Long live the naivety!

Despite their unexpected topicality and despite the fact that all the magazines, museums, art fairs and private collections devoted to their cause, the Naive art is still considered as a typical byproduct of modernity. In general art historical treatises it is given the status of a folk marginal clinging to a charming and fresh, but also amateur, dubious and folksy kitsch character. It’s just the art of circus athletes (Camille Bombois), the cleaning ladies (Séraphine Louis) or of customs officials (Henri Rousseau). Similarly, the art from Oceania, Asia and Africa, it is mainly at the turn of the 19th 20 Century considered relevant if they – unintentionally – enriched the developments of the European avant-garde. The supposedly egalitarian and multi-cultural wave of postmodernism (which by the way could not emerge from the state of a pious desire itself) has changed little to this fact : Still the ratio of the so-called high art to the so-called naive art remains dominated colonial. It is the relationship between a supposedly more advanced form of culture to a supposedly backward.

Can it be said in such premises that the art of Elis Secundo belongs to the long tradition of naive art? Does this term, due to its atavism, not as a denigration, a mockery or even ostracism ? It may be. But we want to use us for a rehabilitation of naivety. And for an art that, apart from the latest theories and fashionable paradigms, away from the attitudes of the art scene and the prevailing good sound one justified. Elis Secundo creates for some years works that do not care about trends and trends. It is an art that is not relevant to the system, but individually, self-sufficient and timeless acts.

Particularly strong nature experiences are among the most important characteristics for Secundo. And these experiences have taken place in areas that we consider Europeans usually considered exotic. In a longer stay in the Amazon jungle or repeated trips to Hawaii and the islands Nordpolynesiens the Brazilian-born artist has had the opportunity more than once to experience incredibly beautiful and wild parts of the world. The warm sea, the burning sun, a lush, extremely fertile vegetation and proximity to free animals have left a lasting impression and Secundo made a “different person” – as she says. From these explorations of the earthly paradise she has won an intimate relationship to the elements, a deep, intuitive and therefore genuine understanding of natural processes and the ability to amaze and to rejoice at the beauty of this world. They are not necessarily the soft skills that are usually encountered in the sophisticated milieu of the art world – but there are essential and universal insights that, although they will be disqualified from the alienated modern life, are among the fundamental experiences of a person.

The ” alienated modern life ” – not for nothing that we do here use a rhetoric that is likely to remember the historical critique of modernity. The Art of Elis Secundo, in their rough naivety and direct clarity, actually reminiscent of some Expressionists, which, like all other heirs of the reform movements of the late 19th Century, the rationalistic and technologically oriented developments of their time either skeptical or hostile to survive. The longing for the lost Eden, and after a radical alternative to modern life far away from any civilization vices brought artists such as Kirchner, Schmidt- Rottluff and Muehl (or before them the great model Gauguin) on the trail of semi-natural and “authentic” peoples and cultures. That this wild influence from the overseas the face of the avant-garde art has changed fundamentally in Europe, yes here must not be proved.

It is in this match to eskapischen setting of the Expressionists, we see an interesting connection to the work of Elis Secundo. At first glance, and on a purely formal level, the works of the young artist are closely related to the experiments of Kirchner and Co. Especially originally created in the last few years, Woodblock prints, those crude and archaic technology, the preferred medium of duplication of the German Expressionists was, creates a more than evident amalgamation for generation of German avant-garde. Here one finds a similar abruptness as in Kirchner leaves; Secundos works on paper have the same authenticity and suddenness, the Europeans have sought in the so-called primitive art. But beyond these superficial comparisons addition, we also recognize an amazingly deep parallelism to the ” philosophy of life ” of the Expressionists, as we have sketched it up quickly. The same desire for exotic foreign cultures and horizons can be seen in Secundos printing. Their topics range from idyllic scenes with Figure (s) in nature to abstract ornamental leaves, which partly remember the silhouettes of Matisse. References to the Polynesian mythology, in the form of Tikis or representations of gods, appear well and extend the iconographic field.

The accents shift markedly in their sculptural works. The octopus series is one of the most recent works of Secundo. It is man-high, cone-shaped and colored growths that are provided free base to the ground. As the title suggests, the organic forms refer to the tentacles of octopus that could Secundo observe during their dives in southern waters often. Fascinated by the soft and elegant dance-like movements of the animals, they created ten sculptures that unfold her charm both in the White Cube as well as outdoors. Lascivious they swing in the air and animate the space in a peculiar way. Although your curves evoke the extremities of squid, but can also be interpreted as algae or even as flames. As for Printmaking series are based these abstract and cheerful -looking shapes on direct experiences of the marine artist. So they are the result of the South Seas experiences and condense beyond a way of life that can be considered as pure and unbiased joy of life.

But would this work nothing more than large, decontextualized replicas, there would be little reason to talk about it and write. The attraction here is the double alienation. For both the materiality of the sculptures – a lavishly appliqued faux leather – and their color – bright red, anthracite or black with red spots – create an amazing distancing the actual object. After the artistic process of transformation certainly is not much of an octopus left. Secundo has reduced the anatomical reality of the animal on the essentials and the texture of the elongated arms transformed so that the interpretation of field opens up to other possibilities. The tentacles are suddenly woman legs that are hidden by flashy or fashionable stockings. The Leathery the surface creates a closeness to the clothing and the human body and can move the animal reference in more remote. Suddenly the prancing cones look very feminine and radiate a strong sensuality.

It is this carefree sensuality, this playful relaxation, combined with a childish and intuitive awareness of flora and fauna that makes the art of Elis Secundo. An art that proves that there is absolutely no reason to load the term ” naive art” with a pejorative connotation or be seen as a result of a long past development. Long live the naivety !

Dr.Emmanuel Mir
Professor of History of Art