Luisa Matsushita

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Critical Essay by Heather Harmon

“Is it not first through the voice that one becomes animal?”

                        -Giles Deleuze, Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

 The surreal and powerful works of Luísa Matsushita have the ability to come to life. Paintings and drawings are extensions of dream like worlds, as animals emerge from abstractions, lifting from the confines of the four corners, leaping into the viewer’s field of vision. Vibrant with energy and color, one can feel their sheer force and strength when looking at and losing the self within the bellies of her creations. In an exquisite mix of fantasy and reality, the beholder can become animal. Matsushita’s images are as distinct and incomparable as her voice, for which she is widely known, but she remains an artist whose stylistic dynamism extends beyond this and deep into the visual realm of her recent pictorial forays.

Matsushita’s style is one that is inherently all her own; a mixture of traditional abstraction, gestural and physical combined with graphic and very cartoon like depictions of her subject matter. This mixing of styles generates the necessary tension in which these works truly come alive. Exotic, not unlike Matsushita herself, the works are hard to pin down or contain. They are not one spirit, but rather ever changing chameleons that surprise the viewer with their stunning capacity for visual melody. One can sense their wildness, their inability to be domesticated. Their sheer defiance to inhabit the space in which she has created for them is mesmerizing. They are to be feared, loved, and lived with in all their capacities.

Neither present nor primitive, her works live in the heavens that have been created to and for them. It is neither a place of the past nor of the future, but a place imagined. In this mixture of representation and abstraction, an energy and voracity is translated to the spectator who is encouraged to be an explorer, making an expedition into this sublime universe, embarking on an adventure. Emerging from a flat space her abstractions play with form where landscapes are jungles of color and pattern, and the picture plane is collapsed, referencing the language of traditional Japanese woodblock prints in their use of black outlines, bright colors, asymmetry and flat space.  Her use of color is liberal and rooted in the natural world, drawing influence from both the non-urban, maritime and animal environments. Flesh tones, blues, reds and splashes of tertiary hues intermingle with their parameters, pushing up against edges, challenging and complementing one another. Here color is fearless, mischievous and delightful.

Floating in space, her compositions act as figurative landscapes. The rich palettes often read as dense, floral visual cacophonies whose titles allow the viewer to read beyond the picture plane to the natural realm from which they emerge. Works like of corals, snakes, and warm ocean create not a depiction of the beautiful worlds they describe, but rather a powerful feeling of being there, as if the viewer is a part of these untamed lands where the wild things live, breathe and thrive. Reminiscent of Matisse’s cut outs, this series of Matsushita’s paintings combine pattern and gesture, color and vitality in collaged space that brings the interior outside. Their soft edges represent a departure from the cartoon like graphic style that has marked previous bodies of work. Shapes and forms collide, and are composed of a variety of elements from delicate washes to anamorphic forms that seem to be a cast of characters dancing within the songstresses visual drama, unfolding before the viewer’s very eyes.

 The artist’s recent paintings are marked by a shift not only in style but also in spatial orientation. Forming overall compositions, she has introduced concentrated moments of action and reflection, vacillations between space and subject. In the work helleyes, the canvas stretches beyond the frame, extending the parameters of narrative. From this same series, Prismacolor superdream is a work that incorporates the palette into the figure, turning its function into a personification where the spectrum metamorphoses as a dynamic figure resting on a landscape, having climbed atop a great mountain that is rising forth from an eccentric wilderness. The jagged edges reference previous bodies of and bring the viewer full circle through a microscopic glimpse into Matsushita’s imagined macrocosms.

 In previous abstractions, the artist has favored a traditional all over composition, but her most recent works exhibit such a skilled restraint, where she combines her interest in abstraction with the sophistication of line and detail. These sparse compositions are so elegant in their treatment of space that they elude at once conventional definitions, hovering between worlds, just as the shapes and colors hover and float across their picture planes. Deeply connected to her own trajectory, the new paintings stem and grow from previous investigations into space, while constantly seeking and searching for new territories. Matsushita herself is an adventurer and a seeker. Her investigation, as shown throughout her oeuvre, is one of curiosity and discovery.

Although supremely elegant, her works are imbued with the most playful sense of humor, one that is generative and gentle, nudging the viewer without pretence, encouraging the making of fun, as opposed to the making fun of. Humor is one of the many ways in which her paintings and works on paper create access and an entry point. An invitation to frolic in the bright and whimsical land, her work, like her attitude, is inclusive and lighthearted while remaining incredibly ambitious. It is this ambition that continues to drive the work into unfamiliar territory in which the artist dives into without inhibition. In the larger scope of her work, it is a thread of humor and positivity that one could read and connect the body as a whole.

The stylistic dexterity with which she approaches very different ways of working is emblematic of the experimental spirit she has explored through music, performance and visual art. Her unique background itself is a cultural collision being of German, Portuguese and Japanese descent, she fluidly pulls influence from each of these reference points, constantly reimaging new and uncharted territories. Matsushita remains a pioneer, leading the way for new and dazzling stars yet to come.

Luísa Matsushita is a visual artist born in Campinas, Brazil, 1984.
She currently lives and works in New York and is also know as the musician Lovefoxxx, lead singer of the band CSS.

To see more from Luísa Matsushita click here.

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