Argentine-Swiss artist Vivian Suter, spent her teens and early career in Switerland before moving to Panajachel, Guatemala in her thirties, setting up her home and studio in the midst of the jungle, beside the volcanic lake Atitlán.
Drawing inspiration from the lush plants, vibrant flowers, birds and constantly changing weather of this tropical habitat, her mixed media abstract paintings evoke the living energy of the forest: large, unstretched canvases are swathed in colour, gestural brushstrokes and organic motifs.
In 2005, a tropical storm destroyed large parts of Panajachel and flooded Suter’s studio. Rather than seeing damage in the canvases, which were caked in mud and stained with watermarks, Suter saw her work developing in response to, and in harmony with, its environment. Since then, she has embraced the unpredictability of her adopted home, actively encouraging the intrusion of the elements into her practice. Her unprimed canvases are left outdoors to absorb the traces of falling leaves, rainwater, dirt, passing animals and the marks of her dogs, Bonzo, Nina and Tintin, imprinting the daily life of the forest onto the surface of each work.
For this exhibition, Suter filled the galleries with her delicate but powerful paintings, hanging them in an immersive cacophony which mirrors the canopy of the rainforest: suspended, draped, overlapping and organic. Composed individually but hung collectively, one canvas reveals the next, creating an ethereal record of the passage of time and forming a permeable membrane between nature and civilisation. Removed from the tropical setting in which they were conceived, the paintings bear witness to their unique environment at a time of renewed focus on this vital but increasingly vulnerable ecological resource.
Suter conceived a new installation specially for Camden Arts Centre’s garden. Transferred from the rainforest in which they were conceived, to hang in dialogue with London’s winter landscape, the works will develop throughout the exhibition, accumulating memories of their interactions with this environment.