Lucas Arruda - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, April 15, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Overview

    'These paintings are perhaps greater forays into silence, and the temperament of light.' —Lucas Arruda

    A diminished thunderstorm, a tiny tempest. Though it only stretches 30 cm in both width and height, Untitled's emotional power suggests incalculable grandeur. With its minimalist appearance and its thin, blade-like brusthrokes, the composition expresses all the movement and ferocity exuded by meteorological caprices, whilst simultaneously conveying the airiness and luminosity that derive from a storm's aftermath. Wonderfully exemplifying this visual dichotomy, the present work is an ethereal, gem-like composition that horizontally stretches from top to bottom in what seems to replicate the pictorial meanderings of dusk or dawn. Forming part of a body of work that investigates seascapes, the beauty of nature, and the play between light and colour, the present work typifies Arruda's body of diffusive oceanic scenes, as well as his capacity to fully immerse the viewer in spaces that exist in his own mind.


    Lucas Arruda painting in his studio. Image: © David Zwirner.
    Lucas Arruda painting in his studio. Image: © David Zwirner.


    Arruda's visual elusiveness, though very contemporary in form, clearly feeds from seminal art historical influences. Its visual intensity notably aligns with the formal experimentations of James Abbott Whistler and J.M.W. Turner, whose vision of nature revolutionised the genre of landscape painting. Yet, by executing landscapes and seascapes on a minimised scale, and lending his horizon lines a life of their own, Arruda introduced a new, idiosyncratic touch to the tradition. Notably, the artist's fondness for small formats seems to conceptually allude to the similar discrepancy of proportions nestled in the relationship between humans and the vastness of nature. Arruda's compositions, in this sense, re-create that ineffable sensation one experiences upon being confronted to the majesty and magnificence of the world. 'It's the counterpoint that I like', Arruda elucidated. 'The tension of the wide spaces to the small canvases, and also, the more you get near them, the less you can access them'.1 Containing violent winds in the confines of a minute canvas, Untitled investigates the emotional, almost magical power that can be located in small painterly compositions.



    James Abbot McNeill Whistler, Thames - Nocturne in Blue and Silver, c.1872-1888, oil on canvas, Yale Center for British Art, Connecticut. Image: Bridgeman Images.
    James Abbot McNeill Whistler, Thames - Nocturne in Blue and Silver, c.1872-1888, oil on canvas, Yale Center for British Art, Connecticut. Image: Bridgeman Images.

    Contemporary Romanticism

    Blending wisps of clouds and the foam of the sea into a single, indistinguishable storm, Untitled is a sumptuous demonstration of Arruda's ability to produce painterly impact. Evocative of the academic tradition of landscape painting, his meditative scene recalls the Romantic sublime, not least the magnificent seascapes of J.M.W. Turner. Exploring this connection, the critic Oliver Basciano wrote: 'There is a similar turbulence to the brushwork, a similar invocation of the apparently infinite power of nature, a similar feeling of impotence provoked in the viewer by that thought. Yet Arruda's scenes are lonelier than those of the historical artists.... Turner and Constable gradually remove the figure in their work.... Arruda goes a step further. Apparently no one lives in or ventures to the places he paints (except, in a way, us); in fact, the materiality of Arruda's landscape is all but disregarded in favour of atmosphere'.2 In Untitled, what dominates the small composition is indeed a sense of 'atmosphere' — a feeling, powerful though fleeting, that reminds the viewer of their own limitless internal life.


    .M.W. Turner, Staffa, Fingal's Cave, 1832, oil on canvas, Yale Center for British Art, Connecticut. Image: Bridgeman Images.
    J.M.W. Turner, Staffa, Fingal's Cave, 1832, oil on canvas, Yale Center for British Art, Connecticut. Image: Bridgeman Images.

    An Image of an Image

    'The timid scale of his worldview has the inverse effect of denouncing the heaviness of existence; it lays bare the diffuse design of our environments, and of all that shapes every breath we take.' —Silas MartíThough Arruda's subject is always one and the same, not one composition is mimetic. Rather, the painter creates his images from memory — a feat which perhaps explains the nebulous, nostalgic quality they are imparted with. On the nature of his work, Arruda declared, 'I don't think of myself as a landscape painter. It's common to view my work through the lens of the sublime, but it's more complex than that. My work is informed at a technical level by certain landscape painting, in the use of color and brushwork for example, or Constable's clouds, which are the best in that tradition. But those painters were observing nature'.3 Indeed, Arruda's compositions function like memories. They are hazy, vague, uncertain. They bear not the verisimilitude that would compel one to believe in a meticulously reproduced image; instead, they are evocative of the mental meanderings one is subject to when daydreaming, representing the idea of landscape, the idea of a seascape, rather than the real thing. As such, his works qualify as meditations on memory and loss, exploring the liminal space that exists at the threshold of figuration and abstraction, reality and fiction.


    Detail of the present work.
    Detail of the present work.

    1 Lucas Arruda, quoted in Lucy Rees, 'Lucas Arruda's Dreamy Landscapes Go on View at David 
    Zwirner', Galerie Magazine, October 10, 2019, online. 
    2 Oliver Basciano, 'Lucas Arruda', Art Review, October 2017, online. 

    • Provenance

      Mendes Wood, São Paulo
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2013

    • Artist Biography

      Lucas Arruda

      Lucas Arruda is a Brazilian contemporary artist who lives and works in São Paolo. Arruda paints diffusive land- and seascapes characterized by faint horizon lines, intense internal light, and a placid expression of the sublime. His paintings recreate the unrelenting violence of nature, blending wisps of clouds and the foam of the sea into the indistinguishable whole of the storm. His works are meditations on memory and loss, created by paradoxically using abstraction as a means to achieve illusory figuration.   

      Arruda’s paintings are marked both by an all-encompassing elusiveness and an immersive turbulence of form. Primarily working on an intimate scale, Arruda co-opts the onerous expressiveness of abstract painting to create scenes of the intense power and beauty of nature. Arruda’s formal experimentations with the temperament of light and the capabilities of tonality align his work with that of James Abbott Whistler and J.M.W. Turner as much as with that of Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still.  

      View More Works



signed and dated 'Lucas Arruda 2013' on the reverse
oil on wood
28.6 x 29.8 cm (11 1/4 x 11 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2012-2013.

Full Cataloguing

£60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for £170,100

Contact Specialist


Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

+ 44 20 7318 4060


Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe

+ 44 20 7318 4099


20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 April 2021