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BARBARA MOURA. I sing the body electric

Category: Portrait 13. November 2023

Like Walt Whitman in his poem “I Sing the Body Electric”, Barbara Moura’s work attempts to reconcile body and spirit, the physical and the immaterial. The dualism inherent in the human experience seems to be at the heart of the artist’s work. Her paintings take us on an exploration of the psychological depths of the soul, embodied in almost life-size (self-)portraits. Sometimes vulnerable, sometimes determined, her characters demonstrate that such duality can be a strength, or at least a creative energy.

In 2023, Barbara Moura initiated a series of tributes to the “great masters”: Caravaggio, Rego, Matisse, Millais, Picasso … She reinterprets them in her very personal universe, recognizable by signature objects such as the ribbon or accessories worthy of a contemporary Arlequine, such as pompon boots. All these elements form her powerful personal symbolism. By reappropriating classic art-historical themes in the form of self-portraits, she underlines both the uniqueness of her own experience and the universality of feelings such as love—the throes of passion, but also the importance of self-love and sisterhood. As in Whitman’s poem, sensuality is embraced, frontal, defiant.

Barbara Moura’s acrylic paintings are dense and luminous, with flat tints alternating with spontaneous brushstrokes. The well-defined chiaroscuro, against which figures and symbols stand out, delivers a subject that is as poetic as it is political. Here, Caravaggio meets commedia dell’arte. The artist’s passion for cinema (of which she is a graduate) is evident in her keen sense of mise-en-scène.

André Breton is said to have described Frida Kahlo’s work as a “ribbon around a bomb”. This description echoes the approach of Barbara Moura, whose sensibility can be described as “feminine”, but in fact serves to convey a committed feminist message. The tragicomic dimension of her ambivalent characters enables the artist to deliver a double-edged vision of the world, as a daily struggle for self-acceptance and sanity in today’s patriarchal, individualistic system. (written by Colette Angeli)

The exhibition "Barbara Moura. I sing the body electric" at C.A. Contemporary is open till December 20, 2023.

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