After looking into the history of the Olympic rings here on The Chromologist recently, we thought we’d also provide an alternative take perfectly suited to the vibrant and colourful setting of this year’s games. Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes is the perfect partner to those iconic rings, her paintings and collages featuring circles and rays in the boldest of colours, in works that have been compared to a firework display.
Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1960, Milhazes has been described as “Brazil’s most successful contemporary painter”. Trained at the Parque Lage art school in Rio, she has worked in a studio in the Jardín Botanico neighbourhood of the city ever since, while her work has travelled in exhibitions across the globe. The exacting structure and process of her work is a contrast with the exhilarating pieces that she creates, each bursting with dynamic movement.
As well as being influenced by Modernist painters from Brazil, Europe and the US, Brazilian motifs and culture also play a key part in her pieces. She takes motifs from Brazilian ceramics, lacework, carnival decoration and Colonial baroque architecture as well as being inspired by both opera and traditional local music. Her pieces positively burst not just with colour – rich golds, oranges and pinks predominate – but also with a sort of physical rhythm.
These free-wheeling, energetic effects are in fact achieved by a painstaking process combining elements of monotype and collage. Many of the works begin with painting onto a plastic sheet which is then stuck to the canvas and left to dry. It is later peeled away, leaving the image superimposed on the canvas, but with gaps in the paint, exposing layers beneath. Many of these sheets are then kept and reused by Milhazes, sometimes over the course of years, a process which the artist likens to the overlaying process and imperfection of memory.
This layering of detail is central to her work, with Milhazes revelling in creating a surface that requires work from the viewer. “I need to have all these elements and put them together,” she told RES Art World/World Art in 2008. “There are not peaceful surfaces. There should be some struggle on the surface and then create some activities for your eyes”
Inspired by many female Modern artists, Milhazes has spoken in the past of the Brazilian cannon of art being particular in its celebration of female artists, and her use of Brazilian folk motifs also roots her work firmly in the world of the poorest communities in her home country. The life-affirming kinetic quality inherent in these paintings makes them a perfect alternative to the more staid Olympic rings, and as an artist working with the subject matter of Brazil itself she is a perfect reference point for Rio 2016.
See more of Beatriz Milhazes’ work and find out about future exhibitions here.