"Once in a while poetry comes slinking by to be possessed. later she slips away disappears as if her home were on the far side of the moon." - Li Po& Company" by Salgado Maranhoa, translated from the Portuguese by Alexis Levitin, The High Window Press: 2017
At the center of Fleur de la passion - Marajuca are roses in colors that we don't associate with roses - baby blue and mint green and an embroidered heart enmeshed in a clockwork series of spinning disks and stray bits of trailing spider web. It is the energy that emanates from these colorful shapes that enchants; it is difficult to turn away from a Beatriz Milhazes painting, so obvious is its vitality and beauty. Beauty as a fit subject for art has been out of favor for five decades now; conceptualism rules the stage.
"Where there is a fishing net there is lace," is a long-lived Brazilian folk saying. Lacework was introduced in Brazil when immigrants arrived from Portugal and from the Azores and Madeira islands in the 17th century. The female lace makers or rendeiras were the wives and daughters of fishermen who settled along the northeastern coast of Brazil. That is still the case today. Intricate interwoven patterns dazzle by the skill with which they are executed - words that describe the lace maker's creations also fit Beatriz Milhazes. A Milhazes painting may be determinedly flat, yet it bursts with kinetic energy.
Milhazes, born in 1960, is equally comfortable including elements of modernist art with Brazilian folk arts from the favelas. Always keen to explore contradictions, Milhazes has introduced the culture of her country's poorest residents into pictures that hang in the country's - and the world's - elite museums.
Milhazes developed her own process for picture-making that combines elements of monotype (drawing or painting on a smooth non-absorbent surface) and collage. She paints motifs on a translucent plastic sheet that she glues to a canvas. When the paint has dried she peels off the plastic, leaving a reverse image superimposed on the canvas. As some portions of the image are lost or overlap each other the effect of a palimpsest becomes visible. She likes the way that this technique minimizes the visibility of the brsh strokes, thus injecting a softening element to the image. The results are audaciously colorful but never hectic, thanks to the artist's use of a grid as the basic rational structure of each painting. Milhazes herself has said that she does not create "peaceful surfaces," a preference she attributes to the bold blue ocean and lush greenery of her native city, Rio de Janeiro. She also says that she knows when a picture is finished when the colors and the structural elements reach equilibrium.
Image: Beatriz Milhazes - Fleur de la passion- Marajuca (Passion Flower), 1995-1996, acrylic on canvas, James Cohan Gallery, NYC.