Don’t even entertain the thought of pastel colored Ladurée macarons as you take in the soft spoken colors of Adriana Varejão’s works.
The azulejos tiles you may also see are no pretty Marie-Antoinette’s toile de Jouy.
Instead, daring to be too graphic as we approach Halloween, I’d say it is Marie-Antoinette’s beheading which is occasionally channelled in Adriana Varejão’s works.
In her words, Brazilian artist Adriana Varejão is interested in the “ history outside against a wild body inside”. Hence the genius title of her new show at Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills: Interiors. What does the word conjure up for you?
If you are you thinking interiors as space, light and design, the Sauna paintings will resonate.
Over an apparent simplicity of architectural lines, these spaces are illuminated by light and the most wonderful of color camaieus.
Using tile motifs to display infinite hues in blush pink, zinc yellow, dove grey or mint green, these paintings become visual macarons. Incredibly pretty to look at.
Yet as my mind grazed on colors, I realised how hermetic, almost claustrophobic, these interiors quickly became.
I kept wondering through these attractive mazes with no visible exit until a contrasting reddishness against the glorious yellows of O Illuminato turned into a bloody streak.
These saunas are cleansing spaces with no let out for the secrets and life needing to be washed out.
It therefore makes sense for Adriana Varejão to explore tiles as a medium of artistic expression. As applied ornaments, tiles tread a thin line between covering and containing. Physically and literally.
Are tiles purely aesthetic, delineating inside space?
Are they covering walls and the body of life they witness?
Or are tiles containing – almost entombing- the stories walls could tell?
Is their washable surface enough of a release into the world of flesh and blood, another form of Interiors?
Mixing flesh cuts à la Fontana with architectural sectioning, Adriana Varejão reveals different types of Interiors, all unsettling for the lack of direct representation of the human body.
Only blood on the bathroom floor, fleshy meat and viscera allude to the human body itself. Yet Adriana Varejão speaks of its vulnerability in many ways and makes us feel this forcefully.
Drawn to admire her azulejos tiles, we recoil at what they cover and contain.
Looking at these walls bursting with the “wild body inside”, I was reminded of the affliction of our society: the sugar grime of consumption, the reality filth of our world gone mad and the information overload on our neatly tiled social network feeds.
The definite feeling of a crack in the dam waiting to happen…
But these visible cracks in Adriana Varejão’s works also brought back to mind the work of Argentinian artist Analia Saban.
Yes, Analia Saban’s work is bloated with paint.
It oozes surplus paint where she “paints within canvas”, putting paint not on but through the warp or weft of each canvas.
Much like Adriana Varejão, Analia Saban also speaks of fractures, faults and impending natural and social seismic disasters.
Folding concrete slabs like she would paper, she pushes the boundaries of this basic and unforgiving material, draping concrete like silk in Marie-Antoinette’s salon, revealing incredible delicacy and beauty within this upheld tension.
The concrete folds are breaks that never quite break.
Even though they look so wet and alive, her canvas don’t leak.
For all I know, this gives me hope we are no Marie-Antoinette. We’ll keep our heads on our shoulders despite what lies beneath, around and under…
As ever, don’t forget to share your reactions on these works: attractive, repulsive, what was your first reaction? The comment box is all yours.
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Interiors by Adriana Varejão is at Gagosian Beverly Hills until October 25, 2017.
© 2017 Ingrid Westlake
All pictures by Ingrid Westlake, unless otherwise stated.
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