What makes an image appealing? Not all of them are,
of course, and only the truly appealing ones result from a
particular sort of know-how: the ability to identify in the
surrounding space the precise framing, the reduction of the real
to its most essential, thereby teaching us to see what we do not
see. In light of the created image, we are then awestruck by the
pleasure of a revelation.This is precisely what takes place when
we page through this book, Meanwhile, with photographs
by Clovis Ferreira França.
The first image, a stick planted in the sand of the Lençóis
Maranhenses, for lack of spatial references, recalls a giant totem
standing in the desert – whoever has seen the sculpture by
Richard Serra in the Qatar desert will understand the comparison.
Here we are already surrounded by a melody, something like a
sea siren’s song, that leads us hypnotized, page by page, crossing
an immense universe that our eyes, distracted by the opacity of
everyday life, had never before seen.
What we have here, in fact, are the appealing images. Common
scenes – like walking through a room, going down stairs,
opening a door and going out into the backyard, in short,
movements that are repeated in our day-to-day life without
stirring great emotions – are reinvented and become luminous
by the power of the artist’s transfiguring gaze.
There is a wide range of scenes. Sophisticated, like the room of
a petit château with refined furniture, or simple, like clothes hung
out to dry in a backyard. Or even both at the same time, that is,
images that are sophisticated in their simplicity. In the continuous
path of the photographer’s attentive eye, nothing goes unnoticed.
Moving through interior spaces, the magic of the photographer’s
alchemy makes the most diverse situations precious: an angular
railing topped by two finely turned pawns; a sideways glance
into a library infused by sunlight streaming in past a window
shutter; the stairway with worn steps leading to the door of
a century-old house; the chairs, the painting on the wall, the
amber glass vase resting on a tablecloth with its folds at
the corner of an art deco table.
There are also elements that could be simple details, but which
are really focal points that reverberate in space and attract our
gaze: the key in the lock attached to a thick string; the piece of
iron railing that suggests a question mark; the Band-Aid covering
a hole in the fine fabric of a Louis XVI armchair; the stylized
drawing of a lily on the checkered floor of a house; the reflections
in the mirror and in the glass of a bedroom prayer niche.
Leaving the interior spaces, going out into the light of day and
revealing his training as an architect, the author surprises us with
a series of small stairways leading up to the doors of houses at
the edge of the road, all the same in their utility, but different in
their solutions for creating steps. And, then, in due course, it is
time to reveal the visual artist who lives in the author.They are
images that show us the geometry of the most diverse scenarios
and situations: bands painted on the asphalt; colored profiles of
stacked boards; the rustic counter of a beach vendor’s stand; the
worn compass rose that decorates the metallic sign of a fun
park; the surprising appearance of a Volpi painted on the side
of a modest house in a small city in the Northeast.
Besides the reading of each photograph individually, pairs of
images arranged side-by-side lead us to new reflections, due to
the harmony or clashing created. Still others, on double pages,
punctuate and strengthen the narrative – as when we come
upon a gray maritime scene or the nearly perfect symmetry of
an elegant living room illuminated by the outside light filtering
through the half-open doors.
Without any technological support able to give supposedly
contemporary airs to his work, accompanied only by a solitary
camera or cell phone turned into a block of notes, Clovis
teaches us that the appealing images, those that reinvent “life
as it is,” which “put something that is not there, into what is
there,” depend on the essential qualities: the passion of the gaze
combined with a matchless ability for knowing how to see.