Alex Gama (1950 - )

Trama X, XI, XII (1982)
Pattern X, XI, XII

height: 41cm
width: 42cm

Donated by Alex Gama 2000


Alex Gama has been active as a printmaker since the 1970s; a parallel career as an expert archivist and restorer lends him a particularly complex attitude to the process of printmaking and its place within Brazilian art history. What distinguishes his work is its combination of techniques from two usually discrete processes, woodcut and engraving. Gama cuts wood, as these cedar printing blocks testify, but to do so he uses metal-engraving tools. Whereas woodcut prints are often characterised by the rough and deep nature of their incision, Gama's series of Tramas are precise and fine-lined. Another unusual aspect is his use of the end-grain of the wood, rather than its smoother, blanker surface. By working with and against the grain Gama reveals and conceals the wood's natural pattern, allowing it to emerge in relation to his own engraving and - when each print is made- to be counterpoised with triangles and grids of black, white and red.

The interweaving of natural and geometric pattern has a historical precedent in the geometric wood engravings or tecelares produced in the 1950s by Neoconcretist artist Lygia Pape. The cancellation of an ostensibly definitive distinction between natural pattern and the imposition of geometric modernism again arises through Gama's research into the body paint, tattoos and textiles of Brazil's indigenous population. The title of his series Trama begs translation into more than the one English word 'pattern' or 'texture'; it is also woof or weft; web or connection; intrigue, conspiracy or plot. Each of these definitions finds a place in the language of Gama's prints and their material and method of inscription.

Isobel Whitelegg, 2008

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