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RED IS THE COLOUR OF PASSION



The body of work entitled Vermelho é a cor da paixão started in 2017. Those works are heavily inspired by the problematics around identity and the colonisation of Brazil. Through my art, I intend that image, historicity, and emotions intertwine, in the attempt to criticize the brutality of the colonial process.

In essence, this collection aims to demystify the traditional portraiture of the European Expansion across the globe. The artworks are allegoric, each detail is placed meticulously, have a complex meaning and a history to tell. Everything is contaminated to problematize history. My works are dense, convoluting and often chaotic, and the intricacy of the visuals is an attempt to attract the viewers towards it.

Also, the name Brasil comes from a tree called Pau-Brasil, named thus because of its red colour, that resembled embers of fire. This tree has properties that made it the first truly valuable product in the period of assembly of the Portuguese colonial system. “Ibirapitanga” was the name used by the native indigenous, that means in the Tupi- Guarani language red wood.

Finally, each one of the pieces that are part of Vermelho é a cor da paixão, represents a desperate attempt to reconstruct the Brazilian identity quilt. Through the reframing of Eurocentric aesthetics, I want to present a new possibility for the traditional visual and discursive interpretation that had been imposed via the hegemony of Western culture translating in the romanticization of colonial portraiture throughout history.



Detail of the sculpture Roots of Brazil.

In May 2017 I started the construction of a 18th century Baroque dress that has inspiration in the painting Carlota Joaquina, Infanta de España, Reina de Portugal. I covered this dress in thousands of small pieces of MDF and the dress is made to scale to fit a 10-year-old child, the same age that Carlota got married to Dom João VI. The dress is stuck in the plinth by roots that contaminate the whole space it occupies. The roots represent the conservatism and reactionary ideas, that ground themselves instead of trying to reach for new horizons.



Roots of Brazil |
2018 | Real dress for base, Papier-mâché, MDF | 146 x 88 x 140 cm | available





Detail of the sculpture Roots of Brazil.

In 1936, Sérgio Buarque de Holanda published Roots of Brazil, this book not only supported my argument in my final Dissertation but was key for the creation and contextualization of this piece and the following works produced for the collection Red is the colour of passion, started in 2017. Roots of Brazil is an innovative book with regards to the pursuit of the Brazilian national identity.

I am depicting Carlota as a child, for believing in the immense capacity that children have to reinvent, question and reshape their minds. Until they are, inevitably, exposed to familiar, cultural, educational and social norms and start engaging themselves in the reproduction of biased and pre-established values / discourse.



Guaraná | 2018 | mixed media on canvas | 177 x 116 cm | available


The work Guaraná is inspired by the painting Carlota Joaquina, Infanta de España, Reina de Portugal by the Spanish painter Mariano Salvador Maella in 1785. The guaraná is a fruit originally from the Amazon basin, and the Sateré-Mawé indigenous were the pioneers in its planting. Guaraná was made to scale to the original painting.

In my version, the pictorial elements are inverted via the use of bold colours and the mixed media technique itself. An empty birdcage replaces the canary that rests in Carlota’s fingers seen in the original painting, and it is as if this animal represented Brazil itself. The naive and delicate bird, perhaps also symbolise the “docile” and trustworthy aspect of how the native people of Brazil reacted towards the Portuguese invaders during “discovery” times. In my version of the painting, the empty cage represents a symbolic and ideological space in which Contemporary Brazilian society seems to sustain their paradoxical sense of identity.

Carlota Joaquina Teresa Cayetana de Bourbon (1775-1830) was born in Aranjuez, Spain. She was the Queen consort of Portugal, Brazil and Algarves and Empress consort of Brazil. She was extremely ambitious and since the arrival of the Portuguese crown in Brazil in 1808, she began to conspire against her husband, D. Joao VI claiming that he was not able to govern and that she should be in power instead.

