- Adriana Varejão
- Macau Wall (Blue)
- each signed, titled, dated 2001 and numbered 5, 28, 25 respectively on the reverse
- oil and plaster on canvas, in three parts
- each: 100 by 100cm.; 39 3/8 by 39 3/8 in.
- overall: 100 by 300cm.; 39 3/8 by 118in.
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2005
Rendered in a rich palette of variegating blue hues on a fractured plaster ground, Macau Wall consciously recreates the azulejo, the exuberant white and blue Portuguese terracotta tiles that are synonymous with the artist’s oeuvre. Widely used in Portugal since the Middle Ages, the azulejo became a major cultural export during the Portuguese Empire and today scintillatingly adorns both the interior and exterior of Baroque churches in Brazil. Describing these resplendent church interiors, Varejão noted that “the matter was 'dancing'; bold alive, powerful, teeming... The churches are like jewel boxes containing complex, fascinating carnivorous jewels that are capable of ingurgitating any foreign element, taking disseminated fragments and accumulating them, deforming them and integrating them into their sacred universe” (Adriana Varejão quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, Paris, Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Adriana Varejão: Chambre d'Échos, 2005, p. 81). Indeed, this observation can be seen to embody the spirit of Macau Wall in the way that the work deforms and integrates the foreign and the fragmentary to create a vital triptych that rhythmically pulses as though a living organism.
Macau Wall is one of Varejão’s very first works to ‘ingurgitate’ the history of Macau in her oeuvre, a discovery that later informed the artist’s important Saunas and Baths series. Stumbling upon a book on architecture during a visit to a Portuguese bookshop in 2001, Varejão was struck by a photograph of a plainly-tiled, anonymous interior in Macau and the commonalities between the functional architecture of her own Brazilian cultural heritage and the formerly Portuguese region of Macau in China. Fascinated by Chinese philosophy and ceramics, Varejão increasingly incorporated Eastern and Western visual references in her oeuvre as means of validating the “dialectical processes of power and persuasion” in her effort to “bring back to life processes which created them and use them to construct new versions” (Adriana Varejão quoted in: Rina Carvajal, 'Adriana Varejão: Travel Chronicles' in: Exhibition Catalogue, Washington D.C., National Museum of Women in the Arts, Virgin Territory: Women, Gender, and History in Contemporary Brazilian Art, 2001, p. 116). The exquisitely executed crocodilian surface and craquelure of Macau Wall, therefore, directly references both the Western azulejo and the fissured surfaces of Eastern Chinese Song ceramics in order to reinvent and revitalise them in Varejão’s contemporary lexicon. As the artist explains; “modernity in Brazil is based on this notion of anthropophagy, on the capacity to incorporate foreign ideas and transform them into our own. This notion is linked to the very essence of the Anthropophagic rite, to its symbolic aspect, to the idea of absorbing the Other” (Adriana Varejão, op. cit., 2005, p. 95). As such, Macau Wall seeks to uncover the essential artificiality of culture, giving new meaning and place to the genre of painting in our contemporary world.