“Mountain Blanket” is the title of a new large painting by Janaina Tschäpe, which also gives the name to her fifth exhibition at Nichido Contemporary Art Gallery. The exhibition presents a group of works reflecting the diversity of her practice, which includes painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and film. All of her work, even when having an abstract appearance, refers to nature, from botany and sea life to the body, being this a human body or the body of different mythical and invented creatures. Lately, Janaina has also been investigating geometrical shapes and volumes which refer to gemstones, and which she piles in complex towers offering different points of view. One of these towers will be displayed in the centre of the space of the gallery, suggesting some kind of a natural formation. The sculpture is made from different units made of thin wood painted in blue hues piled up and remanding us structures of crystals. The shape is also vaguely anthropological, suggesting figures standing together
Process is a key word to understand Janaina´s work, where everything is in constant flux, her images depicting growth and change, being the result of a method defined by her vision. The painting, “Mountain Blanket”, (2015), has been done with oils, and its image suggest a mountain, a cliff or a wall made out of crystals. This geological and mental landscape grows against a background of what could be read as a pink sky. Earlier paintings by Janaina were inspired by the exuberance of vegetation in tropical jungles, and were full of curved lines and shapes. Now forms are squarish, often depicting transparency, while brushstrokes are still dynamic and fluid. These brushstrokes far from the expressionism of Pollock and de Kooning, are not improvised but used to build a particular kind of image where hazard substitutes subjectivity. Janaina has recently been making small canvases too, which have, in the context we have been describing, something of small jewels. Drawing, in any case, remains, in all these new paintings, large and small, central to the building up of images.
The show includes a video too, which was shot in Fiji during a trip funded by TBA21, the organization of Francesca von Habsburg. It is a work of mesmeric quality, where we follow a mass of what appears to be plastic debris, floating adrift in the sea like an iceberg. We see this mass moving thanks to a camera operating under water, sometimes showing what is in its surface too. The camera has also recorded the sound made by things moving. Perfectly, this soundtrack, which has an electronic feel, echoes somehow the sounds made by dolphins and whales. Thus, the film, besides celebrating the action of seeing and the ability of wonder in small things, suggests ecological concerns too. The floating mass has an organic shape, referring to jelly fish, seaweed, squid and octopi, while its colours are artificial, like those of industrial debris or rubbish left behind in our contaminated seas.
The French author René Daumal (1908-1944), associated with the Surrealist group, wrote un unfinished novel, published in 1952, and entitled “Mount Analogous”. This strange, esoteric and allegorical book has the appearance of a book of adventures, narrating the expedition by boat of a group of scientists, who travel in search of a mountain/island which does not exist, and where they expect to find, among other things, the peradam, a spherical and very hard stone, the father of diamonds, and which is only visible to those who are searching for it. This metaphysical journey matches the work of Janaina Tschäpe, visionary and not formalist, in her quest to make visible those things that are not. The hard labour involved in the long and costly process of obtaining gems, excavating the Earth first and then refining and cutting the stones, is also here a clear metaphor of artistic practice, transforming reality to something transparent and capable of allowing us to see within.