Adriana Varejão: Carnivorous at the Victoria Miro Gallery
Born in 1964, prestigious Brazilian artist Adriana Varejão has had solo exhibitions in Arte da Pampulha, Belo Horizonte (2008), Hara Museum, Tokyo (2007), Fondation Cariter Pour L’Art Contemporain, Paris (2005) and Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon (2005). She more recently put up an installation piece on the ceiling of Centro de Arte Contemporania in Sao Paulo, where she first depicted carnivorous plants in red on a white background.
Varejão’s work is titled Carnivorous from the 16th century Latin “devouring flesh”, suggesting the artist’s work to be bloody, animalistic, vicious and dangerous. What we find however is a juxtaposition with 11th century Chinese Caledon vase making, represented through cracking plaster on a two-dimensional canvas. The depictions of the killer plants inhabit the cracked canvas in varied panel configurations. A conscious artistic balance with the introduction of period artifacts and natural science creates timeless composition.
Since early in her career there have been cracked tiles – a recurring motif and an excellent execution of the portrayal of Chinese Caledon ceramics that suggest the passage of time, instability and fragility. We also find the recurring subject of Portuguese Azulejo tilework as an underlying theme, and thus the strong idea of painting as an ornamental figure.
Varejão’s paintings differ in tonalities of red, suggesting more aggressive or even bloodier plants being depicted, with inspiration coming from scientific botany encyclopedia. There’s a Louise Bourgeois reference to her late red gouaches, some of which feature botanical motifs. The most interesting aspect, however, is the transcendence of these plants to symbolic elements.
The powerful idea behind Varejão’s work is ambiguity: set very firmly rooted in the past, while being able to take you on an introspective journey, setting a conversation about the inevitable current topics of time, life, love and dangerous lust.
Andriana Varejão: Carnivorous is at the Victoria Miro Gallery until 2nd August 2014. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.