Rio de Janeiro is extraordinarily diverse. To me, the city appears like the view through a kaleidoscope, and sometimes I feel like a child, fascinated by the play of colors and shapes. But how can the infinite variety of the "kaleidoscope Rio" be realized artistically? Where is Rio interesting?
I first tried to paint with watercolors showing the Sugar Loaf or the Christ on Corcovado. But was this really the spirit of Rio? It remained unsatisfactory. Later I tried it with a digital camera. But the pictures looked too much like tourist photos.
Then I remembered seeing, some months earlier in the room of my daughter, a group of Polaroid photos. "Polaroids, nowadays?" I asked her, amazed. Yes, she told me. "They're great!" She was right. It was a kind of photography I had not seen for decades. Inspired, I decided to take up the medium, which I had never worked with before.
Polaroids are often overexposed and spongy compared to today's digital photography. At first it seems paradoxical to use a medium which is technologically so far below today's photography. But to my surprise, the soul of the city showed itself just in the "softness" of those Polaroid pictures, which are also well suited as a template for new oil paintings.
Making a good Polaroid is a challenge. Post-processing via Photoshop is not possible, nor can a Polaroid image be multiplied. It is and remains an original. I found this, too, especially refreshing.
"Kaleidoscope Rio" is an attempt to illuminate the diversity and magic of Rio de Janeiro from a poetic perspective.
Rio is difficult to reconcile; the city is too contradictory. So I decided to illuminate only one facet of the kaleidoscope at the time. For example, the favela "Babilônia" which is situated in the green hills just behind the Copacabana beach.
I've known Babilonia for 8 years. I spend a few months every winter in the local hostel, built by the architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1956, today a relict of the past, surrounded by the red bricks of the favela.
But if you think that you can simply go with a Polaroid camera into the depths of a favela, you would be wrong.
It took me a few years until I was accepted as a "Gringo". When I received my nickname, "Pai" and gained the confidence of the people, I was given an insight into a world which otherwise would be closed to me.
The light-sensitive emulsion of the Polaroid meets the reality of a Brazilian favela. These pictures, for me, not only make us conscious of our place and our lives in Europe, but they illuminate the social injustice, from which its difficult to escape.
Karl A. Meyer, 2017