Tudo é e não é

Referencing a phrase by Brazilian novelist João Guimarães Rosa, “everything is and is not,” the words are the apt title of Marina Perez Simao’s debut solo exhibition at Pace Gallery in New York City and the work is electric.

The São Paulo-based artist clearly understands the vibrant color palette, magnetism, and landscapes of her native homeland. Using saturated oils in rich combinations that jump from the canvas, the pieces are dimensional and lustrous, evoking strong imagery of place and atmosphere with a touch of abstraction.

I was transported by the movement and fervor of the paintings and their ability to communicate a kinetic and passionate message. The paint is so rich that most of the pieces still looked wet. Large and encompassing, I actually felt revved up as I was mesmerized by each canvas.

It is no wonder that Marina Perez Simao has garnered international attention during this last year: her paintings are honest, forthright and hang with complete integrity. The exhibition is a marvelous collection of works by an artist fully in command of her skills and vision.

Growing up in Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro, she honed an appreciation for the two distinctive environments, one a cool, mountain town surrounded by hills and fog that rises in the foothills and the other a city with dramatic cliffs and unpredictable sea.

Studying at the Beaux-Arts de Paris in 2005, she developed her painting skills and slowly began to produce works that garnered the attention of a small cohort of Brazilian collectors. Not one for a big splash, she worked thoughtfully and methodically over many years, slowly advancing her technique of combining personal experiences and multiple references stemming from fields such as philosophy, literature and journalism. She did not seek the limelight or international attention, instead preferring a long gestation of exploration and improvement.

She has shown at Mendes Wood DM since 2010 but it wasn’t until a late 2020 exhibition at their Brussels satellite space that an international audience began to take notice of her talent. Suddenly everyone was talking about her and the art world was abuzz.

Throughout 2021, while prolifically producing a new set of works in quarantine, museum boards, clients around the world and seasoned as well as young collectors were clamoring to buy. And after one collector brought her to the attention of Pace in New York, they offered to show her newest paintings, devoting an entire floor of the gallery to this debut collection.

While it may seem like an overnight success, Marina Perez Simao has worked diligently and consistently through the years and the accolades are not only deserved but due. Her staying power seems guaranteed as, by the end of the opening week, all 32 works in show sold.

This is not an artist on the rise—she was already there and now she can enjoy the view, much like one would from the top of Pico do Jaraguá.