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Beatriz Milhazes' Maresias is a celebration of nature, culture, and abstract art

Milhazes highly anticipated return to the UK will take place at Turner Contemporary and feature paintings from the late 1980s and 1990s.

by Vatsala SethiPublished on : Jun 10, 2023

Art has the power to inspire and move us. Whether through thought-provoking installations, powerful sculptures, or striking paintings, artists have the ability to make us stop and think about our impact on the world around us. By creating works that challenge our assumptions and beliefs, artists can push us to consider our place in the natural world and our responsibility to protect it. Turner Contemporary announced its latest exhibition, ‘Beatriz Milhazes: Maresias,’ showcasing the exceptional work of the highly acclaimed Brazilian artist, Beatriz Milhazes. The exhibition's title, Maresias, refers to the salty ocean breeze that is part of Milhazes' everyday life in the coastal city of Rio de Janeiro, and the show encourages reflection on our relationship with the environment.

Milhazes is recognized as one of the leading abstract artists working today, and her return to the UK with a new solo exhibition is highly anticipated. Milhazes first emerged as a leading figure in the 1980s Brazilian art movement Geração Oitenta (1980s Generation), which embraced painting as a form of energy and expression, moving away from the austere conceptual art of the previous decade.

Maracorola, 2015, Acrylic on canvas, Beatriz Milhazes | Beatriz Milhazes: Maresias | Turner Contemporary | STIRworld
Maracorola, 2015, Acrylic on canvas Image: Manuel Águas and Pepe Schettino; Courtesy of Ivor Braka Ltd. and Beatriz Milhazes Studio

Today, Milhazes is known for her intensely colourful, large-scale art installations of abstract canvases, which present energetic contradictions, such as the tension between carefully planned construction and the appearance of spontaneity, or the slick surfaces that indicate tiny cracks and layers that show the memories of her painting process. One of the defining features of Beatriz Milhazes' abstract art is her ability to seamlessly blend elements of Brazilian culture with Western abstraction. Her works are characterized by vibrant colours, intricate patterns, and a sense of playfulness that reflects her Brazilian heritage. At the same time, she draws inspiration from Western artists such as Sonia Delaunay, Henri Matisse, and Bridget Riley, incorporating elements of their styles into her own work. This fusion of different influences creates a unique visual language that is both bold and sophisticated. Milhazes' ability to combine seemingly disparate elements into a cohesive whole is a testament to her skill as a visual artist and her ability to transcend cultural boundaries in her work. By bringing together different traditions and styles, Milhazes creates a truly universal art that speaks to audiences around the world.

The exhibition will open in the West Gallery with Milhazes' paintings from the late 1980s and 1990s, including Eu só queria entender por que ele fez isso (1989) and Casa da Maria (1992). The canvases incorporate lacework, ruffles, and gilded rosettes rich with references to Rio Carnival Parade, Catholic iconography, and Baroque architecture. The show will feature 20 key paintings and 5 works on paper spanning four decades, tracing the evolution of Milhazes' artistic approach and highlighting nature as a significant and increasingly important theme in her work.

O Turista, 2004–05, Acrylic on canvas, Beatriz Milhazes| Beatriz Milhazes: Maresias | Turner Contemporary | STIRworld
O Turista, 2004–05, Acrylic on canvas Image: Manuel Águas and Pepe Schettino, Courtesy of Cranford Collection, London and Beatriz Milhazes Studio

The early 1990s marked a breakthrough moment for Milhazes when she developed her distinctive 'mono transfer' technique. Frustrated by the appearance of brushstrokes, which she saw as signs of the artist's hand, Milhazes paints her own motifs onto plastic sheeting before transposing them onto canvas. This process allows her to retain the fidelity of her colours and intensifies the effects of fluorescent and metallic pigments, it also created a smooth surface without losing the painterly quality. In a way, this technique adapted the concept of collage to her painting practice.

Beatriz Milhazes said in the official notes, “I am excited to be making this exhibition at Turner Contemporary – connecting the coastal landscape of Rio de Janeiro with Margate and celebrating the experience of being next to the ocean, in the salt air, and attuned to the colour and joy, order and harmony of the natural world.”

AFlor dabanana, 1993–4, Acrylic on canvas, Beatriz Milhazes | Beatriz Milhazes: Maresias | Turner Contemporary | STIRworld
AFlor dabanana, 1993–4, Acrylic on canvas Image: Stephen White; Courtesy of Ivor Braka and Beatriz Milhazes Studio

It’s important to note that artists have long experimented with different forms and shapes to create striking and visually engaging works. One popular approach is to use geometric shapes and arabesque lines to create intricate and mesmerizing compositions. These elements can be combined with a range of dazzling colours to create works that are both bold and sophisticated. The interplay between form, colour, and texture is central to the success of these works, creating a sense of depth and movement that draws the viewer in. Whether in paintings, sculptures, or other forms of art, the use of geometric shapes, arabesque lines, and intense colours has become an enduring hallmark of some of the most exciting and innovative art being produced today. Works on display in the Small South Gallery and North Gallery, will explore how Milhazes has expanded and refined the mono transfer technique. These paintings, some of which were shown in the Brazilian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2003, highlighted Milhazes' close attention to the landscape, changing seasons, and nature's beauty and fragility.

Clarrie Wallis, Director of Turner Contemporary, stated in the official press release, “Turner Contemporary is proud to present Beatriz Milhazes: Maresias. This solo exhibition of the renowned Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes marks the beginning of a new programme under my Directorship, presenting Beatriz’s first survey exhibition in a UK public gallery since 2001. The exhibition reflects the gallery’s mission to broaden its reach, introducing the work of international artists to new audiences. It will demonstrate how Beatriz’s focus on nature’s fragility and the importance of its preservation has become increasingly significant in her practice over time.”

Fausto Fleury; Courtesy of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Collection and Beatriz Milhazes Studio
Maresias. 2002, Acrylic on canvas Image: Maresias. 2002, Acrylic on canvas, Beatriz Milhazes| Beatriz Milhazes: Maresias | Turner Contemporary | STIRworld

The forthcoming exhibition at the Large South Gallery promises to be a celebration of the spiritual connection between humanity and nature. Beatriz Milhazes' latest collection features an array of abstracted natural forms, including flowers, oceans, trees, plants, suns, and stars. Her works embody a deep appreciation of the environment, with motifs influenced by botanical gardens, the Tijuca forest, and Rio de Janeiro's oceanfront. Among the collection's highlights are pieces such as O sol de Londres (2003), Douradinha em cinza e marrom (2016), and Margueritola (2014–15), each a testament to Milhazes' remarkable talent for transforming natural forms into abstract compositions. Throughout the collection, Milhazes' use of waves, petals, and circles stands out as a defining feature of her distinctive visual language. Together, these works represent a powerful testament to the transformative power of art and its ability to reveal the beauty and wonder of the natural world.

The exhibition takes place from May 27, 2023, till September 10, 2023.

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