São Paulo

  Marina Saleme, The Sheltering Sky 1, 2015, lenticular photograph, 39 1/2 × 30 1/4".

Marina Saleme, The Sheltering Sky 1, 2015, lenticular photograph, 39 1/2 × 30 1/4".

Marina Saleme

  Marina Saleme, The Sheltering Sky 1, 2015, lenticular photograph, 39 1/2 × 30 1/4".

Brazilian artist Marina Saleme has been making art since the 1980s. Her most recent show, “O céu que nos protégé” (The Sheltering Sky), displayed a selection of nineteen wall-mounted artworks that thoughtfully probe the status of images in contemporary life, particularly their constructed status and impermanent nature. Saleme is known for her slow creative process that sometimes results in works made from layers of paint, photographs, and drawings. In this show—whose title refers to Bernardo Bertolucci’s film of 1990 rather than the 1949 Paul Bowles novel on which it was based—Saleme presented to an oneiric universe of images that seemed to alternate between revealing and concealing from the viewer all the elements that compose them.

At the entrance to the gallery, visitors were greeted by Céu com ganchos (Sky with Hooks), one of four large-scale oil paintings on display (all works 2015). The canvas shows a golden cloud painted over a red strip, which drips down from the top and holds hooklike red arabesques over an otherwise predominantly patchy yellow surface. In the main room, Purple Clouds (diptych), Céu (Sky), and Noite com nuvens (Night with Clouds) display similar pictorial constructions, with densely hued masses tensely encroaching on a main color area. Here layerings of paint create a complex surface that both hides and exposes the traces of the elements that comprise it. Ghostly shadows invoke an idea of painting as an art of building up images in layers—what is below may not be entirely visible but continues to be a part of the whole. This is also an image of how the mind works, concealing and revealing parts of our memories and visual experiences to form a provisional whole.

In Sábado I–VII, such color masses were painted over the same photographic image, printed on canvas, of a woman and a child in a park lined by trees, set under heavy cloud cover, with the shadow of a third person photographing them. In each piece, the painted interventions encroach on the photograph differently, but the figures are rarely painted over. It’s as if the mass could come stiflingly near to them but not quite close enough to engulf them. On the opposite wall, lenticular images of colored masses and the same photo shifted according to one’s vantage point, so that two versions of the same artwork were possible but never visible at the same time. Viewers posted videos and GIFs of their interactions with these changeable works on social media, spontaneously adding another layer of imagemaking to them. Playfully experimental in a gallery context, these works become even more so when reiterated through this impromptu remaking and dissemination—a reminder that what we see and experience at any given time is impermanent, its truth value transitory and intrinsically tied to a particular point of view. A similar idea is articulated in Real, sixty-three versions of the same photograph of a beach landscape with improvised goalposts, each uniquely marked with pictorial interventions in silver.

In this show, Saleme established a dialogue between repetition and variation as a framework in which to observe the changeable nature of perception, the impossibility of certainty, and the way these are inextricably tied to our individual points of view. As in Bertolucci’s classic movie, we may believe ourselves to be sheltered under the same sky as everyone else, but one person’s reality is never the same as another’s.

Camila Belchior