Her liberal attitude was very different from the values of other women at court. She was particularly criticized by Portuguese men who disapproved of the strength and resourcefulness with which Carlota Joaquina occupied, especially the public space and her keen taste for politics. If we consider that most of the women of that time were deprived of social participation, Carlota's transgressive behaviour made room for many malicious rumours regarding her moral conduct to be raised by the court.

My interest in Carlota Joaquina started very early, as she was especially famous in Brazil and was a very important historical figure as well as being part of the popular culture of my country. Despite the negative aspects of Carlota's personality, I can not deny that many of her personal traits fascinate me. And at several moments in my artistic career, I used her image as inspiration for self-portraits.

Finally, the excess of the colour red is to demonstrate the violent nature of colonial processes, and the reason why Carlota appears faceless in the painting is to allude to the erasure of female narratives in history and the difficulties faced by women to have agency.



          
The British love ‘Images Courtesy of the Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, Middlesex University.' |  2017 | Collage and ink on paper | 21 x 29.7 cm | available


This image makes a critique of the exaggerated nationalistic character in the United Kingdom, which perhaps became more evident Post-Breshit. Similarly, to the collage Pest, this work also seeks a reflection on the violence that characterized the colonizing process of the British Empire more specifically. Chokingly, until the year of 1922 the Britain ruled a fifth of the world’s population and a quarter of the world’s total land area. This almost comical image depicts three white men in garments unsuitable for the environment in which they find themselves, and of course, holding alcoholic beverages, proudly celebrating “their great achievements” and with an almost perceptible sense of "job done” in their faces.

Analyzing the collage, we see that the landscape in the background is coloured, and contrasts with the black and white of the male figures that are there. This was an attempt to mark these individuals by putting them on the margins, alienating them and making it clear that they do not belong there. Below, and extract from the Manifesto Antropofágico, that is a great source of inspiration for this whole collection:

‘We want the Caribé Revolution.
Bigger than the French Revolution.
For the unification of all the efficient revolutions for the sake of human beings.  Without us, Europe would not even have had its paltry declaration of the rights of men.’









The bucolic image shows ships approaching the shore, clearly symbolizing the (concrete and symbolic) invasion of the European colonizers in the so-called Global South nations.

The sea, painted in red, is also an allusion to the famous speech given on the 20 April 1968, by the former Member of Parliament, Enoch Powell. This speech became known as Rivers of Blood. This racist, biased and xenophobic discourse demonstrates a total lack of critical sense concerning the destruction that his own nation has caused (and continues to cause) to other people and localities across the globe. Enoch’s words are truly astounding, but sadly not shocking, as large part of the UK population is still proud of the Empire's achievements.

This collage aims to problematize the hegemony of Western cultural production / ideology and its dissemination in the world as well as its dehumanising aspects. Finally, this work is a desperate atte mpt to address the historical amnesia, so we can reflect and work together preventing that history is not forgotten and especially not repeated.




PEST ‘Images Courtesy of the Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, Middlesex University.' | 2017 | Collage and ink on paper | 21 x 29.7 cm | available



         
A Exótica ‘Images Courtesy of the Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, Middlesex University.' | 2017 | Collage and ink on paper | 21 x 29.7 cm | available


This allegorical image shows a misinterpretation of how Brazilian society is commonly perceived as being a beautiful and tropical paradise. This simplistic analysis of Brazil is extremely problematic as it doesn't’ take into account the complexity of the country. The colorful image disguise two important elements of Brazil’s historical composition that appear in both corners of this collage and that allude to the colonial processes that took place in the country. The image of the colonizers appears again in a different colour scheme from the rest of the picture giving the sense of marginalization.

The name of the collage comes from the concept of Exoticism, that is the representation of a culture through the gaze of another for the purposes of the consumption or inferiorization of the former. This terminology was born from Imperialism and not only has an aesthetical value but also an ontological character, and is an attempt to decharacterize the cultural relevance of other societies.

