Marcela Gontijo’s work not only uses the city as a theme, but it’s also traversed by it. Her work highlights and explores the speed, transience and diversity which are part of a great metropolis. This exhibition’s works – entitled New Territories – were made in Hong Kong, a cosmopolitan city which in recent decades has been taken over by high-rises, multinational companies, large offices, and by the modernization of its metropolitan area and expansion of public services, but also by strong real estate speculation, especially in sparsely populated areas which were in need of the State. In short, a similar situation (with due particularities and natural, cultural and economic characteristics) to the one Rio de Janeiro is going through.
This symptom of a city in transformation, traversed by new geographic layouts, opportunities for cultural exchange, colors, shapes, that is to say a whirlwind of information and setbacks result in Gontijo’s maps and paintings. I say they are paintings because they grow out of the flat surface and, for this reason, connect to blueprints. It is as if through them we can perceive the design and the scale of new neighborhoods, the layout of urban areas, but also a kind of image and sound of the city. The artist uses cutouts from newspapers and magazines which, glued together or overlapped and then covered by a layer of paint, reveal a cacophony and visual disturbance typical of a convulsing city, growing, expanding, and activating all the components that make it a metropolis. A new aspect brought by Gontijo is the application of paint: it is applied to a plastic surface, it peels off from this surface and it gains autonomy and volume. Finally, it's glued onto the canvas or wood boards which she uses as media. This effect brings a sense of conjunction to all the rest of her work, because when we get in touch with it we notice its illusory aspect: it expands in space, since the agglomeration and overlapping of utilized processes by the artist make the works grow, inflate, and take on volume and density. They want to take the space such as the metropolis’ which have their frontiers reinvented every day.
This combination of city shapes, noises and differences gets an even more convincing reading of its heterogeneity when we interpret monochromatic and adhesive tapes as space activators. The cutouts and collages, however, remind me of the walls of the cities, covered in graffiti and often erasures and poster residue, or the overlapping and accumulation of them in the urban space. All these images that appear in the artist's pieces work as frontiers of this fast-paced and multifaceted space that is the city. In some works, the layout composed of tape reminds us of the structure of the Metro System map or of streets and avenues being crossed, or else building facades, which intensifies the degree of chaos and the intense rhythm of the city.
The set of collages, cutouts, adhesive tape and paint highlights the complex fabric of a city. There is the diversity of disturbances, languages, approaches, strangeness, conflicts, cultures, sounds that generate clashes and differences between them, and this is the very reason that makes the city active and vibrant.
In this series of works, the revealed images are readings and circumstances of a frenetic speed of time and of men’s actions. In the face of these works, we are able to produce a pause, a break, and watch and attentively speculate on the different signs that confront us. There are the constant media bombardments, the compulsion, the benefits of progress, but also the rampant acceleration of the cities, which can result in irreversible social and economic differences. I like to think these works represent a microcosm of our times and in particular the cities’ uncontrolled movement. This feeling of dispersal, lack of control at times, and expansion of the cities is reflected in the artist’s works by the fact that our gaze misses a point of reference. It’s brought to simultaneously wander through a multitude of areas, without being tied to a center.
Her works are influenced not only by the transitory and accelerated rhythm of the cities, but also by what makes them singular. There are cutouts of buildings and landmarks, and the tapes that identify the urban limits, but there’s another layer beyond this. Without at all disqualifying the work, much on the contrary, there’s a visual feature of a “kludge” procedure that runs throughout her production. We can see this in some of the photo records that make up the pieces, because they highlight both cultural and improvised practices (such as the scaffold made with bamboo and registered by the artist) at the same time. And the kludge also ends up being part of the composition of the work, because the accumulation, the layout and the consistent dialogue between the different materials employed by the artist express this fact, the improvisation, which I think is the distinctive and particular cultural trace that each city builds for itself.
I now conclude by drawing attention to a characteristic that integrates Gontijo’s work with city behavior even more: it is unstable, expansive, it leads us to imagine its aesthetic continuity beyond the limits of the frame, because it invites our imagination to see that the work is “making itself” at all times.