1968. Espirito Santo, Brazil, lives and works in Cologne
José Gomes a defines the content of [his] work […] on the landscape, human action in nature
and the paradox between human dependence on nature and their destructive actions.
Starting from these premises, nature can only exist as a blurry indistinct element, the result
of this reality. José Gomes was born in 1968 in Espírito Santo in Brazil and now lives in
Cologne, where he exhibits since 2002 . Art professor at the Federal University of Espírito
Santo from 1996 to 2000 and having worked with the Museu de Arte of the city, personal
exhibitions were dedicated to him in Venice, Berlin and Dusseldorf. In 2021, a monograph
dedicated to his work, “Over the Treetops” was published in parallel to his first participation at
the Havana Biennial. Today, for sobering gallery, he presents exclusive drawings as well as
compositions from his “Brincadeiras” series – to be translated as “games” or “jokes” – where
impressions, variations and relationships to abstraction are confronted. “In Brincadeiras,
everything I work on comes together on different levels” he explained in “Over the Treetops”,
with his works to be understood as an exploration of nature as a motif and a search for the
motifs of nature. To this end, José Gomes links photography and drawing, more specifically
aerial cartographic views linked to geometric shapes drawn with pencil. He then operates a
total association between elements derived from wood, through the raw material for support,
paper for his photographic prints and graphite for his drawings. The wood itself is to be
interpreted as the capital element of his work : this material acts as a memorial element, a
direct reminder of pernambuco – also known as “Brazilian wood” – which gave the country its
name. Now listed as endangered, it was one of the greatest exports of the Portuguese during
the colonial period. Its scarcity is above all one of the most important manifestations of
agricultural deforestation in the country, the sign of the end of symbiosis between man and
the forest. The lost Arcadia that is Brazil is thus erased, kept only as a form recomposed by
abstraction. The use of pencils of different hardnesses imply the very chthonic force of black,
the color of mourning nature, going up in smoke. Graphite itself, a crystalline form of carbon
obtained by combustion, refers to this mineral and telluric earth. To persist in this same
critical process, José Gomes uses documentary photos archiving the destruction of the
Amazon. These aerial photographs flatten and make the forest and its valleys geometric
elements : Gomes particularly likes “playing with concepts, playing with facts”.

Outside our knowledge, these symmetrical trees may already have been destroyed by fire or
monoculture. «I am interested in this element of the unique, when a variation of one and the
same pattern iscreated during an individual transfer of a technologically produced image»
explains José Gomes, as a disciple of the examination developed in 1935 by Walter Benjamin
for whom “in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own
particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced.” Part of Gomes’ production is also
intended to be modular, in particular “Brincadeiras °13″. He allows a personal arrangement for
the viewer, engaging and encouraging him to change : if one of his polyptychs is
fundamentally altered in the reading of its composition, it does not lose its plastic force. The
drawn patterns evoke pictograms, such as indigenous or African body paintings. His
associations between photography and drawing transcend pure graphics, through layouts
where decoration develop a ymbolic value as well as an aesthetic one. The question of the
heritage of extra-European artistic forms in Brazil is thus integrated into the artistic corpus
of José Gomes. The foreign art object is often understood as a mystified and exotic creation
without taking into account its original use, while Gomes diverts this distorted process by
avoiding the use of formal cult symbols. The modest or fearful silences of Brazilian history are
therefore expressed by a mathematically regulated undertone. The work of José Gomes, in the
footsteps of Eco-Art artists, merges aesthetics and information. Through a tacit contestation
in order to promote a societal and political awareness of current ecological issues, he awakens
the involvement of the collective. Research’s advances in the field of environmental sciences
are to be understood in parallel as having allowed art as a new form of mediation, as an
encouragement to the public to rectify and challenge behavior. Through his « jokes” and his
“games”, the artist then reminds us that to be commanded, nature must be obeyed.

Luas Gonzalez Poggi