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Filipe Figueira: Painting with Eyes Closed

Review by Kristen Scholfield-Sweet

Passing the Test

Tests in art school are rarely what we imagine.  In Painting with Eyes Closed, the current exhibition at the Old Schoolhouse art gallery, Filipe Figueria has taken up the challenge of this test: a painting should be satisfying at a distance of both 12 inches and 12 feet.  So, what does it mean to be “satisfying?”

At the greater distance, Filpe’s surfaces fill our awareness with pattern recognition: rocks on the shore, clouds rising against a dark sky, a wind-sculpted tree. Our brains look for what we know.  From a distance we want to see a meaningful assemblage of information.  At a closer distance we want the surface to be sensually satisfying.  We want to feel as well as see the artist’s command of his medium.

Choose a painting at a distance and notice how your thoughts categorize the flat surfaces of colour and shape into what is familiar.  Walk slowly toward the painting until the familiar becomes unfamiliar, until a new visual language of texture, contrast, and rhythm emerges.

Filipe’s works also take up this challenge:  a two­-dimensional image has the capacity for creating spatial illusion.  Our bodies are receptors; texture registers visually, scale determines our physical approach, images produce adrenaline.  We are physically able to enter an illusion.  Choose a painting and walk slowly toward it.  Pause frequently to notice how its visual information registers in your body.

Filipe’s paintings respond to the challenge of this test: meaning does not exist in the singular.  Our minds build bridges of understanding using colour, orientation, contrast, shape.  Knowledge we share gives meaning to what we know.  Find examples in paintings of a bold element that seems to advance toward you, while lighter elements in the painting seem to recede.  This atmospheric perspective is something we all experience when we look into a distance of pale blue mountains.  We share this visual knowledge, and we move across this bridge to shared meaning.

Attend Filipe’s talk at the gallery, about how he paints with “eyes closed” on Friday the 28th at 7 pm, then enjoy a second look at the show on Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 6 pm.  I think you will agree that Filipe’s art is passing the test at many levels. 


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