Over the Treetops
After the end of the trees
Galerie Biesenbach shows the series "Over the Treetops" by José Gomes
by Hanna Styrie at Kölnische Rundschau, 8.6.2021
The poetic title "Over the Treetops" is to be understood as bitter irony: This exhibition at Galerie Biesenbach has nothing whatsoever to do with romantic glorification of nature.
In a current series, the Brazilian José Gomes is much more concerned with the deforestation of the rainforest in his home country and its dramatic consequences. Drone and satellite images from the internet serve as the background for drawings by the artist, who has lived in Cologne for many years and trained at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. These drawings are inspired by the traditional body painting of the indigenous population or by the shape of the aisles cut during deforestation. In 2019, Gomes began the cycle, in which he criticises the merciless exploitation of nature and the increasing constriction of the habitat of local tribes.
In the exhibition, the works are hung chronologically according to the date they were created, and a closer look reveals the changes: At first, the green canopies of leaves still seem impenetrable, then they gradually thicken and one can make out piled-up tree trunks.
More and more, the colouring changes from green to a dark red, indicating the ferruginous earth that dominates the pictures after deforestation. Gomes himself uses mainly natural materials in the series: paper, graphite and wood, onto which he applies the works.
He covers the aerial photographs with precise graphic drawings that visualise the encroachment caused by human hands. In doing so, he makes use of a diverse repertoire of forms that also draws from the sign language of the indigenous people.
Gomes confronts the politically and ecologically explosive theme with a playful artistic realisation. Most of his pictures are arranged in blocks of two or four, which can be arranged in a variety of ways and surprise the viewer with their complexity of form and content. Anyone who rearranges the works is inevitably sensitised to the changes that are recognisable in them.