From figurative construction to abstract expressionism, the myth of Mazeppa


If Dalva Duarte’s virtuous precision is present in many paintings, there are always parts of them painted in a very free way, bringing colour as autonomy, like in L’étranger (see Brothers & Sisters) or here in English Landscape*. As many artists do, Dalva Duarte is coming back to certain subjects in different periods of her life, and it is interesting to see an example in her preoccupation with horses. Growing up in the country, Dalva Duarte knew horses well, and when she discovered “urban cowboys“, young guys in the suburbs of cities in the United States, finding pleasure in horse riding and vaulting, she was reminded of her own passion, but also had an eye for the boys´ social situation.

Crossing one of the main myths of romanticism, Mazeppa, Dalva Duarte is articulating the ambiguous relation between man and nature: nature also understood as the nature inside any human being, often seen as his darker side. As a punishment for loving his chief´s wife, the future Ukrainian leader Mazeppa was bound onto a horse´s back and sent to the desert. Artists like Delacroix and Géricault represented him in an ecstatic, dramatic run – Dalva Duarte shows him in Shared State of Mind somehow exhausted, rather longing to be carried by some greater force (nature) than in a struggle with it. When coming back to the subject in France, Dalva Duarte transformed it into a series of free and joyful paintings in an abstract expressionism which she continues to develop in her work The 24 Caprices.

Guardian V, acrylic on canvas, 133 x 307 cm

*The questioning and questionable child (boy or girl) with the white gloves (!), innocence and/or the “better don´t touch (at) it“; opening a “window“ to the psychological free expression in the landscape (nature) and background.