Beatriz Milhazes

1960 | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Beatriz Milhazes — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

© Photo: Vicente de Paulo

— Beatriz Milhazes

Brazilian painter.

Rio, the city that feeds her art in profound and varied ways, is where Beatriz Milhazes spent two years studying at the Parque Lage School of Visual Arts. Engaging in a variation of the concept of cannibalism (anthropophagy) – an idea so important to the Brazilian modernist movement of the 1920s – she considers her work to be the result of the “digestion” of a constellation of elements, including Matisse’s arabesques, Mondrian’s structure, Brazilian baroque architecture, and her country’s rich musical and visual folklore. If at first glance her painting seems primarily decorative due to its graphic and chromatic exuberance, she is above all interested in order and structure, insisting on the geometrical character of her compositions, which nonetheless brim with hypnotic floral and arabesque patterns. She is a painter, yet she remains a foreigner to the age-old act of facing the canvas, brush in hand: every pattern, every colour that appears on her large paintings is the result of the transfer of what had been painted previously on sheets of tracing paper. The mark of the hand is thus erased; the physical trace is non-existent. If it were not for the occasional small accident in transference from one medium to another, which betrays her purely manual process, her works would seem like computer-generated graphic design. Despite the numerous layers, the pictorial matter shows no thickness.

The labyrinthine claustrophobia we feel – following an initial sense of cheerfulness – comes from the accumulation of ideas, or rather of dematerialized colours and shapes. The painter, whose works could be mistaken for prints mass-produced solely for their visual appeal, is in reality a strict artist who courageously stands by her anachronistic and risky choices. She chooses to engage in an excessive kind of painting, requiring a physically demanding process, in a contemporary context in which concept, minimalist language, and reliance on new media dominate. She also demonstrates a preference for the “pretty” over the “beautiful”. In 2002 New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) published Coisa linda (pretty thing), a book for which she inserted plates of her images between Brazilian pop song lyrics. Her works appear in several American collections, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York. She has also been featured in solo exhibitions, namely at the Fondation Cartier in 2009.

Liliana Padilla

Translated from French by Toby Cayouette.

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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