Fernando Leite is on display at Paço Imperial, in downtown Rio de Janeiro, with his individual exhibition, Former Optician. The show is curated by Paulo Herkenhoff and features 54 works divided into four series of works.
In interview for arte!brasileiros, the artist points out that, while Herkenhoff perceives a dialogue between the works, due to the common issues that involve the relationship between art and nature, Leite sees the sets as “different programs, which can, each obeying or disobeying the criteria I created, lead me to very specific paths”.
It was in 2007 that Leite started taking photographs to meet the demands of his work as a graphic designer. “Image editing in photoshop, which I started doing for art books, introduced me to photography as a field of action, of interference, in which I could edit, manipulate, make cuts, change perspectives, change colors, in short , a vast field of visual construction”, he explains.
In 2014, he worked with Paulo Herkenhoff on an exhibition at the Museu de Arte do Rio (MAR) on the Pororoca collection, of art from the Amazon. The intense work resulted in an exhibition and a 500-page book. Throughout the process, Leite, who was responsible for the graphic design, immersed himself in works by artists, photographers, writers and researchers who were related to a natural territory. “The narrative of Milton Hatoum's characters crossing stretches of river to go from one neighborhood to another; the photographs of Luiz Braga and Octavio Cardoso on the banks of rivers; Luciana Magno's performances in the middle of the forest; like so many other works, it made me ask myself: 'and your natural territory?', 'and your forest?', 'your river?'. My answer was to look at the Atlantic Forest, or what was left of it, which was my surroundings. the first painting see you seems to be an answer to that question, and that led me to undertake more objectively the photographic tours of the Tijuca Forest”.
The black and white images that the Frenchman Marcel Gautherot (1910-1996) recorded of the flooded areas of the Amazon Forest in the 1940s served as a reference for the series Igapós (2017-2023). In this one, it was necessary for the artist to exercise his imagination to invent and relate the colors that make up the project. “I use photography as a guide, as a path that the eye has already traveled before, and that makes me feel free to work with the relationships between the stains, the areas of color, the fatty substances in the paint”.
Milk does not see the third nucleus, Mira (2020), as a series, but as a single work, made with more than 20 paintings produced in oil on wood during the more restricted period of the covid-19 pandemic, in 2020. In this work, the sky is the protagonist, the from records created at different times.
“Our recent history involves two tragic components, the pandemic and Bolsonarism. Difficult to escape some disorganization. I started treatment with cannabidiol (CBD) about two years ago, to treat insomnia, anxiety and depression. The result was surprising, and the course was extremely productive”, he reveals. From that experience, Fernando Leite went after images of flowers of Cannabis and created the fourth series that will be part of the show between 2022 and 2023. “I think that fundamentally my relationship with cannabis is poetic and affective. But I can't help noticing that the object of my interest seems to be a delicate yet potent dressing. Powerful in psychic, pathological and also political wounds. Cannabis does not support violence, stupidity and stupidity.”
Fernando Leite and Paulo Herkenhoff have been working together since 2008. Leite was the graphic designer of several projects which Herkenhoff was the author. According to the artist, between books and exhibitions, the duo shares more than 40 major projects in their curriculum. “I know what the artist-curator dialogue is capable of producing, I've seen the 'miracles' that the critical clash can produce to address the problems of a work or even to produce new questions. So I am very grateful to be able to count on this dialogue that is being strengthened at this moment. The text [of Paulo Herkenhoff] magnetizes the painting of meanings, producing a vertiginous semantic leap. I believe that based on this generous theoretical approach, I now need to create a meaningful answer or pose a new question”, he concludes.