Roda Coração II by Beatriz Milhazes

Beatriz Milhazes, Roda Coração II, 2021, acrylic on linen, 70-7/8" × 78-1/2" (180 cm × 199.4 cm) © Beatriz Milhazes


Beatriz Milhazes in Conversation with Polly Apfelbaum

Excerpt from full interview on June 14, 2022
Published Friday, Sep 23, 2022

This interview took place on June 14, 2022. It is included alongside text by Mark Godfrey in the publication (opens in a new window) Beatriz Milhazes: Mistura Sagrada, available for pre-sale from Pace Publishing.

Polly Apfelbaum: We both love color. Why? Is there any answer for that?

Beatriz Milhazes: Color is what makes everything happen. If the combination of colors is not right, the work is not finished. Color gives balance, harmony, structure. It’s life and nature. It is pure sensibility, poetry, imagination, abstraction, and joy. My selection of colors is often based on contrast. I’m a color observer, a color researcher.

PA: I like what David Batchelor [1] says: “Color is the gift that keeps on giving.” I always loved that. He is another mutual friend and Influence. It’s such a beautiful, generous thing. And that generosity connects up to the spiritual side—I love how you and your work are very in touch with the spiritual sense of life, not in the sense of organized religion, but the connection with the Baroque and Carnival, which comes out of a spiritual tradition.

BM: Yes, and actually this influence came from different directions, both in art history and Brazilian history. For example, some of my works from the 1990s have these dark arabesques. I developed them based on my observations of ornamental drawings done on women’s faces of the Kadiwéu indigenous tribe. They still do this type of drawing today, only on women. On the other hand, the Baroque design of iron on doors also had a great influence on me at that time. My interest was not just about forms or shapes; it was also about the meanings behind the rituals of these splendid ornamentations, the feeling of being completely caught up in their spiritual beauty. They are actually all based on a natural order within me, which I enjoy and which moves me to be an artist. And these are the feelings I want to see in my paintings.

I began to think of circles as the core of spirituality in 2017, and the pandemic made me go back to the influences I've just mentioned. My work is in constant evolution. Usually, when I start a group of paintings, I introduce new elements—diagonal fragmentations, for example—and mix them with the old ones. Every time I drop in something new, something strange, it generates new possibilities for the composition. It's like I create a specific universe and construct something else from it. Of course, I have to make decisions, decide what path I should follow, but it’s the same in life, and one should take advantage of the chance he or she is given.

But coming back to my circles, they’re not only about geometry, about optical movements, they're connected to Nature: the breath and speed of the forests, flowers, leaves, animal shapes, the power of the waves, water, oceans, the Earth’s rotation, the Sun, the Moon, day, night, sky, light . . . Think about the ocean: it has a visuality which is not simply rational. It has to do with the order of Nature. It’s both sensible and structured, and that's what I try to show in my work.

Roda Coração III by Beatriz Milhazes

Beatriz Milhazes, Roda Coração III, 2021, acrylic on linen, 76-1/4" × 78-7/8" (193.7 cm × 200.3 cm) © Beatriz Milhazes

PA: So these new paintings, you’ve been making them throughout the pandemic?

BM: Right.

PA: And do you think that the lockdown and the pandemic had an impact on your work?

BM: Yes and no. What was really unique about that period was returning to a simpler life, with very little traveling. There was less pressure on me, and I had more time available to do what was already part of my routine, such as focusing on my practice and improving things in my studio and my neighborhood. I had more time to talk with my family and friends, exercise, and work with my small but efficient team. We had many opportunities to discuss and develop ideas, to think deeply about areas and topics we hadn’t engaged with before. I was forced to slow down but stayed committed to interacting with those who were under more pressure and had to speed up. It was a challenging period for humanity, and I felt I had the responsibility to move things forward as much as possible around me.

[1] David Batchelor is a Scottish artist and writer.

  • Essays — Beatriz Milhazes in Conversation with Polly Apfelbaum, Sep 23, 2022