For her debut exhibition in Hong Kong, Lehmann Maupin will present eight new works by one of Brazil’s leading artists, Adriana Varejão. Through painting Varejão addresses themes of colonialism, miscegenation, and anthropology in Brazil, one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. Infused with layers of meaning, her work contains references to both her personal and Brazilian history. Her varied sources of inspiration range from art history to religious art, from erotic art to decorative art, from wall tiles to ceramics, from China to Brazil, from colonial iconography to images produced by European travelers, and from aquatic themes to cartography. She researches these disparate histories and weaves various elements, from traditional to marginalia, together to evoke often forgotten stories and references.
From the very early stages of her career, Varejão has been fascinated by China and its relationship to Brazil through colonial trade routes. The works presented in this exhibition echo back to a series Varejão began in 1992, when, impressed by the influence that Chinese art exerted over the Brazilian baroque, she spent three months in China. Varejão found inspiration in 11th-century Song dynasty ceramics and developed an interest in craquelure, an effect present in many of her artworks, particularly those in her most recent series.
Varejão’s latest works further explore the connection between China and Brazil, and are executed in the style of traditional Chinese ink paintings also from the Song Dynasty, considered the “Golden Age of Chinese painting”. While using the same flattened perspective and imagined locations typical of Chinese landscape painting, Varejão references Brazil with images of Baroque churches and the monasteries of Minas Gerais. By combining Brazilian and Chinese imagery and stories, Varejão creates her own type of mestizaje, a term the artist often references as it embodies the concept of miscegenation—the cultural and biological mixing of races. The shape of Varejão’s newest canvases reference fig and banana leaves and are inspired by Chinese fig leaf paintings, on which miniature landscapes and interiors were often traditionally painted.
Varejão’s major solo exhibition, Kindred Spirits, will be on view at the Dallas Contemporary in Texas through December 20, 2015. In a new series of self-portraits presented there, Varejão continues her exploration of themes of colonialism and cultural identity. Changing her appearance through alterations in skin tone and facial markings, Varejão shifts the manner in which her image is conveyed and interpreted.