Beatriz Milhazes:  Turner Contemporary Margate – Claudia Barbieri Childs


Showing at Turner Contemporary in Margate, “Maresias” is a vibrant and exhilarating exhibition of work by the Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes.
Born in Rio in 1960, Milhazes represented Brazil at the Venice Biennale 2003. The Turner show is a retrospective survey conceived chronologically, from early collages and prints to more recent geometrical abstractions. Her first exhibition in a UK public gallery in more than 20 years traces the four-decade evolution of her artistic practice through 20 key paintings and five works on paper.

Beatriz Milhazes Photo: Claudia Barbieri Childs

Milhazes’ work is an assimilation of Brazilian culture and the inherited traditions brought to the country through colonialism. She digests and re-imagines multiple influences to create a distinctive aesthetic: Catholic iconography; baroque, colonial and Brazilian modernist architecture; floral fabrics sourced from local Rio markets; carnival parades, folk art; lots of gold and silver.

Her influences include the colour palette of Matisse, the geometric abstractions of Sonia Delaunay and Piet Mondrian, and the op art of Bridget Riley. The result is a colourful kaleidoscope of layering lines, interacting circles, concentric discs and alternating colours: Mandalas, love hearts, fruits and stylised flowers reference pop art and hippie culture.

Layering and collage form part of her practice. In more recent paintings, she incorporates cut-outs using a mono transfer technique of her invention, painting onto a plastic film that she glues, paint-side down, to the canvas to achieve a perfectly flat colour plane. In earlier works, she includes sweet papers, chocolate wrappers and other branded packaging combed from the litter of daily Brazilian life. Her canvases express the soul of her native Rio de Janeiro, a distillation of Copacabana Beach, Tijuca and the botanical gardens in a vibrant stratification of shapes and colours.

Beatriz Milhazes:  Turner Contemporary Margate - Claudia Barbieri Childs
Beatriz Milhazes Photo Claudia Barbieri Childs

Milhazes emerged in the 1980s as a significant figure in the Brazilian art movement Geração Oitenta (Generation 80) which broke away from the austere conceptual art of the previous decade.
Her intense, large-scale abstract canvases present energetic contradictions in a cacophony of colours. They are, in fact, careful and deliberate compositions.

The Maresias of the show’s title are salty sea breezes. A reference to Rio’s coastal spirit, it also fits well with Turner’s setting. Perched at the mouth of the Thames estuary, the gallery looks out to sea through a vast floor-to-ceiling window. Onto this, Milhazes has applied a colourful see-through film, creating a stained-glass effect that interacts with the coastal seascape in a dynamic interplay of colour and form on a grand scale.

Maresias runs at the Turner Contemporary, Margate, until September 10.

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