A painting is the time that it takes to look at it. Immobilized in front of a painting, we wander into its image without our bodies, visually, cognitively. The medium’s adherence to the rules of its canvas, to the fixity of its surface, allow us this imaginative trip. Carvalho’s works magnify and concentrate this effect, where one’s vista narrows only to a small window, a walled garden, or the finger-breadth depth of relief sculpture. There in the shallow field of layered and obscured paint marks, is the layering and obscuring of time, stretching out endlessly, while paradoxically, simultaneously, collapsing on itself. As in painting, so in contemporary reality: the present is made of images of the past. Like picturesque ruins that are maintained but never repaired, time and space stiffen and dry. The present-tense is only again and again representation, where nothing new grows.
Carvalho’s paintings are the miniaturization of a certain dark utopia explored by feminist writer Silvia Federici, in which “the creation of a disembodied humanity is now openly upheld as a social ideal” where “bodies and worlds are drifting apart.” But so disembodied, modes of agency become entirely virtual, rather than tangible. Psychically wandering within these painted layers, in the garden-world of fantasy and folly, we find only the smallest wriggle-room for agency’s play.