'I prefer the rhythm of the painting as I'm working on it; I like to listen only to it; and without distraction.'
(B. Milhazes quoted by A. Lindsay, Parkett v. 85, 2009, p.132)
With its intoxicating mix of rich luscious colours, Beatriz Milhazes's monumental Moreno pulsates with energy and life. The all encompassing canvas is dominated by a striking multi-coloured pattern at the centre of the canvas which invokes a flower opening to absorb the heat of a tropical sun. Surrounded by swathes of rich blues, violets, greens and gold, Moreno presents the viewer with a life affirming kaleidoscope of circles, swirls, and organic forms that sing out from the canvas and raises the spirits to a higher level.
True to her Brazilian upbringing, Moreno is born out of a distinctly Latin sensibility combining colour, energy and a strong modernist influence into a visual snapshot of the Brazilian passion for life. Like all her works, Moreno, was created in the artist's small, cramped studio in the centre of Rio de Janeiro. Situated next to the city's luscious botanical gardens, the influences of the country's rich variety of tropical plants have clearly made their way into her work. The sweet scent and vibrant colours that waft across from the tropical oasis clearly have an effect on Milhazes as she works on her canvases. This palpable sense of nature emerges out from her work and imparts it with a magnificent sense of 'a alegria de viver', the uniquely Brazilian ability to enjoy life to the full.
The abundance of her homeland's natural resources are clearly the main source of inspiration but Milhazes also draws on a number of other sources unique to her home city. She has acknowledged the debt played by the chitão (colourful, cheap Brazilian fabric), jewellery, embroidery and folk art. Other important influences range from the work of Roberto Burle Marx, the landscape architect and designer responsible for Copacabana beach promenade to the work of Italian fashion designer like Emilio Pucci. But Milhazes has also drawn on other influences outside her native Brazil. She counts modern masters like Piet Mondrian and Henri Matisse as helping her to understand the fundamentals of colour and form.
Like much of her work, Moreno is as much about Milhazes' love of the painterly process as it is about her love of colour. She creates her work by first painting a layer of background colour onto the canvas, onto which she applies further layers of paint, transferring it onto the surface from a sheet of glass and plastic. This monotype-like process is repeated, with Milhazes reacting each time to the new appearance of the work. Due to the inherent fragility of the process some of the earlier paint layers of the process show through, this layering of paint adding a third dimension and a degree of depth to the work. As reflections of her life experience and heritage, Milhazes' pictures are just as much about the process as they are about the outcome. Painting in a silent studio Milhazes allows the composition to grow organically as she works in the layers.