Monday, November 19, 2012

Adriana Varejao

Just discovered the Brazilian artist Adriana Varejao. Her work "alludes to expansion and transformation of cultural identity, yet continues the use of her theme of understanding the past in order to understand the present."

From the Liverpool Biennial website:

"Adriana Varejão’s paintings are cultural and artistic excavations. In particular, they trace the historical conjunctions that have produced contemporary Brazilian art, including Portugal’s long history of cultural cross-fertilisation with China. This complexity is exemplified by Varejão’s incorporation of traces of the transplanted Chinese artistic tradition with the Baroque influences of colonial culture.

"Portuguese Catholicism has produced some startlingly violent imagery, with graphic representations of martyrdom and disrupted flesh that literally dismember the classical ideal of the human body. These images have been absorbed into the indigenous cultural traditions of Brazil, in turn influencing the style and content of local Christian iconography.

"Portuguese artists exploited the narrative potential of Chinese ceramic decoration, especially the cobalt blue that became so popular with Europeans. It is common in both Portugal and Brazil to find blue tile decoration on the outside of buildings. Inside churches, panels of these tiles often tell stories from the lives of the saints. These narratives invariably end badly, with bodily degradation, flaying, dismemberment and various forms of penetration. A very popular secular use of the same medium is found in butchers’ shops to promote their wares. It is common to find images of joints of meat, poultry or fish hanging on hooks in these situations. The parallels with religious iconography are hard to miss.

"Varejão recalls the curious sight of damaged ceramic panels that were restored at some time in the past without any apparent attempt to reconstruct the original design. As a result, the figures have been fragmented and the frame has appeared within the composition in a bizarre configuration. For a modern viewer this fragmentation and disruption of the frame has distinctly cubist (and indeed post-structuralist) overtones, but it is also a compelling metaphor for cultural bricolage. The artist has used this strange history of iconographic conjunctions as a starting point for her paintings, often referring back to the blue tiles."

Meanwhile, this piece by Adriana made in 1997, titled Tea and Tiles II, sold for £391,250 in June this year.

Top image: copyright Victoria Miro
Middle image: copyright Liverpool Biennial
Bottom image: copyright Christies 

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