Paulo Nimer Pjota @ Maureen Paley, April 28 to May 29, 2016.


Paulo Nimer Pjota, exhibition view, ground floor, Maureen Paley, London, 2016.

©Paulo Nimer Pjota, courtesy Maureen Paley, London.

At certain times of the year in London, when the sun is shining at a certain angle, a brightly coloured wall might give off more reflected heat and light than is reasonable for this part of the world, or a taxi might surprise you with the warmth of its wake as it passes. At that moment you are transported by memory to cities where it is gloriously hot more often than not, if not always.

At Paulo Nimer Pjota’s show at Maureen Paley in London, I felt transported in just this way. If artworks often take on the aesthetic ingredients of their surroundings, whether intentionally or not, then it is hard to imagine these paintings having been done in anything but a hot climate. They breathe hot colour and swarm with casual, effortless marks. In some ways they are hardly straightforward paintings. Pjota himself admits that he is not really concerned with the idea of being labelled specifically a painter at all. And this refreshing nonchalance translates well into the finished artworks he creates.

The show, entitled Synthesis of Contradictory Ideas, and the Plurality of the Object as Image Part 2, consists of unstretched canvas and sheet metal pinned adjacent to each other like constructed paintings on the wall. Close by, on the floor beneath these paintings, are unglazed ceramic vessels and resin casts of bottles, a bust and some garlic. Some of the ceramic receptacles appear in more elaborate painted form, at roughly the same scale, in the paintings.


South landscape with gold and my memory about Northeast

acrylic, spray paint, brick pigment, pencil and pen on canvas and iron plate, with ceramic objects from Portugal, Bahia and São Paulo, 218 x 288 cm – 85 7/8 x 113 3/8 in, 2016.                                                          

©Paulo Nimer Pjota, courtesy Maureen Paley, London.

Pjota speaks of the legacies of colonialism and social and political issues in Brazil being key concerns for him when he approaches making his work. But the final effect is mercifully short on historical critique or explicit social commentary. These elements, in so far as they appear to any recognisable degree, take equal prominence amongst what initially appear to be incidental marks, scratches, doodles, text, fridge magnets and painted imagery. The juxtapositions; a smiley face next to a traditional hand-painted pot, or carved tribal statuary next to Darth Vader’s mask, might seem to suggest the emergence of a fully formed critique. The associations however, are left hovering in the abstracted space of the painted, or marked, surface.

The larger panels, like crudely put together mock-ups of the Golden Section, are reminiscent of high period Robert Rauschenberg from the late 50s. And further, the cumulative effect of the marks is of a Rauschenberg which has been finished off by Cy Twombly. However, the individual components and touches, and ultimately the whole, are very much Pjota’s, and are the result of his choices at every stage of the work. The steel plates, which form roughly one third of the larger panels, have been chosen for their existing history of marks, which are evident amongst Pjota’s additions. In fact, there is nothing slick or polished about this work. The hand-painted imagery, vases and masks predominantly, are painted in low grade acrylic. This deliberate choice of Pjota’s not to use high quality pigments is perhaps a way of levelling a field which contains both high and low cultural references. The main colours, blues, yellows and earthy browns, reflect the colours of houses in his native town of São Jose do Rio Preto in Brasil.



acrylic, spray paint, brick pigment, pencil and pen on canvas and iron plate, with ceramic objects, 200 x 255 cm – 78 3/4 x 100 3/8 in, 2016.

©Paulo Nimer Pjota, courtesy Maureen Paley, London.

Some of the titles, such as  ‘South landscape with gold and my memory about Northeast’ or ‘Between philosophy and crime, part 3’, hint at the amalgam of references and influences in the work. Social disfunction, tradition, the soft power of the west, the easy exploitation of that which comes to hand whether for good or for ill, are all ideas which are suggested in the disembodied images as they float in loose interrelationships on the surface of the canvas and steel. The shadow of present day crime, the richness of traditional arts and culture, or the numbing effect of pop culture all coexist on Pjota’s lusciously pigmented pictorial field in much the same way as they do in the real world, in the real Brazil.

Pjota holds back from making heavy-handed statements in his placement of imagery, and also resists overpopulating his surfaces. His marks and imagery are dispersed both carefully and without sacrificing spontaneity. A declared non-committal attitude to being labelled a painter is anything but a non-engagement in Pjota’s case. In the democracy of these works painting is one more tool at the artist’s disposal.


Author: Robbie O'Halloran

Artist and writer working in Madrid

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