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Review: Cecilia Andre brings sunshine into Belas Artes

Art by Cecilia Andre
Provided by the artist

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 27, 2013: Brazilian artist Cecilia Andre found herself drawn to the beautiful tile that she encountered everywhere while traveling through Portugal. Her research into the Portuguese tradition of decorative tile is on display in her glimmering painted canvases, now showing for an extended period at the Belas Artes Gallery.

Portugal’s ornamental tiles are called azulejos (from Arabic al-zulayi, meaning polished stone). Andre was struck by the Arab tradition of tiling as an effort to bring the sun-drenched radiance of the outdoors indoors. That is exactly the effect of her paintings. The seaside, the sky, and a tranquil garden, along with musical notes and phrases, entered the gallery space along with her artwork.

Andre’s attraction to the tiles she discovered in Portugal fell into her work in the form of grid lines that imitate grout. The grid lines nearly finish the process of her painting, as a final stage of their production. Occasionally, as in the painting for which the exhibit of her work at Belas Artes Gallery is named, Saravá, the grid lines are crossed. This overlay of words or drips across formal borders adds to the visual depth of Andre’s paintings.

Saravá refers to an Afro-Brazilian expression used as a greeting of welcome. There could hardly be a more fitting name for a collection of art. Andre’s subjects suggest the intimate. She repeats forms: a comb moving through hair, vessels that she refers to as part of her personal archeology.

She engages with the materiality of the paint as she applies it, emphasizing the process of layering that helps her create richly complex compositions. Some layers of her paintings are gestural, so that the spray of color emerging from an overturned bottle creates a dynamic motion.

The warmth of Andre’s paintings is doubled by their display. Walk into the cozy, yet elegant, Belas Artes Gallery and gallery director Ciléia Miranda-Yuen’s smile and welcome will have the same effect of mimicking the sun’s rays Andre adopts from the Portuguese azulejos.

Miranda-Yuen’s passion to connect St. Louis populations through Latin American art and culture makes Belas Artes a local treasure. Her goals for the gallery space are ambitious. The warm and festive atmosphere found when attending the Belas Artes events she designs to meet those goals, such as the on-going Saravá exhibition, make participation in her efforts a delight.