Claudia De Grandi
Claudia De Grandi’s work is a distillation of meticulous study and controlled thought inspired by music and meditation. The canvases Claudia calls moving mediations are to her a private performance of art – acts of body and spirit. When she’s ready, Claudia invites people into her personal space to view her large paintings -active contemplations on abstraction and transparency are expressions of the air we breathe and the nature of transmission through space and time.
In another dimension to her work she also welcomes audiences to be right here, right now, to witness her art as an actual performance -ready to alter their states of mind to look and listen to ‘Visual Sounds’ which are improvisations by Claudia and electronic musician Joshua Tennent.
Claudia is a transnational artist concerned with how artists address identity and the modern mind. She grew up in São Paulo with a Brazilian mother and Italian father and has lived in Britain for over 20 years. Sao Paolo is also home to the largest Japanese diaspora in the world, since the first wave of immigration in 1908. It was inevitable that after studying the history of Japanese and Brazilian modernism Claudia would succumb to the spell of Japanese calligraphy and allow it to harness her flow and discipline her mind. “I find it fascinating and inspiring how Japanese monks have recorded poetry on paper and how it becomes a transmission of their experience,” says Claudia. “Those calligraphic characters are so meaningful, they have a language, and I am interested in building a language of my own.” She has been influenced by all things Japanese, from her early education in poetry, language and mark making.
Music, or ‘arte superior’ as Claudia describes it, is the basis for her art. She was classically trained at the piano at a São Paolo conservatoire where she first realised that music could be an abstraction. She carried these ideas with her when she studied fine art at University of Greenwich and gained a Masters in Transnational Art at the University of the Arts London,the latter, recognised as the main centre study of culture from the post colonial world to its development in a globalised world.
Her large canvases are a process of application and removal, colour on colour, mark making and minimalism. “I might start a painting with a very thin dark layer like black, I will brush it away until it is transparent, and I carry on removing until there’s nothing, then I apply a blue. Applying and removing. I want the viewer to see the colours. At first sight the paintings might seem minimal, but there is a lot going on. There are colours that merge and there are many colours beneath the darkness.” By definition large canvases require movement by the artist, so each work is an act of physicality. Claudia has spent time in India studying with yoga masters and she is an Ashtanga practitioner. “When I paint it’s a moving meditation, and the mind and the brush strokes are controlled through the breath. My painting is repetitive -like Ashtanga Yoga, when you practice one sequence, there’s no going forward until you master the previous move.”
As well as her moving meditations Claudia has always wanted to combine her passions for music and painting to make calligraphic abstractions to communicate in her own creative language. She shares a love of Brazilian Bossa Nova, Free Jazz and Japanese minimalism with Berlin based electronic musician, Joshua Tennent. His music is in complete harmony with Claudia’s meditational, immersive approach and their collaborations resonate as truly transcendental experiences. Their creative collaborations known as ‘Visual Sounds’ started in a Berlin studio in 2015. Joshua played guitar while Claudia spread paper on the floor. “I brought a little paint box,” recalls Claudia, “acrylic and water colour and I started to paint. We stayed there for three hours – playing and recording. We’d look at each other, say nothing, carry on, and then we stopped. We went for a walk, still without speaking. Then we said, ‘It works!’” Claudia and Joshua have since performed together in London and Tokyo. “I realised I was going to Japan to perform something that they have been developing for centuries -but for me it was a natural expression of abstraction -I didn’t even know what I was doing or where was it going to go! Actually it was the opposite, the Japanese audience absolutely loved it as an abstraction.”
Claudia’s work addresses the universal with her gestural brushstrokes and improvised calligraphy. “It’s about subtlety and being delicate. The human body takes up space. The mind takes up time. How do you paint space? How do you paint time?”