The reinvention of the body in a poetic shadow theater
In this exhibition, Henry Pontual makes photography an authentic expression of contemporary art. This is because it is not exactly photo-graphy what he offers to the eyes of the public. According to the Greek etymological roots of the word, photography means "drawing with light." However, because of the experimental technique that he uses, Henrique practices far more what one might call skiagraphy, meaning "painting in light and shade.
He developed a personal technique of production of images that purposefully implies a poetics of chance, in experiments that bring out the beauty of the unexpected.
The images have such a visual softness that they seem pencil drawings on a white surface. Thus, Henrique demonstrates that it is possible to nullify the visual boundaries between technical production of a photographic image and the appearance of a drawing made by human hand.
The softness of the halftones cloud created by this experimentation process shows that the artist operates in the opposite direction of obviousness. The observer only learns that he is in front of a fragment of the naked human body after living with the work, penetrating in its evidence and in the subtlety of its imagery universe. When finally the image becomes recognizable, and one finds that it is part of the anatomy of a human body, the photograph then becomes full of its iconic character, a portrait of the real.
Thirdly, the image becomes symbol: cultural factors, concepts and prejudices, and subjective readings of each individual, enter the scene. We can then speak of eroticism, purity or pagan carnality.
The naked body is a recurring theme of artists of all time and became the subject of controversy according to morality of each era. In the Renaissance, nudity was positive. Just recall the famous painting by Titian in 1515, titled Sacred and profane love, which shows two young women, one dressed as a bride and the other one naked. It is exactly the naked maiden that represents divine love, unblemished. Because, for the Renaissance, beauty of the unadorned body was greater than that of the adorned body. Nudity without social masks is and always will be a synonym for purity. Only a moralistic, judgmental look, can consider a naked body sinful.
With his poetic theater of shadows, Henrique Pontual offers us a collective self-analysis about nudity, breaking the paradigms of hypocritical morality, which is replaced by a loving and penetrating look, that reveals our inner lights through outer body shadows.
The artist requests for a gradual maturing in the act of contemplating and diving into the images he produces so obsessively passionate. He asks of us a free eye, unarmed, an eye also naked, with the courage to accomplish the act of seeing...
Henry Pontual asks me the impossible: to present his latest work. How can that be? It was only a few years ago that I was warned by my son, Marcantonio Vilaça, about the real strength of artistic photography. And to prove it, he gave me the works of Miguel Rio Branco and Mário Cravo. Before this, actually, already I was seduced by Benício Whatley Dias, Salgado, Edmond Dansot, Robson Maestrelli, Marcos Rodrigues, Pedro Vasquez, Verger, and I managed to form the Funarte Photography Center.
Anyway, what can I say?
I am a long-standing admirer of tasteful Pontual. Everything he does is well done. In fact, it is almost a mark of this Pernambuco family, among which I highlight the prominent pediatrician and humanist Samuel Pontual.
I was impressed with the photos, the maybe-photos, the almost-photos, the pre-photos and post-photos, because that is how I saw the capture of the main object without the loss of the accessories. It says almost without saying, says it all with seemingly little. It is like a clean text, with necessarily minimal adjectivation. It is good to see within the faces and in the interfaces. I remembered Drummond talking of tangible things, insensitive to the palm of the hand, of things which ended more than beautiful, things that will stay. I really enjoyed it. And that's final.
Marcos Vinicios Vilaça – of the Brazilian
Academy of Letters – was President of the National Art Foundation (Funarte).