Deconstructing the brush stroke

Last chance to see Clarissa Cestari’s solo exhibition.

With a successful first solo show in London, the Brazilian artist Clarissa Cestari, who lived in many places around the world, spoke to Jungle about how she ended up in Europe. She also told us a little bit about her monochromatic work and its strong connection with the paint itself.

Would you tell us a little bit about your personal development as an artist– how did you come to leave Boa Vista to come to Europe, and where else have you lived besides Barcelona and Berlin?

Where I come from and how I got to where I am is a very long story. I left Boa Vista when I was only 5 months old and moved across Brazil quite a few times, so I can’t really say I’m from there. The two cities I spent most of my time in Brazil, were São Luis, an island on the north-east coast, where I spent most of my childhood, and Porto Alegre, on the extreme south, where I spent most of my teens and where my family comes from. I’m also 4th generation of Italian immigrants, and for Italians, that’s still Italian, hence my Italian citizenship.

I’ve always been interested in art, mostly encouraged by my parents, but it only came into practise when I went on an exchange programme to the US (Salt Lake City, Utah) on my last year of high school and could take up art classes. Back in Brazil, I started my BA Fine Art at the UFGRS in Porto Alegre, where I studied for two years, then decided to move to England. So, in February 1997, I left Brazil permanently, studied my BA (hons) Fine Art Painting at Birmingham City University, spent another year in London, than moved to Barcelona, where I stayed for 8 years, and is actually the place I sort of call “home”.

During this time, and amongst many things, I set up and ran a collective art studio (Caminal 2002-2005). In 2006, I had a break from Europe, spending that whole year producing for my first solo exhibition (and maybe, also identity searching), in Porto Alegre. I moved to Berlin last summer, just out of curiosity, and I’m not sure how long I’ll be staying.

Could you explain the exhibition in detail? What does it mean to you, as an artist, that it’s your first solo show in a London gallery?

Having my first solo show in London, needless saying, is the most important step in my career so far. It also brings a strange homely feeling, as my artistic formation is mostly English. Starting from the title of the exhibition, Marsschwarz und Titanweiss, it describes what my work is about: paint. The titles of my paintings are always the name of the paint I use (given by the manufacturer), and always in the language of the country where they were painted. This emphasises the importance I give to the material, but the language issue is just personal, as to give them an identity I don’t have myself: it is simply a record of where I was at the time they were made, and at the same time attributing them this nationality.

The black and whiteness is a culmination of the absurdity of my painting process. Slow and repetitive process of colour monochromes, but now without the seduction of colour. It has nothing to do with the fact that I’m in grim Berlin, and it never reflects any emotion. The choice of colour, or absence of it, is usually made by wanting to be acquainted with something (a colour) I don’t understand.

Finally, who are your artistic influences?

Lucio Fontana, Sigmar Polke and Gerard Richter.

13th Mar – 24th Apr
East Central Gallery
23 Bateman’s Row – EC2A 3HH • 020 7739 6649
Old Street

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