Agnus Dei

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  • Provenance

    Thomas Cohn Galeria, São Paulo
    Important Private Collection, USA

  • Catalogue Essay

    “What consolidates in these images is a thickness of history.” PAULO HERKENHOFF

    Adriana Varejão is one of the most intriguing and exciting artists working in Brazil today. She works across several media, including painting, sculpture and installations, with a highly individual style that draws on baroque art, colonial history and architecture. In the notably expressive handling of her materials, her works possess a powerful sensuality and symbolism that, while rooted in the ideas and practices of the earlier generation of artists of Brazil’s Neo-Concretist movement in the 1950s (including Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Pape), distinguish her approach from her forebears and make her such an outstanding artist today.

    Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), painted in 1990, is a delicate, tactile work from the ‘craquelure’ series produced early in Varejão’s career. Against a background of cracked and peeling painted plaster, the artist has placed a crudely painted version of the traditional Christian icon of the seated lamb holding a cross with a white flag, known as the Lamb of God. By placing this symbol of the Christian church against the craquelure, the artist deliberately evokes an historical narrative – in this case, Brazil’s colonial past and the Church, a theme common in her work – not only by using a time-honoured image but also by creating a fragility that enacts the presence of that history. As one writer has eloquently expressed it, “What consolidated in these images is a thickness of history” (Paulo Herkenhoff, Adriana Varejão: Pintura, Sutura/Painting, Suturing, exh. cat., São Paulo: Galeria Camargo Vilaça, 1996, p. 3).

    The past, as it appears in different forms, is a recurring motif for Varejão in much of her work: “My narrative doesn’t belong to any time or place, it is characterized by discontinuity. It’s an interweaving of histories (and stories). Histories of bodies, of architecture, of Brazil, of tattoos, of ceramics, of old Portuguese azulejos or ordinary modern tiles, of maps, books, painting…” (the artist, in Hélène Kelmachter, Adriana Varejão, EchoChamber, exh. cat., Paris: Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, 2005, p. 81). Art history is a constant and inescapable presence in Varejão’s work. Compare, for example, the present lot with a work of the same title by the Spanish Baroque artist Francisco de Zurbarán, in which the dramatic chiaroscuro effect and the detailed depiction of the animal’s skin epitomise the qualities of the Baroque painting that are also so evident in the present work. According to Varejão: “The Baroque is a timeless style which makes you understand that art is nothing but pure culture. That art comes from art and not from nature” (the artist quoted in Hélène Kelmachter, Adriana Varejão, Echo Chamber, exh. cat., Paris: Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, 2005).

  • Artist Bio

    Adriana Varejão

    Brazilian • 1964

    The diverse work of Brazilian artist Adriana Varejão examines such themes as anthropology and miscegenation in contemporary Brazilian society. Born in 1964 in Rio de Janeiro, Varejão possesses an oeuvre spanning painting, sculpture, works on paper, installation and photography.

    A common motif in Varejão's oeuvre is that of the Azulejo, a traditional Portuguese ceramic tile. In her most famous series, Jerked-beef ruin (2000-'04), Varejão ruptures the ceramic tiles violently exposing a flesh-like interior. The stark contrast between the aesthetically pleasing blue geometric tiles and the visceral interior provides commentary on modern forms of colonization in contemporary Brazilian society.

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Agnus Dei

oil on plaster on canvas
200 x 210 cm (78 3/4 x 82 5/8 in)
Signed, titled and dated 'Adriana Varejão ''Agnus Dei" 1990' on the reverse.

£100,000 - 150,000 

sold for £145,250

Contemporary Art Evening

28 June 2012