São Paulo, 2010
Fernando Vilela derives his poetic from his transit between the various plastic languages, but does not view that transit in a merely thematic or metaphoric way. The evolution of his art has shown that his ability to work separately with wood cut, photography, sculpture, illustration and painting can yield some interesting hybrids so long as the due translations of means and scales are observed. Fernando is an artist who has developed his own sensibility through engraving, an artisanal and delicate medium, but who also nurtures a great fascination for the impure brutality of the urban scene. This is where he sources his ambitious artistic research, intent on constructing, stone by stone, bridges between artisanal affect and the impersonality of mechanical reproduction, between artistic subjectivity and the anonymity of urban life, or even between the delicate veins in a piece of wood, suggesting porosity and profundity, and the flat, impenetrable surface of a blind wall.
The artist had already tested this passage by constructing large foldable sculptural engravings, as if they were “livros-bicho" [ beast-books] (in reference to Lygia Clark’s famous work). Visible in this is an effort to remove engraving from the domestic scale, assimilating the spatial vocation of post-minimalist art by including the gallery space and body of the viewer within the work’s cycle of meanings. But if there the work was objectual, here his large woodcuts leap unexpectedly from the walls as black-painted beams invading the environment, blurring the distinction between plane and space. As the engraving's tridimensional extension in the exhibition hall, these beams can also be seen as pre-existing templates for them. .
And as it is a matter of finding a hybrid form, Vilela gets it right by fusing all these techniques upon a single support. Photographically capturing the dizzying presence of enormous urban masses (overpasses, bridges, blank walls), the artist prints these images in large formats on Japanese paper and engraves black surfaces onto them, creating areas of superimposition in which the relationships between opacity and transparence reveals itself, paradoxically, as something highly delicate. Taken together, the eye that hopes to grasp the vertigo and acceleration of the city through unstable planes is drowned out by dark but transparent masses that lend slowness and depth to the scenes, spatializing them at the same time as they arrest their movement. In the symbolic juncture between engraving and photography, a “third margin” of the city insinuates.