Maria Imaginário's work has always been transportive. Her characters, always slightly surreal, yet deeply indebted to a raw type of humanness, inhabit a world that is nothing like ours - that's the point. Ours is full of routine, of dull shades, of an overwhelming sense of life being on top of us. Hers is free and in 'Maria On Air', we get to explore it.
The metaphor of the balloon, growing and growing with the stresses, trials and tribulations of daily life before being popped with a pin is tired. It's also satisfying. It's effective and overused because it's so easy to imagine and sadly, so relatable. Maria On Air is that balloon (or many balloons), taking over a shopping mall and allowing us to explore something so unlike our daily life that it can't help but make us smile.
Talking to Maria Imaginário is different from expectation. The kind of person that paints fluffy, cute, bright characters must have a kind of similar outlook, right? That isn't necessarily the case. It's not so much that Imaginário is someone hiding from the real world by developing a fantasy one, as it is of someone who understands the way we live so acutely that realises, at times, we need to escape from it.
In her paintings, superficially, on first glance, the characters that look a certain way (fluffy, cute, bright) actually possess a subtle darkness that takes a moment to notice. They're not entirely innocent or naive as expected, but are a lot more similar to us than we'd think (even if the character is a giant heart). These characters aren't immune to life though, they just seem to cope with it better. Maybe if our world was as bright as theres, we would too. Cue the installation.
A shopping mall was a good place to put it. In many ways, they epitomise our modern way of living. Convenient, contained, indoors, artificial and selfish places designed to maximise the money coming out of our pockets. Something as bright and rainbow-esque as as the installation disrupts that mundanity completely. It elicits the same thoughts and feelings as her paintings, only now onlookers aren't just the audience, but the participant.
Of the work, Imaginário said, "These series of installations were conceived with the intent to transport the audience away from their routine towards a new space where their senses and emotions are stimulated.
I wanted to generate positive feelings through the colours and expressions of my characters. Personally I believe in the social value of creating art with which the public can participate, interact and be absorbed by. Therefore each of the different installations were conceptualised using different shapes and scale that either complement or challenge the public, in their different journeys transporting them to a different reality.
My work aims to challenge its audiences by creating trans- formative and visually immersive interventions within a space, positively impacting it."
By provoking these feelings within the audience/participants, the joyous installations force a kind of interaction, even if shoppers are trying hard to get on with their shopping. It's a snap of the fingers or a bucket of cold water that says, 'remember who you are and what you once were - don't let joy die.' Maria On Air, turns an ordinary shopping trip into a revitalising experience for those who forgot how to be human.
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