“Tenho Saudades Tuas”: The Saudade Narratives Of Chiara Bautista
With a quick sketch she can pierce the human heart, shatter dreams, and expose the soul. Her abstractions echo the torment and constraints of the human condition, interlacing passion and hostility in a chimera of seductive mythology. Anguish, melancholy, and bittersweet tenderness course through every brushstroke.
This is the work of Mexican artist Chiara Bautista.
Also known as MILK, Chiara Bautista holds a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and works by day as an illustrator and graphic design artist for the Arizona Daily Star, Tucson. By night, however, Bautista conjures her inspiration from fragmented conversations and admittedly pernicious past relationships to create her antiphonal narratives. Of note is the influence Chiara draws from her muse, known only as Ilka, and another referred to in multiple newer pieces as “James.” In her own words: “The characters and their ongoing stories are made as gifts for people I love. They are usually borne from conversations, most of them from a single sentence said at the right time.”
Her ethereal protagonists manifest predominantly as young women, presumably an extension of her own thoughts and conversations, accompanied by anthropomorphic beings such as her “Star Wolf” (above) and “Birdman” (below) among others. Perhaps these characters are metamorphosed in the way that memories are clouded with a retrospective emotion that leads us to love someone who, in reality, never truly existed.
A strong sense of animism runs thick within the veins of Bautista’s work, and regular motifs amid each mural serve as fleeting suggestions of a greater universe in which all of her narratives are set. Arrows can be found embedded into the bodies of many of her characters, symbolic of open wounds from old loves. Some hit their target, piercing the heart. Others hit major veins and organs, causing lifelong but internalized damage.
Sirens lure protagonists into a lake of heartache, toying with emotions for personal pleasure and entertainment. Skeletal birds embody the memories of dead relationships, tormenting their hosts to return to their past. White rabbits depict the innocence, naivety and vulnerability that comes with a new love. Skulls of consanguineous main protagonists serve to highlight the passage of time and the rebirth of past spirits between each narrative. From each relationship thus comes a new character, clinging to the remnants of their past life whilst trying to move forward.
Although her work is amongst the most heavily sought after online, Chiara Bautista remains elusive. Having only granted minimal interviews providing insight into her life and inspiration, it is often difficult for fans to interpret her works or to understand the motivations behind her own allegorical mythologies. But perhaps this is her niche. The term saudade is of Spanish/Mexican origin and cannot be translated directly into English. Succinctly, it is a deep emotional state of profound melancholic longing, usually for a lost loved one: a state that Ms. Bautista translates with ease into her digital masterpieces. Anyone who has ever felt the darker side of love, the torment and anguish of heartbreak, the insatiable longing for one who cannot return, will see themselves reflected back in Chiara’s own visual soliloquy.
Owing to the nature of her work, Bautista’s artwork is not commercially available. Rather, she prefers to sell prints at conventions, if you’re lucky enough to find her. Perhaps it is easier for her to share these bittersweet pieces of her life with people she has met, corporeal beings, rather than faceless online ghosts who admire her work simply for the visual aesthetic; Bautista’s work is “pure,” created through raw love and emotion that cannot be bought or felt through glossy prints. Her only online presence is via her website, which links directly to her Facebook page. There she regularly shares new art, announces appearances and responds to fan theories about her work.
Like love itself, Bautista’s visual antiphonies are seductive, complex and tragically beautiful. She is an artist, in the truest and purest sense. And although we may never understand the real meanings and emotions behind each piece, it is with all reverence that we thank her for allowing us a glimpse into the mind and soul of such a gifted inksmith.
Featured images: courtesy of ChiaraBautista