Teresinha Soares

Was ‘pop art’ a term used by yourself or colleagues or was there different terminology that referred to a new figurative art movement in the 1960s and early 1970s?

In Brazil we did not use the term pop to define our works, nor the art movements that developed in the 1960s and 1970s. We produced works in harmony with the newest artistic movements, we exchanged ideas with colleagues and the critics of the time referred to us as the ‘new figuration’ young artists.

Did you ever consider yourself (now or in the past) a pop artist?

Yes. I consider myself to be a Brazilian artist with a pop art influence. Yet pop art in Brazil differed greatly from pop in the United States, because of its inherent questioning of social behaviour and politics in spite of the military dictatorship that governed Brazil in the 1960s and 1970s.

Did your work engage with current events in the 1960s and early 1970s?

Yes. My work was profoundly related to the socio-political events of the time, and it vehemently opposed the Vietnam War, American imperialism, sexual repression, the oppression of women, the deaths and torture of political prisoners in Brazilian prisons and the lack of freedom of expression in authoritarian regimes.

How did you choose the subject matter for your work included in The World Goes Pop?

For the exhibition The World Goes Pop I chose works from the Serie Vietnã (Vietnam Series), which presents a cinematic sequence that discusses my condition as a Brazilian woman subjected to the propaganda for the Vietnam War, within the framework of new figuration.

Where did you get your imagery from (what, if any, sources did you use)?

I consider the body as the axis of my poetics. I reinvented myself by re-discovering my own body as new woman, and in all my artworks, drawings, prints and performances, the leitmotiv is the body. My practice, considered avant-gardist at the time, continues to be contemporary because it focuses on all the issues that are still of concern today: the taboos of sex, male-female relationships, encounters and dis-encounters, women demanding respect within contemporary society, still fighting for rights and freedom.

Were you aware of pop art in other parts of the world?

Yes. In New York I had the opportunity to see the work of Andy Warhol and a retrospective of Roy Lichtenstein’s work at the Guggenheim in 1969. I was well informed. Here in Brazil, I exchanged professional experiences with the young artists in Rio de Janeiro, the carioca avant-garde: Rubens Gerchman, Antonio Dias, Dileny Campos, Maria do Carmo Secco, among others. We also participated in exhibitions and events in Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro, organised by critic Frederico Morais.

Was commercial art an influence on your work or the way in which it was made?

No. On the contrary I was never concerned with selling my works, also because in many of them I used perishable materials. Creating for me was almost a physical necessity. I wanted to express, scream and be heard. In my husband, Britaldo Soares, I had my patron, hence my freedom to express myself.

Was there a feeling at the time that you doing something important and new, making a change…?

Yes. I felt that my generation and I were participating in the changing attitudes of men and women in the eyes of the world; we were seeking changes in behaviour, changes in politics, changes in art, changes in the environment and, ultimately, a new libertarian way of being in the world.

Was there an audience for the work at the time – and if so what was their reaction to it?

Yes, record audiences attended all exhibitions of my works. Perhaps it was due to a curiosity for the new, for the playfulness and eroticism of the works; or, who knows, for my privileged social position, or for being a married woman, mother to five children. We made happenings, performances and the public engaged with our proposals. We were featured in some of the country’s major newspapers. ‘La fin du siècle est arrivée à Belo Horizonte’ was one of the great headlines in the O Estado de Minas newspaper in the state of Minas Gerais. The avant-garde critics supported us, but the general public outside [the art scene], the traditional families of Minas Gerais, the military and the representatives of the Catholic Church, reacted against our boldness.

Looking back at these works, what do you think about them now?

I think it was a very important moment for my work, as I was aligned with the concerns of a generation of young avant-garde artists that marked their presence in the Brazilian art circuit. Today, with this invitation to participate in an exhibition on global pop, I believe that my work is being seen within the international art system. I would like to express thanks for the opportunity to participate in this important exhibition, which will certainly enable greater visibility of my work.

September 2015