Art | Beatriz Milhazes takes Rio to Hong Kong

Turkish garden, 2014
Collage of various papers on cardboard

Beatriz Milhazes
White Cube Hong Kong
Hong Kong
People’s Republic of China
13 March > 30 May 2015

Beatriz Milhazes
Photo Christian Gaul

Beatriz Milhazes’ studio, where she has worked since 1987, is adjacent to Rio de Janeiro’s botanical gardens, and for this latest series of mixed media works, the artist has allowed the exuberant jungle foliage to creep inside, to spread over and mingle with her collection of collaging materials, carrying choice finds along with it to decorate – with her helping hand – the surfaces of the cardboard sheets she uses as her baseboard, thereby producing a group of multi-layered, remarkably vibrant works – a unique abstracted celebration of 21st century Brazil’s tropical splendour and the natural world – opulent compositions which blend mix all manner of influences, most noticeably in this instance from Matisse – in cut-out mode – whose presence extends across much of the show, and is perhaps most apparent in the combination of colours and cut-out shapes in O passeio, (The ride, or The tour).

Yellow sunshine, 2014
Mixed media – Collage of various papers
and acrylic paint on cardboard

Referencing the collage technique invented by the early 20th century cubists, Turkish garden, includes chocolate wafer biscuit wrappers, cut into leaf shapes, as well as rose-patterned, holographic, spotted and striped wrapping papers. The central, river-like horizontal axis of Yellow sunshine gives more than a nod to Sonia Delauney, and in Jardim Kadiwéu (Garden of the Kadiwéu) Milhazes pays homage to local and world-famous painter, printmaker, ecologist, naturalist, artist, musician and landscape architect, Roberto Burle Marx – designer of the undulating op art Copacabana promenade mosaic (completed 1970). Elsewhere, Emilio Pucci patterns reflecting 1960s and 70s glamour overlay radiant colours and textures suggestive of the wild exuberance of the Rio carnival.

Jardim Kadiwéu, 2014
Collage of various papers on cardboard

O Passeio, 2014
Collage of various papers on cardboard

Beatriz Milhazes (b 1960 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) has had numerous international solo exhibitions, including those at Pérez Art Museum / Miami /USA (2014 > 2015), Museu Oscar Niemeyer / Curbita / Brazil (2013), Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation / Lisbon / Portugal (2011), Fondation Cartier/ Paris / France (2009). In 2003, she represented Brazil at the Venice Biennale. As well as the forms and patterns of flowers and leaf shapes that find their way into her painting and mixed media oeuvre, Milhazes has incorporated the rich atmosphere of Rio via its cheap, colourful fabrics and jewellery, its embroidery and folk art, and references to its rich and multi-facetted urban architectural mix.

Mysterious and dream-like, there is no real centre to one of her works. For Milhazes, composition is never static. She wants the viewer’s eyes to move continually across her creations, ‘…That way’, she says, ‘I feel like you have communication with the entire world.’ And, perhaps, in these works in her eponymous show Beatriz Milhazes at White Cube Hong Kong, her intention is to do just that. Beneath the obvious ostentation, there would seem to lurk a far less frivolous intention. Through what might appear as her blithe inclusion of elements such as the mass-produced and ubiquitously discarded, biscuit wrappers, her purpose may be to draw attention, however subliminally, to the threat posed by man to his environment, in which much of the rarer flora is in danger of disappearing from the natural world, and is destined to survive only in our botanical gardens. Poignantly, the remaining 1,400 Kadiwéureferred to above in the title of the work Jardim Kadiwéu – are the last surviving group of Mbayá, a once large and powerful tribe that controlled large parts of Brazil and are now confined to life on a reservation.

All works © Beatriz Milhazes
All images Courtesy White Cube
All works photographed by Motivo,
except Yellow sunshine,
photographed by Pepe Schettino

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