San Francisco, CA- The subjects of Brazilian artist Marta Penter’s acutely observed, intimate paintings occupy social space—cafes, sidewalks, subway stations—while simultaneously inhabiting private, unique inner worlds. For “Entre Silêncios,” her latest series, recently exhibited at Brazil’s Museum of Contemporary Art of Rio Grande do Sul, she visited London, where she photographed the multitudes in the streets, intuitively seeking out moments of silence. “What do I shoot?” she writes. “Silence yourself. Or, in other words, in the midst of all the turmoil lies silence. That is what I encounter, that is what I photograph, that is what I paint. Because people may be there, all of them occupying the same place, but each one of them is within his or her own private and silent universe.”
Penter draws from her background in psychology to meticulously catalogue the countless social cues of dress, hairstyle, posture, and facial expression that allow us to negotiate the realm of others while carving out space for our own experience. On one hand, her work suggests a dream-like reality, with a palette approaching monochrome, figures sometimes floating over pure white backgrounds, and concentrated infusions of sapphire blue, which she introduced to her work after sketching one day in a park with a blue ballpoint pen. Yet her expert realism, the virtuosity with which she renders the human body in all its attitudes, gives her paintings the authority and immediacy of photographs.
As she works, Penter identifies so closely with her subjects as to become one with them: “Whenever I represent a knitted blouse, it feels as if the brushes are the knitting needles themselves; it is as if I am knitting, stitch by stitch, such fabric.” Explaining her preference for large-scale canvases, she cites her desire to fully immerse the viewer in each painting—to not only depict intimacy in a literal sense, but to recreate its energy. As art critic and professor Paula Ramos has written, “It is the human that touches and instigates her; the human is the essence of [Penter’s] thinking and work.”
Born in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1957, Penter was involved in art from an early age and studied psychology before becoming an artist. She has exhibited at numerous museums, galleries, and art fairs both in Brazil and internationally, including the Galeria de Arte Mosaico, Porto Alegre; Galeria Joao Lagoa, Portugal; and IV Bienal de Aquarela de Vina Del Mar, Chile.