In an attempt to understa nd this complexity, the Germanic-American anthropologist Franz Boas proposed ideas that would later be linked to Cultural Relativism, which is the idea that a person's beliefs, values, and practices should be understood based on that person's own culture, rather than be judged against the criteria of another. Finally, the collage portrays a woman of white features using traditional indigenous facial painting and denotes the problematic that encompasses the formation of Brazilian society and our complex identity quilt.





The drawing Crise de Identidade is a self-portrait, in relationship to the lithography Carlota Joaquina of Spain as Princess of Brazil. The drawing was also made to scale to the original Marques de Aguilar artwork. Here, I made the background upside down and this is to give an unsettling character. At a first look, this feature almost goes unnoticed, as it is made quite delicately. This is an attempt to demonstrate that at first sight some things can be lost if they are not given the proper analysis and thought.

We see Yoruba and Indigenous Guarani Mbyá traditional ornaments and bead neckless, a pearl neckless and a rosary around my neck. All those different cultural elements are attempting to coexist in the same space, despite all the problematic regarding how those various identities came together in the first place. The compass pointing to South is again used in this drawing, and the crown seen in the original lithography is replaced by a traditional indigenous headdress.

Finally, the figures were changed and instead I depict a confrontation between indigenous and Por tuguese invaders at the moment of their arrival in the Brazilian shore, that sadly never really occurred. In essence, this work talks about the very clear separation that exists between the ideas of “us” and “them”, and how identities are chameleonic, never-fixed, and difficult to be conceive.

At the bottom of the drawing, you see the result of a DNA test that I took back in December 2017, the results are as follow: Iberian (56.7%), Italian (1.5%), North and West European (23.2%), Ashkenazi Jewish (3.6%), West African (2.8%), Sierra Leonean (1.1%), Maasai (1.5%), Kenyan (1.0%), Central America (4.7%), Indigenous Amazonian (0.8%) and Middle Eastern (3.1%).
        
Crise de Identidade | 2017 | ink and pencil on paper | 32.3 x 22.2 cm | available



THE DRESS



I am the dress.
Within the void, the hollow, the structure,
I find myself.
Twirling, ricocheting through its rigid barriers.
I find myself in inertia, arrested, paralyzed,
prescribing the same eternal journey.
I arrive at the same place from where I left.

For I am the non-present image.
Not revealed.
I wear the dress of my immense difficulty in
opening myself to others,
to forgive the ones who hurt me.
And in return, I find comfort when
I hurt them back.
So, leave me in eternal ellipse,
with the emptiness of my own speech.
The same emptiness that fills me up.

I need to reach out for my own roots.
The roots that I want to break free from
are the same ones I am dying to get strangled by.
I need to find balance,
so my heart doesn't speak louder than my mind.
 I need to find the place where affection do not infect me
destroying the bridge I intend to create.

The dress is my armor of great words I will never say.
Of great speeches that are not mine.
Of great deeds that are not mine.
I don’t even know who I am anymore.
What do I believe in?

While whirling, whirling, whirling the dress,
all I have left is passion.
I wear this dress with dread.
I wear the dress of my insecurities.
I get caught.
I strangle myself.
I am blocking everything.

I am armed with a sword, with a shield and my words.
And my actions rarely follow them, but I am good at pretending.
No one will pass, no one shall cross me.
Not the imaginary, not the real.
Nothing will come pass me this time.

I am everyone
and I am everywhere.
I am the dress.
I am Carlota. Moema. Caramuru.
I am black, white, indigenous.
I am the colonizer, the opressor and the oppressed
all at the same time.
I am plurality.

But yet, I am static, inert, empty
and absolutely overflown.
I am so full, heavy…
I can’t barely move.
I go back into my hole, within the void,
the empty speeches, my empty bed,
my empty heart.
Not a soul to be seen.
Inside those walls, only my own image resides.
I strangle myself.



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PINDORAMA EXISTE E RESISTE. All rights reserved to Sabrina Collares, 2021.