Turner Contemporary opens a survey of the work of Beatriz Milhazes

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Turner Contemporary opens a survey of the work of Beatriz Milhazes
Beatriz Milhazes, O Diamante, 2002, Acrylic on canvas, la Caixa Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.

MARGATE.- Turner Contemporary is presenting Beatriz Milhazes: Maresias, a survey of the work of Beatriz Milhazes (b.1960, Rio de Janeiro), widely recognised as one of the leading abstract artists working today. Her first UK solo institutional exhibition in over two decades, Maresias features 20 key paintings and 5 works on paper from 1989 to more recent years. While tracing the evolution of Milhazes’ artistic approach over the past four decades, the exhibition highlights nature as an enduring and increasingly important theme in her work. This is echoed in the exhibition’s title Maresias, which refers to the salty ocean breeze that is part of Milhazes’ everyday life in the coastal city of Rio de Janeiro. Encouraging us to reflect on our own relationship with the environment, the exhibition also speaks to Turner Contemporary’s unique coastal location and the new strand of the gallery’s programme dedicated to contemporary ecological issues. A major new installation commissioned for the Sunley Gallery Window was also be unveiled.

Milhazes emerged in the 1980s as a leading figure in the important Brazilian art movement Geração Oitenta (1980s Generation), which moved away from the austere conceptual art of the previous decade and embraced painting as a form of energy and expression. Today, Milhazes is known for intensely colourful, large-scale abstract canvases which present energetic contradictions: from the tension between carefully planned construction and appearance of spontaneity, to slick surfaces that bely tiny cracks and layers which suggest, as Milhazes has put it, that the works “have been there forever”. Milhazes’ works combine references deeply rooted in Brazilian contexts and heritage with elements of western abstraction and the influence of artists including Sonia Delaunay, Henri Matisse and Bridget Riley.

The exhibition opens 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 de Maria (1992). Here, Milhazes incorporates lacework, ruffles and gilded rosettes onto canvases rich with references to ‘Carnaval’, Catholic iconography and Baroque colonial architecture. The early 1990s marked a breakthrough moment for Milhazes. Frustrated by the appearance of brushstrokes, which she saw as signs of the artist’s hand, Milhazes developed her distinctive ‘monotransfer’ technique in which she paints motifs onto plastic sheeting before transposing them onto canvas. This process offers the possibility to retain the fidelity of the colours, and intensify the effects of fluorescent and metallic pigments. It also allows Milhazes to create a smooth and defiantly un-painterly surface from which she can build her images, adapting the concept of collage to her painting practice.

Works from the next decade is on display in the Small South Gallery and North Gallery, from expansive paintings such as Fleur de la passion: Maracjuá (1995–6) to the denser compositions of Maresias (2002) and Férias de verão (2005). These paintings, some of which were shown in the Brazilian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2003, explore how Milhazes has expanded and refined the monotransfer technique in canvases characterised by geometric shapes, arabesque lines and dazzling colour.

Milhazes has said that “My endearments are made of the breath and speed of the forests, the flowers, the leaves. The power of the waves, the water, the oceans. The fascinating animal shapes. The movement of the Earth’s rotation, the Sun, the Moon, day, night, the sky, global connectivity.” Reflecting this, the Large South Gallery will be dedicated to the spiritual experience of being in nature. Motifs such as abstracted flowers, oceans, trees, plants, suns and stars will reveal Milhazes’ close attention to the landscape, the changing seasons and nature’s beauty and fragility. Works influenced by the botanical gardens and Tijuca forest near her studio, as well as Rio de Janeiro’s ocean front, include O sol de Londres (2003) as well as the more recent Douradinha em cinza e marrom (2016) and Margueritola (2014–15). Together, they reflect how Milhazes’ use of forms including waves, petals and circles has become more pronounced, characterising her distinctive visual language. The Irene Willet Gallery presents a selection of collages, sharing the artist’s approach to this medium combining found papers and packaging.

Site-specific commissions have long been an important part of Milhazes' practice. In recognition of this, Milhazes created a new iteration of O Esplendor especially for Turner Contemporary's Sunley Gallery Window, following the installation of an earlier O Esplendor at the Long Museum, Shanghai, in 2021. This site-specific installation in coloured vinyl will bathe two floors of the gallery in coloured light and create a spectacular dialogue with the view onto the North Sea. In turn, O Esplendor is also visible from the beach.

Beatriz Milhazes: Maresias is co-curated by Melissa Blanchflower, Senior Curator and Emma Lewis, Curator.

Beatriz Milhazes said: “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 word”.

Clarrie Wallis, Director of Turner Contemporary, said: “Turner Contemporary is proud to present Beatriz Milhazes: Maresias. This solo exhibition of the renowned Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes marks the beginning of the new programme under my Directorship and will be Beatriz’s first exhibition in a UK public gallery since 2001.

The exhibition reflects the gallery’s mission to broaden reach, introducing the work of international artists to new audiences. It demonstrates how Beatriz’s focus on nature’s fragility and the importance of its preservation has become increasingly significant in her practice over time.”

Beatriz Milhazes was born in 1960 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where she lives and works. She represented Brazil at the 50th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia (2003); she has also participated in the São Paulo Biennial (1998, 2004); and the Shanghai Biennial (2006). Milhazes has been the subject of solo exhibitions including Long Museum (West Bund), Shanghai (2021); MASP – Museu de Arte de São Paulo (2020); Pérez Art Museum, Miami, USA (2014/2015); Fondation Beyeler, Basel (2021); Fondation Cartier, Paris (2009) and Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK (2001). Her work is included in numerous collections, including Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tate Modern, London; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, Rio de Janeiro; Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, São Paulo; Instituto Itaú Cultural, São Paulo; Fundação Edson Queiroz, Fortaleza; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo Art Museum, Tokyo; 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Fondation Beyeler, Basel; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris and Tate Modern, London. She has presented UK public commissions for Art on the Underground (2005) and Selfridges, Manchester (2013).

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