography has profoundly modified the pictorial representation of nature and man. During the XXth century, it is with a great freedom in their mutual borrowings, that painters and photographers have nourished each other and have enriched their sensitive and formal views. The reciprocal transfer of techniques was not however done without upheaval. If it allowed photography to impose itself as an art in its own right, one can wonder if it did not accompany at the same time a certain retreat of the pictorial while the implantation of the synthetic image and the video in the apprehension of the real and the symbolic was consolidated.  

The plastic reflection of the painter Barata is in this respect interesting, since his work, far from being subjected or neutralized by this technological acceleration, proposes a critical integration to the service of the invention of new forms for his art.  This is logical, since the transformation of the image has been one of the major concerns of his pictorial research for almost twenty years.  The triumph of the neo-figurative currents in Europe during the 1980s did not leave the Brazilian painter indifferent; but he knew how to privilege a "transvangardist" vein by cultivating a very luminous approach to color and by metaphorizing through symbols that are often abstract or very geometrical, the evocation of the sea -sand, stone, star, fish, boat, water...- and the memory of his native city, Rio de Janeiro.  

In this quest for the renewal of the image, Barata has chosen, for his latest works, to deliberately anchor himself in the technological upheavals of his time. Heavily influenced by the rapidity of technical changes, subjected to the pressure of time on his creation and to the incessant bombardment of images of all origins, the painter finds himself in a difficult dilemma. Today, his questioning and his choices on the meaning of the pictorial and on its opening -or its resistance- to the new technologies, form one of the major stakes of his identity as a creator. In this problematic which also has for Barata an existential dimension, not only the physical nature of creation is questioned, but also its philosophical dimension. 

Analysis and reflection, resistance, distance, integration. The tools and the stages are clear and mark out its course. His approach is to use the computer to create his image bank from his own paintings and drawings.  He has thus digitized all his production for twenty years and reworks his own images (without manipulating anything else), convinced that painting has no other way out than to integrate these new technologies and to transform itself. The computer then becomes for him an organ of mediation.  A tool, but not an end, because the result of his transformations of the image that he enlarges, shrinks, fragments, undoes and rebuilds, recolors etc..., will serve him to create new paintings.  Moreover, he confides that "the computer gives him ideas, has opened horizons, has expanded his creativity, and that it is not for him a question of substitution but of integration. This interest in technique is not new to him, since he was already painting on glass fragments and transferring the acrylic film onto the canvas.  He thus brings us back to this nagging question, highly devalued today, of the relationship between art and technique.

Looking at his latest works, one is struck by a greater synthesizing of forms, a purification of lines, and flat tints that are at once prominent and "transparent". If the technique leads him to a certain "simplification" of the image, it is to better confirm the perenniality which founds his relationship to reality.  But a paradox comes to mind: would the work of conception of the forms by the computer bring the artist to less images? With him, there is no doubt that the dimension of a greater abstraction joins what is basically the eternal game from the image, on the image and towards the image. In a repetition of which one cannot get tired. 

Christine Frérot, Paris, June 2000