Contemporary Counterpoint

Janaina Tschäpe

Counterpoint 5

From October 21st, 2020 to March 01st, 2021 -
Musée de l'Orangerie
Map & itinerary
Janaina Tschäpe
Blood, Sea
© Janaina Tschäpe
Janaina Tschäpe’s project is none other than that announced by Claude Monet in 1909: “My only desire is an intimate infusion with nature, and the only fate I wish, in keeping with Goethe’s precept, is to have worked and lived in harmony with her laws.” The work of the Brazilian artist - videography, drawing, performance, painting - takes its inspiration from observations of nature, its elusiveness and its metamorphoses.

“For me, painting means feeling something close up, being in the present physically, body and soul. I could never explain this intimate dialogue with the canvas to anyone. My painting does not come from images. It emerges from my observations, which might just as well come from observations of nature as from my imagination; in my view the two go hand in hand.”

In a strange and dreamlike manner, Janaina Tschäpe’s video Blood, Sea – the title is borrowed from Italo Calvino – immerses the viewer in an organic, colorful universe, freely asserting her sense of belonging to Brazilian culture.
For the Musée de l’Orangerie, Janaina Tschäpe paints and draws, thinking of Monet by his pond at Giverny when the old master was reinventing, beyond the myth of plein air painting, the happiness he felt in filling notebooks with quickly sketched observations. This language is not dissimilar to the language which, in 2018, shed light on the drawings affixed to some of her paintings:

“This comes from my desire to stay a little longer with my painting when most of the work is done. I often feel a desire to continue touching up the painting a little more, with pencil for example, to go over its colorful skin like a caress, not only with large brushstrokes, but rather with small, considered signs, with hesitation, to feel the nearness of the canvas with my hand or even with my nose. It is only afterwards that I can see what kind of signs this produces, to my great surprise.”

“The element of Monet’s water lily paintings that has always fascinated me the most are the abstract gestures that underlie the figures. He had such a distinctive and expressive way to depict landscapes that the essence of the paintings is very clearly Monet’s own interpretation of what he was seeing, translated through his gestures. The way Monet organizes these gestures to produce the overall image is for me a very interesting aspect of his work. It’s for this same reason that I am so intrigued by his drawings, because they represent the raw forms of these gestural marks, revealing the underlying composition and emotional drive without being obscured by the overall composition. Interestingly, Monet made an active effort to conceal the fact that he worked from sketches so as not to harm his reputation as the master of plein air painting. But in the same way they have impacted me, Monet’s abstract gestures and the intense energy that underscore his paintings and, particularly, his drawings, were rich sources of inspiration for Abstract Expressionist painters in the mid-twentieth century. It’s this story that compelled me to produce drawings on canvas that would attest to the drawing as the final work while showing the raw gestures behind my paintings.  

To be specific, my gestures when making works on canvas are in constant flux with my emotions and internal state, factors which are out of my conscious control. Such turbulent influences belong to the complex universe of power that underlies my work, reminding me that any outcome, both in art and more generally, is necessarily a result of elaborate interactions of unfathomable scale. In fact, it was the same process that I noticed when filming Blood, Sea (2004), but this time with a different medium – water. The film itself is a composition reminiscent of my drawings, the colors, strings, and balloons of the costumes functioning like pencil and watercolor marks. Because it was set in a natural spring, the active swirling of the water mediated the movement of the models in their tentacular costumes to produce an unexpected outcome that was simultaneously organic and choreographed. In a way, nature was working to continue the gestural brushstrokes initiated by the models in a manner that was out of my control, paralleling the influence of emotional state and subconscious on my drawings.”

Janaina Tschäpe

With the generous support of American Friends of the Musée d’Orsay

The exhibition is now over.

See the whole program