On a formal level, the work of the Brazilian artist David Magila is marked by a strong graphic foundation that sometimes originates in a decal procedure, via carbon paper, manifested in the very first instance of painting and notable only under close scrutiny of the canvases. On a poetic level, the language follows less structured schemes and harks back to dimmed and almost empty memories of a past that is still present; of the obsolete existence and changeable permanence of urban spaces created by man in his constant effort to shape his habitat through architecture and construction - be they utopian or dystopian.
Spaces familiar to all as we roam the streets, in and out of buildings, in parks and in more or less urban recreation and entertainment areas in states that, if not maintained are destined for the inexorable process that leads to ruin, are the themes that Magila investigates with inquisitive rigour. The themes are certainly explored through energetic and polychromatic palettes, and through a panoply of lively and dynamic gradations, even so, in Magila's paintings there transpires a reflective and sometimes melancholic circumspection; a fact that reveals the existentialist soul and the philosophical sophistication of the questions that the artist's work asks.
In this sense, it is possible to associate the work of the young contemporary artist with that of the photographer and 'flâneur' Eugène Atget (1857-1927) who documented, with the same subjective and nostalgic bias, an era of French civilization in the streets of old Paris before its testimonies and architectural vestiges disappeared completely under the impetus of modernization. While Atget roamed the Parisian streets around the turn of the 20th century to immortalize the architectural triumphs and spectral aspects of capitalist society before the full advent of the phenomenon of urban modernization, Magila recounts, in the dawn of the 21st century and in his paintings, the posthumous memories of the heyday of architectural modernity in Brazil.
Magila's subject matter is the suburban culture of distinctly Brazilian neighbourhoods and peripheries and he submits the focus of his approach to a pictorial treatment where the notion of scale and colour undergoes a highly subjective and unusual interpretation. This seems to reflect Magila's interest in the process by which people shape their surroundings, and the artist's need to 're-present' what he sees on his walks through the streets with a look of 'estrangement and reconstruction'. On returning to the studio this need is registered in the act of painting what he has seen with a 'foreign gaze', and therefore in dimensions and colours that give the works the impactful power of the surprising and the fantastically improbable.
By Kalinca Costa Söderlund