Overview on Beatriz Millar’s art practice
The work of Beatriz Millar stems from a long, ongoing research around the themes of identity and the feminine. fully aware of the complexity of such area of investigation, the artist embraces the manifold tools of contemporary art to unfold her discourse on different – often antithetic – levels.
At stake in her work are both the physical and the metaphysical, the present and the past; Gender, religion, beliefs, facts and narrativity collide – intertwine – playfully disarming the viewer of his/her certainties through questioning. This process necessarily passes through a reflection on the role of the artist in the contemporary society; Millar’s role could be described as that of the interpreter as she seems to hold a place in-between multiple worlds, able to see and perceive the issues she investigates on in different ways, nearing distant elements in order to create her very personal visual maps of ideas. Interpreting does not merely mean translation, on the contrary, it is a physically challenging position that requires ubiquity and a constant bi-directional dialogue with the viewer.
The artist chooses to establish such dialogue through a careful displacement of shapes, symbols and geometric patterns that evokes a rich visual discourse. Prominent in her practice is the use of text in support of the creative process or embedded within the actual work. Words and signs can co-exist for they are the first instance of concretization of the spiritual – or the heavenly – into physicality, yet Millar plays with their semantics breaking their conventional readings. As The Magician – the first trump in tarot cards, whose right hand points to the sky whilst the left one points to the earth – the artist is the figure suspended between two states (immaterial and physical, private and public) suggesting possibilities for renewal and change while inviting the observer to pay complete attention to the gestures of the enacted ritual.
Beatriz Millar’s recent works increasingly engaged with the research on womanhood, matriarchy and eventually the fascination for The Great Mother, the ancient goddess of birth, life, death and renewal. Since Millar’s earliest paintings and sculptures, women have been the vessels through which the artist would establish a connection between the unfathomable and the world of phenomena; The dancers, prostitutes, saints and everyday women populating her works of the 90s and 2000s struggle to find their path in a tangle of situations often ascribable to a lucid cogitation on the tensions existing with “the other”, the opposite sex, society and the redundancy of stereotypes. The latest works allowed the artist to take an important step towards an active participation in her life-long investigation; Here, the creative process can leave the intimacy of the studio and burst into a performance in which Millar actually becomes The Magician – The Witch – and The Great Mother, by offering to the participants small edible hand-made bread women, prepared and baked in a ritual that literally stimulates all the senses, where words leave place to the warm breath of life gently inflating the voluptuous , majestic forms of the bread. More than in any other series, with these performance works the artist projects her entire research onto herself by exploring her abilities as an alchemist, witch, performer and singer, her strengths and her self-control, fleeing a state of immobility and isolation that would ratify death simply by abandoning her work to the destructive and regenerating stream of energy that regulate our universe.
EENA’s Formula follows a project started in 2011 with the title Salve Regina Souvenir which culminated on the same year with the namesake solo show at Duolun Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai. The original project consisted in a year-long performance during which the artist created small sculptures of bread in the shape of women, photographed before and after being baked, successively gifted to the people participating to her daily life forming a chronological diary of intimate moments of exchange. Millar explored her Swiss cultural background appropriating and reinventing the traditional bread-making of Grittibänz to make her bread sculptures.
Traditionally, Grittibänz are tiny breads representing men; In this work however, they become images of the artist’s female muses, which for their roughness, colour and shape recall sculptures of primordial deities, such as the famous Venus of Willendorf, paleolithic symbol of fertility. In this way, the artist positions her work in the ambiguous threshold between art and craft evoking through bakery ideas of ‘constructed femininity’, addressing conversely the rituality implied in the act of preparing, offering and eating food.
EENA’s Formula takes a step further from its predecessor by exploring in depth this concept of rituality. The new performance takes place in a time span of seven days during which the artist will bake seven bread women. Each bread is going to be dedicated according to one of the seven virtues, one for each day of the week (Prudence, Force, Temperance, Hope, Charity, Justice and Trust), and finally gifted on Sunday to seven selected people during a public performance at White Space Collection.
A ritual is a set of actions that are meant to enable the passage to a different state. Therefore, Millar chose the name EENA – in Hebrew, a female name meaning renewer – to imply the necessity for continuous flows of energy and matter from a state to the other; Through this project, the artist questions immobility and firmness – qualities usually associated to masculinity – in opposition to feminine ideas of destructuration, reconstruction and rebirth. Also, the idea of ritual addresses an agreement on specific sets or rules, it cannot exist without the complete participation of the plurality involved in its process. Essentially, the formula that EENA seems to be looking for is a metaphor of what she already is: renewal. A formula is a reduction of a complex entity into smaller, comprehensible pieces. It is the right, balanced combination of different essences that will lead to the solution.
Overview on Beatriz Millar’s art practice