Maria Amaral: Tango’Fusion

From 2 April to 7 May 2013 at the BE-ESPACE Gallery, Brian Elliott Rowe showcases the work of Maria Amaral, an Argentinian artist well known for her paintings of tango dancers. Around thirty paintings reveal her painterly interpretation of this dance, where two bodies interact, constantly coming together and breaking apart. A dance where movement, stillness and suspended time coexist. Amaral paints the life force of tango, overlaid with a sensuality that is tightly bound up with the power of human emotion. This exhibition has been organized with kind support from the Argentine Embassy in France.     

Maria Amaral might say to us: ‘I am Tango’ : it is a dance whose energy seems to run through the very fibre of her paintbrushes. She choreographs her paintings, carefully staging her dancers in order to achieve the total fusion of bodies and the perfect union of souls. Heads may turn, but eyes remain fixed straight ahead. In this vital vortex, men and women tirelessly clasp each other, united in love. Vivid dresses seem to set the men’s black suits ablaze. It’s a carnal confrontation, a philosophically spiritual communion. And if Maria Amaral’s couples appear indifferent to the world around them, it’s because they embody its very diversity – indeed, its very universality.

Figures stand out in front of a background where shaded colors become a blur. The palette is enriched with new tonal hues. Blue becomes more intense; flashes of green blend with red and orange. Tonal contrasts emphasise the curves of perfectly rendered bodies. The brushstrokes become more precise, caressing the skin, breaking down the frontiers between the dancers. Cheek to cheek, their faces lose their masculine/feminine ambiguity.


For Amaral, the canvas is also an arena where personal and artistic combat can be engaged. Her commitment is entire, her weapons are peaceful: brushes, pastels, charcoal. Whether composing a bullfighting scene, a boxing match or a tango, what interests her is the human dimension: the complexity of human relationships, based on power and sex. But she herself always treats others as equals. Her figurative painting focuses on real, flesh-and-blood subjects, revealing and expressing love in its various secret forms: defiance, respect, mutual fascination between opponents – be they humans or animals – from seductive conquest to voluptuous passion. Punches land like thunderbolts, and banderillas are plunged into beating hearts.

Maria Amaral was born in Buenos Aires in 1950. She fled the 1966 coup and settled in France, studying at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs in Strasbourg, then at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Initially classical, her unique style emerged as she developed her approach to bodily interactions and effusive meldings where movement is always present: dance steps where feet are multiplied to reinforce the sense of kinetic energy, somwhere between surrealism and stroboscopic effects. Maria Amaral belongs to a well known ‘family’ of tango painters that includes Van Dongen, Ricardo Montero, Juarez Machado and Pedro Alvarez. 



Painter, Argentinian, oil on canvas, figurative style

Maria Amaral enjoys painting bodies; in movement or in combat…a languid fusion, hypnotic face-to-face, fluid tangos, boxing or bullfighting, always with the same aesthetic sense of choreography. She composes, sometimes in life-size, always with the same human dimension. 

The artist refines her choreography through the vivaciousness of her lines (she studied at Beaux-Arts), the interplay of shadows and contrasts, and the proliferation of movement. Finding the rhythm, capturing the gestures, returning the sense of emotion…. What is behind these interlaced bodies, the duels of honor or love where all the loves aren’t permitted ? The intimate involvement beyond the exposed nudes. A tense tightrope, a search, like an invisible struggle, another revelation of self-discovery. Curves, sensuality, arms and legs, entangled faces... how can they all become just one soul, element?  Melting together, answering each other.

The tempo of her works is vivacious, almost staccato. Physical impulses, emotive movement, the brush lingers on the curves, the curves, dressed or bare.  The melody slows, the notes dotted, the duos sit down for the last drink, between fusion and effusion. Through her compositions, Maria Amaral depicts the magic of furtive encounters, durable alliances, or advances the mystery of attraction between people, the spark of love for a moment or a lifetime.

Maria Amaral shows regularly at the Maison de l’Argentine in Paris: she completed a series of paintings to decorate the panoramic restaurant Lenôtre of the Stade de France.