Hidden Nature (Chisei)
“A horizon where the perspective was not three-dimensional but multidimensional in bright shades of yellow, gold and white contours. Geometric shapes in the same shades moved elegantly like a dance where the arms completed perpendicular circles in a gentle rhythm.”
Rodrigo Garcia Dutra, 2015
In The Cosmic Serpent (1995) and Intelligence in Nature (2005) the Swiss-Canadian anthropologist, writer and activist Jeremy Narby (1959) delves into a controversial subject; intelligence in matter and non-human forms of life. He examines the Japanese notion chisei, which is based on the belief that also stones and wood have consciousness, and discovers that shamans in the Amazon know to communicate with the spirits of plants, rivers and even the earth, moon and the sun when consuming ayahuasca. His findings led him to consider visions induced by the hallucinatory brew as a possible and legitimate method of knowledge generation. To Narby, using ayahuasca is like looking through a microscope, i.e. yet another way of understanding nature. His unorthodox research earned him a fair amount of criticism. Nevertheless, while staying in the Peruvian Amazon Rodrigo García Dutra (Rio de Janeiro, 1981) too got convinced of the theory that “animals, plants and matter are encrypted through a secret language that likes to hide.“ The artist spent a month with the indigenous Shipibo and took part in several ayahuasca sessions. These experiences enabled him to understand the world in a new and holistic way but also strongly influenced his artistic practice. According to Dutra, “it was an aesthetic experience, for me the greatest contemporary artist is ayahuasca”. 
The quote cited in the beginning of this text reflects, or rather reveals a glimpse of, the visionary experiences Dutra had. Hidden Nature tries to further replicate these experiences via paintings, drawings, a video and a sound piece. Although the works can thus be regarded as translations from Dutra’s memory, their universalist, almost primordial, aesthetics provide the works with an autonomous character as well.
Dutra is not the first artist who draws inspiration from the usage of ayuahasca. The Peruvian Amazon has a rich tradition of visionary art of which the late Pablo Amaringo (1938-2009) and
Rember Yahuarcani (1985) are two of the most prominent artists.Their paintings however remain figurative and are furthermore characterized by intense color combinations and psychedelic compositions. Dutra’s Abstract Realm (2016) and Midnight (2015) paintings on the contrary are populated by serene groupings of soft shaped yellow and blue toned spheres. They seem to refer to cells, the shape of our irises, the sun or even to planetary systems but may also hint towards a time measuring system. In the Abstract Realm series the forms are placed against a background of playful and slightly irregular grid patterns, creating a perspective that we know from Dutra’s Abstract Ground (2014) series. Although the circles occasionally intersect, allowing other color accents to appear, the overall impression of the compositions is balanced, calm and flowing.
The paintings remind of compositions by the Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) and the Czech František Kupka (1871-1957), who tried to represent a higher reality as well. Also the formal, geometrical principles of the Cuban artist Lolo Soldevilla (1901-1971) and of neo-concrete artists such as Lygia Pape (1927-2004) and Ivan Serpa (1923-1973), who worked in Dutra’s hometown, come to mind. Dutra feels strongly connected to the neo-concrete movement, and particularly to Pape’s practice, on a content level as well. In line with Pape’s work Dutra intends to formulate a set of archetypical visual elements that allude to a universal symbolism. Furthermore both artists share a fascination for the color yellow and light. In the emblematic work Book of Creation (1959) for instance Pape maps the creation of the world in sixteen elementary icons that are meant to resonate with a ‘collective unconsciousness’, to speak in Jungian terms. One page consists of a yellow square with a small opening in the middle where light shines through. “It is the information as it is full potential. Light is light. There is no explanation”, she declares cryptically in the documentary Neoconcretos.
Both the neo-concrete artists and Dutra base their work on information extracted from the subconscious. While Dutra ‘found’ a visual vocabulary in his visions, – which in a way places him closer to the surrealist tradition – the neo-concrete artists drew inspiration from the expressions of mentally ill people. A coincidental though remarkable detail here is that Dutra created the paintings and drawings in the former house of the Brazilian psychiatrist Nise da Silveira (1905-1999). Da Silveira, a student of Carl Jung, is known for her outstanding work in the medical field but also founded the Museum of Images of the Unconscious in Rio de Janeiro, exactly the place the neo-concrete artists visited to gather new artistic impulses.
Different than the paintings, part of the drawings of the series Hidden Nature (2016), depart from identifiable impressions. We can trace the windows of the ceremonial place where Dutra stayed for example. Other drawings are rather abstract representations of emotions, all in white, yellow, golden and earthy tones. The series evoke the idea of a sequence, a process towards pure yellow light dissolving all distinguishable forms and physical matter.
The overarching sound piece Shandeinaum (2015), made in collaboration with Dutra’s brother Matheus Garcia Dutra, starts with a deep, slow rhythm and the sounds of the Amazon to slowly unfold in a swelling mysterious melody and the soft chanting of a choir pronouncing the mantra-like words ‘shan – de – ina – um’. Although the mantra is meaningless, its rhythmic repetition evokes a relativating and calming effect that undoubtedly influences the exhibition experience. In the vertiginous and mesmerizing video Fluidics II (2016) to conclude fragments of swirling, cascading water are alternated with computer animations featuring the grid, changing perspectives, spinning yellow suns and light. Supported by a few enigmatic quotes from Pape, the work reinforces the appearance and the aura of the paintings.
Hidden Nature fits within the current interest in nature’s mysteries and the attention for other, more unconventional theories as is reflected in the popularity of the film El Abrazo de la Serpiente (2015), an initiative such as the Parliament of Things (2015), the artistic project Forest Law (2014) by Ursula Biemann and Paulo Tavares and the publication How Forests Think(2013) by Eduardo Kohn for example. Above all however Hidden Nature is an attempt to convey indescribable dreams, visions, emotions and feelings. Addressing multiple senses, together the works are able to reenact those visions while maintaining an artistic voice of their own.
 Email Rodrigo Garcia Dutra June 15, 2016.
 Interview Lygia Pape in Neoconcretos by Katia Maciel (2001) via https://vimeo.com/134040569.