How narrow can you make the gap between art and reality? Isabella Cabral’s skillful paintings give an answer. The answer is however somewhat different than the classic example of an optical illusion, the legendary contest between Zeuxis and Parrhasius (around 400 B.C.) Zeuxis painted grapes so skillfully that according to him they deceived a flock of birds. Zeuxis then asked Parrhasius to draw aside the curtain in front his painting only to realize that the curtain was indeed the painting.

Realistic size and proportions have always been the precondition of the traditional trompe l ́oeil illusion in addition to three-dimensionality and elaborate details.

This is where Isabella Cabral’s paintings distance themselves from convention.

The objects they portray – pieces of wood, wine bottle corks, spoons, cigarette butts – are monumental in size. We join Gulliver in his travels to learn a sophisticated lesson about the true meaning of size and proportion. Our experience of reality is connected to the dimensions in relation to our own size.

Even though Isabella Cabral’s paintings don’t reveal a microscopic world they do indeed offer the ingredients for a story much bigger than the objects they portray. The wine bottle cork plays a small but a very essential role in a bigger process that ultimately ends in the pleasurable sensation of enjoying the wine. Every viewer can create his or her own narrative around the wine bottle cork. This is made easier by the fact that the artist hasn’t aspired to shock but rather to portray the objects in a reflective manner.

In the extensive Fennica series the artist has named the pieces of wood with familiar names from the Finnish cultural heritage such as Väinämöinen, Aino, Urho, Tarmo, Sisu and Kontio.

The three slim parts of a birch trunk symbolizing the mythical maiden Aino (from national epic Kalevala) give a hint of the beginning of the tragedy: the bark torn away reveals the fragile green which is the prerequisite for growth and life in the trunk in the middle.

The three pieces representing Väinämöinen, the other central character of the epic tragedy, are somewhat bumpy and warty, appropriately for the character of an old wise man. However, the bark on them has a strong red glow – ignited by the fair maiden Aino!

The characterisations in the Fennica series offer the Finnish viewers an appropriately ironic parlour game. The three pieces of wood called Tarmo (a Finnish name that means vigour and energy) stand somewhat disproportionate after the woodchoppers axe. Well, at least we can see that some ”tarmo” has been used to get things done.

This is a good starting point to start examining the national characteristics of the Finnish people. On the other hand, the pieces of wood are a part of the landscape and their colours form atmospheres of the landscape.

The same can be said about the artist’s piece called Atlântico from the Rio Negro series.

The original blue surface paint from the boat has remained in the smashed pieces of the boat’s planking wood. Not only does it remind us of the colour of the boat, but also carries the memory of the waters it has plowed and of the skies under which it has sailed. The picture of life, so near. 

Markku Valkonen, Writer and Curator.