A vibrant and energetic composition, Garoto
is a rhythmic explosion of colour and form. Renowned for her extraordinary capacity to blend visual stimuli from her native Brazil with a remarkable understanding of European history, Beatríz Milhazes employs a rich tapestry of imagery derived from the carnivals of Rio de Janeiro, tropical fauna and flora, folk art, traditional chitão fabric, jewellery, the colonial Baroque and everyday found objects. In Garoto
, the Portuguese word for ‘boy’, the layered composition of the work recalls a wide array of Modern and contemporary artists. With its overlapping planes of vegetal and humanly-wrought forms, the work suggests the Arcadian socialist ideal of William Morris in which the urbane and the natural come into fruitful union. Looping arabesques and scroll-like forms engender vibrant circles reminiscent of the Orphism of Robert Delaunay, and vertical columns, reminiscent of Barnett Newman’s celebrated Zip
paintings, support colourful circles recalling Damien Hirst’s Spot Paintings
. More striking still is the influence of Henri Matisse, whose cut-out works from the 1940s and ‘50s, specifically works such as The Snail
(1952-53, Tate Collection), and Fauvist paintings from the 1900s have had a profound impact on Milhazes’ practice. Upon her first experience of the French master’s work in 1985 the artist realised that a rigorous painting practice can coexist with the use of ornamental forms, and indeed that the two practices can buttress one another. Using a paper collage technique born of her painting practice, which involves the superimpositions of plastic sheets, the artist seeks to both reveal and conceal a number of found cultural artefacts of urban life.
Invoking spirals, flowers, ceramic plates and the targets of Jasper Johns, the hypnotic surface of Garoto exudes a pulsating energy that marries the multifarious processes of painting, collage, lacework and weaving. In doing so, it epitomises the practice of an artist who moved away from the Brazillian Constructivism of Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark to create a few form of art with a greater concern for aesthetics. Taking inspiration from Brazilian Modernism’s insistence on a uniquely Brazilian, anti-Colonial visual language, Milhazes searched for a style that communicated the forms intrinsic to Brazil in an abstract fashion, simultaneously drawing on her knowledge of a vast array of Western artists. In doing so she created a fusion of styles that is entirely unique, and indeed one that insists upon Brazilian art’s recognition within the canon of art history, even as it references the work of more widely recognised masters.