Art at the hospital in Engenho de Dentro
Mário Pedrosa, the most important art critic and columnist for the newspaper Correio da Manhã, from 1944 to 1951, shared with Nise da Silveira the desire to break up with a tendency that seemed oppressive, authoritarian and sterilizing to him at the time. His focus, however, was on the field of arts.
In the 1940s, for the first time in a national context, the critic mentioned an art accessible to all, that would distance itself from rigid forms and academic convictions and would deal with human aspects, emotions and feelings. Spontaneous and non-professional creations of artists from the atelier of the hospital of Engenho de Dentro, such as Adelina Gomes, Emygdio de Barros and Carlos Pertuis, who did not dialogue with formal culture (savant) or with art history, and because of that, offered pure and genuine works from their inner universe, that would fit perfectly in this kind of art.
The painting studio was created by Nise da Silveira and Almir Mavignier, a young painter at the time. Besides Mário Pedrosa, distinguished national artists, such as Ivan Serpa and Abraham Palatnik – then a young artist at the beginning of his career – also visited the space. The patients of Engenho de Dentro, who were a source of great inspiration and marvel, together with this cosmology of brilliant minds, would fertilize the neo concrete movement in the arts that emerged a little later with Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Pape. In the field of psychiatry, these experiences, coupled to the production that took place there, gave life to the Museum of Images of the Unconscious, today one of the most important collections for research on the production of images and its psychic processes.
Arthur Amora’s stay at the hospital in the late 1940s was brief, and there is no further information about him. He arrived at the studio willing to paint but declared that he did not know how to draw. I proposed that he looked for a motif that interested him. He discovered a box of dominoes and copied them entirely. After that, he started to simplify them, abandoning the dots, covering the white and black bands, breaking the angles, finding curves, and creating structures of great optical contrast.
– Almir Mavignier (1989)
Geometry is not a subject like the others. It is not just the study of the properties of the figures. It teaches the art of thinking. My father, with just a few words, would show me a new study perspective. I was 14 years old at the time …
– Nise da Silveira
My meeting with Nise worked very well, because I needed her, and she needed me. […] I started at the hospital as a day laborer, actually, to calm the inmates, working in the wards. [ …] Until one day I saw a party of the therapeutic session that a doctor [Nise da Silveira] was leading. And, then, I had the idea to ask her if she was interested in holding a painting exhibition or creating a painting studio. […] and she said: “but I have been waiting for a long time for someone who can do this”; thus, we really got to understand each other perfectly. […] And we started to work.
– Almir Mavignier (1989)
I know that, when I got there [the painting studio], I saw that it couldn’t be a studio; it was a very simple room where Emygdio, Carlos, Diniz, Isaac, and Adelina, were working; all I know is that I was shocked with that, I was so devastated, because, after all, they hadn’t spent four years in a School of Arts. And the amazing works, of a density, colors, and I started to question myself; my performance was of external stimuli, and I felt that what I saw had nothing external in it, […] but came from within, it could only be so […] there was a wealth of images, it moved me […] I felt that my castle was falling apart. […] Suddenly, I had a feeling that I had to give up painting […]
– Abraham Palatnik (2003)
Artistic activity is something that does not depend, therefore, on stratified laws, the product of the experience of a particular age in the history of the evolution of art. This activity extends to all human beings and is no longer the exclusive occupation of a specialized brotherhood that requires a diploma in order to have access to it. It manifests itself in any man of our land, regardless of his meridian, be it Papua or multiracial, Brazilian or Russian, black or yellow, literate or illiterate, balanced or unbalanced.
– Mário Pedrosa (1947)