Violence and passion

Excerpt from Violence and Passion: A Romantic-Expressionistic streak in Brazilian contemporary art

Ligia Canongia


(…)The fact that Cabelo appropriated an image by William Blake (The Elder of the Days, 1794) in one of his early works, could already constitute an indication of his connection with the Romantic aesthetics. Blake was considered a madman, nicknamed ‘Mad Blake’,
and was viewed a visionary artist whose images and writings bore a prophetic tone. The Elder of the Days depicts the creation of a geometer god holding a pair of drawing compasses inside a circle of light, and the compasses seem to symbolize the will of reason in ruling sensitive reality. But Blake creates a terrible paradox in his image, for wile demonstrating the imperative of reason in the world, he places reason as the effect of the will, even more imperious, of a god, that is, of spirituality. This mixture of the spiritual and the sensitive, of the ideal and the experimental, of madness and rationality, constantly pervades Cabelo’s output. To Blake’s hallucinatory and religious ‘messages’ (he was also a poet), Cabelo (another artist-poet) opposes scattered words, incomplete syntaxes, a semantic kaleidoscope that, besides combining the world to visuality, unifies all the elements within the same hallucinatory polysemy. Animals’ skeletons, clothes, garbage plastic bags, aquariums, fire, newspaper photos, words – everything gets shuffled into existence’s fragile castle of cards in search of signification.

An iconoclast, opposed to hierarchies, multifaceted and libertarian, Cabelo is doubtlessly affiliated to this eternal Romantic syndrome which he surely apprehends from very remote European examples, but also from his more recent Brazilian peers, such as Oiticica and Barrio. It is still the poetics of the formless ( that Oiticica had already envisaged in some of his ‘bolides’ and ‘parangoles’ [wearable capes]), the anarchy of materials (that Barrio instated with the utmost radicality), and the simultaneous sense of criticism and transcendence (that Blake configured as a prophet) that conducts Cabelo´s objects and performances. And he seems to conduct, with his unrestrained lyricism and his ‘compasses’ the great light of Blake’s circle. which is no longer the 18th century Enlightenment glare, for he is now aware of the mists that came to stay.