Randomness, Order, and Being: A Guest Post by Laura Colkitt

The Brazilian based artist Sandra Cinto has created an exhibition titled Chance and Necessity at University of South Florida’s Contemporary Art Museum (on display January 15 to March 5). The show consists of different media that complement each other in style and color, creating a cohesive visual array in CAM’s West Gallery. Three large canvases comprised of black pen and blue acrylic paint dominate one wall of the museum. Harmonizing with the prodigious canvases, five smaller prints made in USF’s Graphicstudio hang on opposite and adjacent walls. Overall, the artworks manifest in the dichotomous yet congruous synthesis of undesigned randomness and controlled order.

In the exhibition space of Chance and Necessity, the viewer immediately encounters three mixed media canvases. At initial glance the works appear as landscape paintings, but upon closer inspection it is apparent that Sandra Cinto’s abstracted vertical canvases subvert the genre. Instead of archetypal pictorial representation, Cinto composes a balanced pictorial field defined by synergistic intervals of positive and negative space.

Cinto 4Sandra Cinto. Untitled, from the series Chance and Necessity, 2016
acrylic and permanent pen on watercolor canvas. 118 x 65 inches each

To fashion the works, Cinto first spilled thinned blue acrylic paint onto stretched watercolor canvases. She then lifted and tilted the canvases to let the wash flow freely, before drying in place. Cinto gradually built up the pigment layer by layer, increasing the hue’s depth with the progressive addition of color. Interestingly, the distinct process became imprinted on the surface: the undulating water swells remain recognizable as the movement of the cerulean liquid is permanently emblazoned on the canvas. An abstracted representation of a large body of water, reminiscent of an ocean or a waterfall, results. The watery layers become both the signified and the referent, they stand for the concept of water while simultaneously acting as a physical trace of the element.[1] While Cinto may have influenced its direction, the chaotic process ultimately generated the marks. Due to the uncontrollable and unrepeatable process, the oscillating water represents the randomness of “chance.”

Sandra drawing medSandra Cinto working at Graphicstudio. Photo by Will Lytch.

“Necessity” also presents in the artworks. After letting the acrylic washes dry, Cinto then utilized black pen to draw in a myriad of exceedingly restrained fine lines on the surface. The artist outlined and filled the dense forms with thousands of varied and swift marks, precisely spaced apart, implying volume. The micro marks give rise to forms that function on a macro scale. It is as if every painstakingly rendered line acts as a constituent atom, ultimately encompassing a larger whole. The ensuant objects are evocative of rocks, islands, or boulders that ground the composition. The lines “necessitate” complete control within parts of the composition.

When standing before the large-scale paintings, our diminutive human size is put into perspective. The viewer becomes smaller and less significant than the monumental works, which forces a reconsideration of the larger world and a person’s place within it. Furthermore, the simplicity of media—monochromatic paint and black pen—also prompt the audience to pause and reflect on how art itself is made. Utilizing a single primary color coupled with the formal elements of line and negative space, Cinto breaks art down into its primary building blocks. She then employs the building blocks of art to reference water, the fundamental unit of life. Thus, the enigmatic works engender a connection between art and life, where randomness and order are underlying components to both.

Cinto 3Sandra Cinto. Untitled, from the series Chance and Necessity, 2016
two-color, two-run direct gravure. 54 x 30 inches each

Equally important to Chance and Necessity is the second part of the exhibition, the prints. Cinto spent weeks in USF’s Graphicstudio making the images, which like the paintings, also display an abstracted nature motif. In the exhibition, the dual artwork styles perceptibly echo one another. Similar to the large canvases, in the prints Cinto captures the movement of water in flux. She dyed frosted mylar with India ink, letting the stain trickle down slowly. She then stopped the dripping process and permanently fixed the subsequent image. The water’s past motion is now frozen in time, to be observed in the present. For the line aspect, the artist drew on translucent paper, lined up with the dye’s placement, over a light box. The exacting methodology allowed for complete precision in rendering the final combined print. The culminating formal images shift and permute meaning in their final iteration. The pigments’ flow patterns resemble veins, roots, or marbling—all subjects encompassing omnipresent natural life forces. While visually reminiscent of the large canvases, the stark size contrast of the smaller prints and the differing artistic process impel the observer to consider the deviations. A greater capacity to concentrate on the vividly divergent details presents, ultimately strengthening the viewer’s perceptive capabilities.

Sandra drawing with washSandra Cinto working at Graphicstudio. Photo by Will Lytch.

Besides the aesthetic connection, Cinto also noted two rationales for including the prints in the exhibition. The first reason is to elevate the prints’ status to the same level as the weightier canvas works. The second motivation stems from their connection to Florida. Cinto made the works locally in Tampa, and the interaction between artist and community is important to her.

Cinto 2Sandra Cinto. Untitled, from the series Chance and Necessity, 2016
two-color, two-run direct gravure. 54 x 30 inches each

Sandra Cinto has not only spent time in Florida experimenting with printmaking, but she also studied art in Japan for several months. The artist’s interest in the East Asian country harkens back to her native Brazil, home of the largest emigre Japanese population. In Japan, Cinto drew inspiration from the ubiquitous depictions of water. She examined how Japanese prints create a landscape effect without adhering to strict three-dimension perspective. She also studied ma, the Japanese concept concerned with balance and the internal contemplation of negative space. Furthermore, the legacy of Japan’s printmaking process affected her work. The unmistakable Japanese printmaking influence is present in this exhibition.

Sandra works VI medSandra Cinto working with master printer Tom Pruitt at Graphicstudio. Photo by Will Lytch.

In sum, both the paintings and prints demonstrate Cinto’s refined ability to display the bifurcated yet concordant ideas of Chance and Necessity. Firmly rooted in artistic processes, the works necessitate a deep engagement between object and observer. Cinto creates art that rewards viewers who look closely, both at the water swells and the thousands of tiny lines. Once examined, the grand connections of nature and life within the works materialize. In the microcosm of the artist’s marks, the macrocosm of meaning comes forth and courses throughout the whole sublime exhibition.

Cinto Panorama A

[1]   “Signified” and “referent” are terms coined by Ferdinand de Saussure, the Swiss linguist.

Laura R. Colkitt
Recent M.A. Graduate
School of Art and Art History
University of South Florida

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