Brazilian artist Rebecca Sharp manifests the cosmic at Hexton Gallery

Phillip Ramsay
Special to The Aspen Times
Rebecca Sharp's exhibition will be on display at Hexton Gallery through Sept 25.
Courtesy photo

For Rebecca Sharp’s first solo exhibition in the U.S. at the Hexton Gallery, she’s bringing the feminine and the cosmos together to explore the interconnected lineages of Afro-Brazilian spirituality and intergalactic activity somewhere off-planet.

“It’s fun to put my guys in there, it’s like dropping your kids off in a place where you know they’ll have an impact,” said Sharp.

Her show, “A Thinning Veil,” which opened Aug. 19 and runs through Sept. 25, shows pieces Sharp painted from March through June, some of which she completed during residency at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center.

Born in São Paulo to an English mother from Yorkshire and a Brazilian father, she learned to speak both English and Portugese as a child. Growing up in Brazil, Sharp witnessed Brazilian cultural movements and absorbed them into her identity and artistic process.

“Antropofagia”— literally defined as cannibalism — took on a new meaning during the artistic counterculture Tropicália movement of 1960s Brazil.

The term evolved into mechanism for Brazilians to make sense of the colonization and appropriation imposed onto them by Portuguese settlers and North American influence.

Sharp said the concept informed her art.

“It eats other cultures and digests it into our own different thing,” she said “It takes words, rituals, and influences and digests it and turns it into something unique to Brazil, making it our own.”

Many Brazilian churches co-exist and some mix religious beliefs all together in the spirit of “antropofagia.” Two branches of Afro-Brazilian religions, Candomblé and Umbanda, stand out alongside Catholicism and Christianity.

In Sharp’s paintings, just as in the religious spaces of Brazil, viewers step into a phantasmagoria. The transparent availability of spirituality comes to the fore in her work just as it does in Brazil.

As a musician growing up in Brazil, Sharp was brought into the complex languages of the region’s spiritual dances and rituals. Since then and through various jobs and works of art, she’s always painted.

Through twenty-five years of meditation, retreats, and Buddhist practice, Sharp has learned to use more time as she depicts her scenes through slow brushstrokes, though she was not always so gently-paced with her canvas.

“I’ve managed to slow down, and now the canvas and paint is a meditation,” she said. “It’s me being stopped, leaning back, and being open to receive. That’s how I learned how to paint how I do now.”

She received a theater and performance arts education in Europe, but painting has always been near and dear to her heart. After watching Julian Schnabel’s 1996 “Basquiat,” she left the movie confident that she could do what she saw him do in the film.

Soon after visiting the U.S., she moved to Colorado in late 2019, where she would bounce between Boulder and international art fairs. Hexton Gallery founder Bob Chase stumbled upon her work at an art fair, the two connected in her studio soon after and kept in touch until one day she received a call from him inviting her to show in Aspen.

During her travels before and since moving the Colorado, she became grounded in the feel of her work. She found places and cultures that didn’t belong to any one canon and realized they belonged to her.

“I want people to have the feeling that there’s something deeply recognizable but that they can’t quite put their finger on it,” she said, “A recognition of something they just grasped right then right before it’s gone; a relevance to their soul and the experience of being human floating in space.”

Deeply engaged with the Surrealism tradition and canon, her paintings explore sacred connections between the spiritual, ancestral, and familial worlds in a way that is her own.

“It’s endless space barely hanging on to the here, and I’m exploring humanity and political and social issues in a spacious way,” she said. “It feels like a letter that already exists, dictated to me to write.”

Smoky, cloudy backgrounds of mixed colors steeped in technique involving various strokes and paintbrushes invite viewers into cosmic dreamscapes. The figures that populate Sharp’s intimate paintings are engaged in interstellar work while the precise narrative remains unclear as she creates a story on the canvas of galactic escapades. Something in you is reminded of an ancestral memory or dream.

Her characters, subtly caught by surprise by the viewer, busily practice magical and intergalactic work in latex bodysuits, lounge on rugs amid carnage and bodies, and fish out ideas or past lives from space with nets.

Crystals and mirrors recur throughout her work, though the precise meaning is elusive.

The viewer bears witness to secret and timeless meetings and exchanges that were probably not intended for them to see, yet feel like something they know they may have seen or felt before — like déjà vu or dream that they have had before.

“My work is like when you glimpse into a scene that is supposed to be private and that nobody is supposed to be seeing, especially not you, because you’re a human and this is cosmic surreal stuff going on,” she said.

The paintings’ characters agree to allow the viewer a glimpse of an intimate and strange memory — a quantum continuum or a previous life. Sharp describes her paintings as “polaroids of something that you were not supposed to see and luckily you get to see it.”

As such, “A Thinning Veil,” exists somewhere between memory and voyeurism.

She leans into a metaphor of being in the middle of the ocean and seeing two whales jump in the air, leaving you breathlessly asking someone near you if they saw it.

“It’s like you’re not supposed to be there. That’s their land and that’s their indescribable miracle of being a whale jumping out of the ocean together,” she said, “but somehow you got to see that for a second and you feel everything you feel in that private moment that got captured for a moment and you stumbled into it.”

Later this year, she’ll debut a new show in Mumbai, India. Before India, she’ll move to London with her partner. For now, she’s experiencing a subdued sense of gratitude as she works in her cozy El Dorado studio and enjoys her work being displayed in town.

“Hexton is really brave and generous, and I feel really honored that they invited me to show in Aspen,” she said.

More Like This, Tap A Topic
Activities & Events

Brazilian artist Rebecca Sharp manifests the cosmic at Hexton Gallery

For Rebecca Sharp’s first solo exhibition in the United States at the Hexton Gallery in Aspen, Colorado, she’s bringing the feminine and the cosmos together to explore woven interconnected lineages of Afro-Brazilian spirituality and intergalactic activity somewhere off-planet.

See more