With its range of media and expressions, Joana Lira’s graphic art conveys the emotion of someone talking from and about home. It is in the boiling and multicultural melting pot of the Pernambuco Carnival that she makes profound connections between people and stories. Just as colors, music, costumes, dances and characters galore project and transform spirituality into festivities and revelry, the artist breaths in and shares this collective and enrapturing strength.

Joana expresses a form of visual anthropology through void and receptive black lines that enable expansion into geometric shapes and vibrant colors, in addition to glimpses of the local fauna, flora and symbolism. At the same time, her work implies and explicitates senses of euphoria, joy and sensuality. By this we mean aesthetic ties and the constitution of a subject in connection with the city of Recife, acknowledging and activating her roots, in addition to fostering a novel aesthetic education by means of the sensitization of the eye.

By pursuing an experiential tone without going down retrospective lines, the exhibition crosses, immersive and documentary situations of the culture of Carnival, reflecting on how Joana Lira’s depictions interact with people’s feelings and emotions. The transcendence and manifestation of a multitude of colors and images from the erudite to the popular, expressed as costumes, magic, sexuality, myth, humor: the essence of the experience of Carnival in the streets.

Mamé Shimabukurocurator
Quando a Vida é uma Euforia Exhibition, Jan/2018


Visual artist and designer Joana Lira (Recife, PE, 1976) proposes an affirmative, contingent and unfathomable gesture for the occasion: to leap forward, to move and to stay in sight; to let one’s self be taken by the area and to dispose of immediate utility, to ultimately go crazy and blend in with the architectural space. This is the purpose of When It All Bursts Out. The installation – and exhibition all at once – resumes and summarizes the other side of her work: the public and poetic circumstances of urban spaces, now sculptural, now mural.

From the line to the cut and the void, from the plane to the volume, from light to shade, from figure to background, from outline to  color, from nature to characters, from gesture to construction, everything comes together in the artist’s working process in perpetual two-way streets. In both the project’s intent and the spatial intervention of the art, these flows of invention and composition are made clear. The imagery and technique that her work evokes candidly show her birthright visual repertoire, he training and life experience, as shown in the objects, prints, cutouts, drawings and experiences showcased. All of it, taken together, is announced in her “installation mural”.

In this sense, there is no avoiding shedding light on the repertoire of Brazilian Art to which Joana pays tribute and, moreover, on where women have been uniquely leading players in the domain of the Arts. Add to this her rising scrutiny of the notions of expanded or environmental art in today’s context, on the foundation of a Brazilian scenery that shows off country and urban rites from her Pernambuco roots. In fact, having paid due attention to her artistic path, one derived from her geographic shifts, the artist appears to naturalize an Afro-Brazilian core, Armorialism and modernism to merge the urban spirit of her native Recife with that of her current home in São Paulo.

Allow me to explain. Firstly, her work shows immediate acknowledgment of the figures of global modernism, from Cícero Dias to Matisse. That said, modern public art, as illustrated by panels that embrace the architecture of Athos Bulcão and the lush landscaping of Burle Marx, is also replicated in the guise of a meeting between the verticality of morals, the panels of the muralist, and the organic shapes of the Earth that the landscape designer causes to bloom.

Secondly, but no less relevant, the bright feminine gestures of Tarsila do Amaral, Maria Martins and Regina Silveira can be found indirectly. According to this rationale, and thirdly, one sees the adoption of scale procedures by the artists, close to what the Conceptualists of yore — like Daniel Buren and Sol LeWitt — did by making art and architecture at once undistinguishable and conflicting.

In the light of this, When It All Bursts Out is the artist’s conflictive statement as materialized in the Sesc Santo André unit; a crazy step ahead of her work in the direction of public experience.

Diego Matoscurator
Quando Tudo Explode Exhibition, nov/2017


When I look at Joana Lira’s work, it reminds me of the Cordel (a popular Northeastern Brazilian artistic manifestation that blends poetry and illustration). I see the same expressive force that originated from the limited technical resources of woodcarving, pruning away all excesses to produce unique visual poetry. The originally rough and constrained form of expression evolved in the hands of major artists (Suassuna, Samico…) who added a fantastic, mythological dimension to the universe of Cordel. But that’s not all. I also see the Maracatus and their shiny costumes, the Manguebeat and its derivatives, leading to the use of pulsating, luminous colors and brash and unusual contrasts.

It is according to this tradition that we must look at Joana’s work. In the transposition of this language to the urban dimension of the Recife Carnival decorations. Timidly at first, then with great skill, Joana may be an important link in the continuity and modernization of the Pernambuco State visual universe.

This is one more of Joana’s virtues. From the moment she selects the appropriate language for the media on which she is working, understanding the working of industrial production methods, their scale, their urban implications, and the public’s enjoyment circumstances, she acts as a highly competent designer. Readers will see throughout this book how the designs leap from the paper to urban scale without losing practically anything in this shift. They will also see how Joana builds up self-confidence building her characters inspired in the masters of Pernambuco, and in recent years felt entirely comfortable playing around with prints that fill up her essentially graphic and flat characters in a palette all her own, considering from the outset how they will be magnified and produced.

Joana’s ability to blend local traditions, individual artistic creation and the perception of industrial processes makes her an excellent designer. One that is naturally Brazilian, inevitably Pernambucoan – but with global reach.

Kiko Farkasgraphic designer
Outros Carnavais Book, Nov/2008

Crazy Beasts

Ariano Suassuna handwritten note in the exhibition´s comments book:

Dear Joana: I loved Beasts so much, really crazy and beastly. You´re a great ally, faithful to your ground, to your roots, and the same time so young, so unique, with an art so powerful, that we wonder to be created in the nooks and crannies of you person, so beautiful, so lovely, so feminine. With my regards, and more than that, with my enthusiasm, accept a gentle kiss Ariano Suassuna Recife, Dec. 1, 1997

Ariano Suassuna, artist
Bichos Aloprados Exhibition, Dec/1997