Cybèle Varela

1943 | Petrópolis, Brazil
— Cybèle Varela

Brazilian visual artist.

Cybèle Varela attended art classes at the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Modern Art from 1962 to 1966; there, she met artists such as Rubens Gerchman, Carlos Vergara, and Cildo Meireles. She first participated in the São Paulo Biennale in 1967, but one of her works was taken down because it was considered offensive toward the authorities. Her first solo exhibition in Rio de Janeiro was held the following year at the Goeldi Gallery. Her paintings and objects at the time reflected her interest in cityscapes and in Brazil’s popular culture. They generally made use of industrial paint on wood in very bold colours and conveyed an aesthetic informed by elements of North American pop art and narrative figuration, while also remaining strongly attached to a critical vision of the realities of the country. In 1968, Varela moved to Paris, where she studied first at the École du Louvre, then at the École Pratique des Hautes Études. In the early 1970s, she became particularly interested in the relationship between light and shadow, and began to use video and photography, resulting for instance in the film Images (1976), which shows moving beams of light. She also produced paintings and photographs in which light, both real and imagined, reflects onto paintings of landscapes or onto the walls on which they hang, thus becoming part of the pictures themselves.

Her reflection on the nature of pictorial representation can also be found in works that she created the 1980s after moving to Geneva. From then on, the relationship among the images of the sky, clouds, and natural scenery became one of her preferred themes, of which she has made many variations using an array of mediums. Varela’s more recent output has seen her reverting to figuration, which was absent from her pieces from the 1980s. Her work has been the subject of many solo exhibitions, most notably at the Museum of Contemporary Art of the University of São Paulo in 2005, and has been featured at major collective shows.

Giulia Lamoni

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