The early 20th-century modernist tendencies were, among other things, characterized by an interest in the spiritual; the belief that the artistic vision is charged with numerous sensations that come from another realm was expressed in the way the artists experimented with colors, compositions, and an overall effect of painting.
Inspired by such an approach, the contemporary Brazilian mixed media artist Geiza Barreto creates abstractions through which she seeks balance in both logical and emotional sense. As a matter of fact, her paintings are the results of an intuition, evoking a constant search for the human essence.
Active in arts since 2016, Geiza Barreto confirmed her domains by exhibiting in the local and international context.
To find out more about the driving forces behind her creativity, we asked the artist to answer a couple of questions in the following interview.
Widewalls: At first glance, your paintings evoke the early 20th-century modernist traditions exemplified by Kandinsky, Chagall, or Calder. How do you respond to historical abstraction?
Geiza Barreto: My artistic language visually incorporates the emotional impact caused by contact with the works of artists that I consider references of abstractionism - from childhood, when I had classes at school on this movement, until adulthood, through the study and contemplation of the works of these artists - in particular, Kandinsky and Miró.
Widewalls: Is your sensibility in any way influenced by Candomblé or other spiritual practices present in Brazil?
GB: Brazil is characterized by religious syncretism, which is the confluence of Christianity, African religions (especially Candomblé), and indigenous traditions. Despite some important differences between them, they all believe in the existence of the soul, of an extra-physical world, and in the possibility of communication with the divine, either directly or through intercessors.
I was born and raised in Salvador, in Bahia, where, for historical reasons, this syncretism is most intensely felt. The religiosity of the people is very intense.
Despite having a Catholic background and not being a Candomblé practitioner (which would be a logical conclusion if it weren't for religious syncretism), we are often exposed to the rituals and symbols of that religion; they are part of the collective unconscious of the people from Bahia. This influences the way I see and feel the world and ends up, in some way, manifesting in my artistic work.
Widewalls: Could you briefly describe your working process? What motivates you on a daily basis?
GB: My process of building abstract paintings involves a state of mindfulness and connection with the Higher Self. I achieve this by adding layers of various materials intuitively, observing or listening to the meaning of the painting, which usually comes as an idea, a piece or title of a song, or even a finished word or phrase.
While I don't always clearly see the meaning of the painting from the start, I keep adding layers, often partially covering the previous layers. Once I understand the message that I am supposed to convey through the work, I act more logically, adding details that can make it more transparent and more attractive in the viewer's eyes.
My motivation comes from my need for expression, from the feeling that I have something to communicate to the world through my art and the pleasure, peace, and balance that I feel during this process.
Widewalls: Is it right to describe your works as maps of the mind that can be used to trace a myriad of emotions, gestures, and thoughts?
GB: My abstract art intends to portray my soul at a given moment, assigning colors and shapes to a multitude of emotions and thoughts. In expressing my soul, I am also bringing up the collective unconscious and the spirit of my time, and the place where I live.
Thus, it is correct to interpret and describe my works as maps of the mind. Since, in my understanding, art connects the artist's universe to that of the observer, these maps will reveal a lot about the viewer's mind as well.
Widewalls: Have you considered expressing yourself in other media?
GB: Something [what] attracts me in mixed media is precisely the possibilities of expressing myself through the characteristics of each material I use. I expect to take it further, so I am always experimenting with new media and new ways of expression. I am currently doing some experiments painting on other supports. I have also tried digital art, which is something that I expect to do more often.
However, I like the sensory experience that is involved with physical painting and collage. Given that I often hear songs or poems in my imagination while painting, I also consider performing them to enrich the viewer's experience with my art.
Widewalls: Do you tend to articulate the reality through your work and do you find it suitable for questioning certain social or political issues?
GB: I don't usually work with factual reality; I tend to work with timeless and/or invisible matters, such as the mysteries of the universe and the human mind, the thoughts and feelings that create reality, and those that are triggered by it.
In this respect, it is possible to perceive social or political issues only indirectly, expressed in the sentences I use or the feelings I represent. Thus, my work doesn't seem to be suitable for questioning social or political issues.
Widewalls: What are your current yearnings when it comes to your artistic voyage?
GB: I have planned my career to participate in national and international exhibitions, have my work listed in public and private collections, make collaborative participations with musicians, and make performances that involve the representation of the thoughts and feelings expressed in my paintings.
I also intend to take my art in other media and license products based on it.
Featured image: Portrait of Geiza Barreto. All images courtesy of the artist and Artios Gallery.
New York City, United States of America