Gabriela Bettini

Painting as an answer

In 1994, when Clarice Lispector was only 23 years old, it was published one of the fundamental modern literary works, Near to the wild heart, a novel as a biography (without being it) that also was a questioning about the strength of words to human communication.

Forty-four years later, in Nicaragua, Gioconda Belli published The inhabited woman, a complex novel that tells the history of a woman converted into guerrillera that, lastly, tries to find herself.

It is not by chance that Latin American literature and the voices of its female writers are the ones who have left a sediment of compromise, fight and poetics as few others in recent years. The possibility of rebelling against the oppression and using artistic creation as narrative thread go hand in hand in the continent.

The same happens with visual arts. In the pieces presented by Gabriela Bettini at Galeria Silvestre there is much of both: questioning and poetics, the last one developed from the visual.

The pictorial technique, loaded of meaning and importance because of its historical path, is not developed exempt of the dominant thought of each time and reflects the way in which each moment is seen. When talking about landscape paintings, and specially from traveler painters in Latin America, the academician Estrella de Diego points that “it was painted what it was thought to be seen”. There are works that constructs more than expresses; the landscapes are versions of the America carried to Europe by those artists, with a smoothed by the stereotype of this wild continent view, incomprehensible and to be discovered. And this romantic idea of the American landscape used to assume a conquer not only with strength but also with the representation. An imaginary of what it was thought to be America by the not interested on the particularities of each context occidental eyes.

What about today? This hegemonic vision has been overcome? Gabriela Bettini brings that approaching to the present and shows here two visions of the pictorial representation: what is being seen and how it is represented. But besides of giving a step ahead, and in what apparently are landscape paintings, inspired by the ones of the travelers from the 17th century as Frans Post, she adds something else.

If Lispector has questioned herself about the possibility of words as expression, Bettini returns this question to the visual, and presents in the gallery a series of landscapes where femicides against advocates of nature and natural resources, as Berta Cáceres, had occurred. Those murders suppose such a bleeding that the feminist anthropologist Marcela Lagarde considers it should be a typology among the femicides. The massive murder of women that will not remain silence before the oppressor.

This visual displacement, that Bettini’s paints make us look at it twice, orients us, as audience, in an uncomfortable place. Beyond a simple landscape observed, the second critical reading in which the artist stands makes us rethink our position. The landscape is also place of barbarity, not only apparent delight.

Exercising the second reading, of the landscape as a witness of the event, is an inverse reading of what painters of 17th century used to do. This prejudiced gaze brought from Europe and reproduced on their work, becomes a second critical gaze, necessary to understand the (social) landscape of the continent. This harshness of showing it this way, as a reflection and metaphor of massive crimes in Latin America, reminds the work of the Mexican Teresa Margolles, that in 2013, portrayed trees that had been witness of violence in Mexican cities.

However, those pieces of Bettini do not hamper in any way, in a first moment, the aesthetic contemplation of the landscape itself, that shows in all its pictorial possibilities, with a great technique mastery on the part of the artist. This second reading that Bettini invites us to read, also shows a feature that presents the artist as committed, not renouncing possibilities of the painting itself, but with the desire of exposing the event and positioning herself.

Painting as an answer, Semíramis González

Semíramis González. 2019