Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Beatriz Milhazes at the White Cube

There's a great little exhibition of works by Beatriz Milhazes the White Cube, Bermondsey, at the moment featuring her first enormous tapestry, 'Rio Azul'. There are 18-19 large works, paintings, collages, mobiles and other structural works all brimming with colour and shape and movement.

I've not heard of Beatriz before but I saw an advert for the show on Twitter or Facebook and, on the basis of seeing one painting, decided I had to see the exhibition. It was very reminiscent of the Delaunays, particularly Sonia Delaunay and her colour theories, and I wanted to see more, wanted to see how the word were constructed and finished, and, to be honest, just wallow in the colours.

There are no signs or labels to describe or explain the works, date them or tell you what the materials are. There's a photocopied sheet you can pick up at the front desk that does this if it's important to you to know. I didn't bother.

The first work you come to is this giant pinky dangly-thing - calling it a mobile isn't quite the right word but it hangs from the ceiling and it's big. You can walk underneath it and look up at the various strings of beads and bits-n-bobs it's made up of. It's a room on its own with light coming in form the ceiling and, while I was there, everyone took out their phones to take a photo - everyone. I have no idea what it's meant to be or meant to represent - if anything - and I simply took it at face value. It made me smile, it's fun and i wanted to touch it and move it (but didn't).

The next gallery is the main event with two large rooms, the biggest holding the enormous tapestry, 'Rio Azul'. It's easy to see the threads used in weaving the tapestry and I really wanted to touch it, to feel the texture and test whether different colours felt different but I didn't. You can see the back of the tapestry at the edges and see loose threads and other threads sewn in. There's a video playing on loop in another room that features Beatriz talking about the tapestry and showing how it was made in France.

Some of the other works are paintings and others are collages and paintings. In one of the videos Beatriz commented on the influence of Matisse and, in particular; his cut outs, and I can see that in some of her works but I'd still say that Delaunay was more of an influence to a third party eye. I loved the colours and shapes, placing one colour next to another to see what the eye makes of it, linear and circular juxtaposed, all catching the eye and making it wander over the surface of the work.

It's a bit of cliche to refer to Mark Rothko's works as 'meditative' but, in a very different way, I think these are too. Stare at them and fall into the colour and swirliness of the paintings. There were no benches anywhere to sit and gaze at these paintings - perhaps the White Cube should invest in some (the rooms are big enough, after all).

There were no postcards or catalogue in the shop and you can add your name to a list to hear when the catalogue is available. I suspect that's more to do with the sensibilities and direction of the White Cube than bad planning but I'd have loved to go away with a few postcards to show to people and use as bookmarks (that's what postcards are for, isn't it?). It's also a bit of free publicity.

The exhibition wasn't terribly busy but the rooms were never empty, at least while I was there. I suspect the White Cube and Beatriz Milhazes have their own audiences and don't go in for the mass marketing of Tate Britain further down the river, but if you've got something good it's nice to share it. I'd certainly want to share Beatriz and these weird, colourful, magical creations. Thank you White Cube and thank you to Beatriz Milhazes.

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