We have now reached the final month of the “Home” exhibition at GAMeC in Bergamo, the first solo museum exhibition in Italy for the visual artist Vivian Suter (Buenos Aires, 1949), an expressive and naturalistic painter who has solidified her position as one of the most sought-after artists over the past decade. This is evident from the five solo exhibitions opened in 2022 and the recent opening of the “A Stone in the Lake” exhibition on May 24, 2023, at the Palazzo della Secessione in Vienna, Austria.
Since 1981, Suter has been living in Panajachel, on Lake Atitlán in Guatemala, where she relocated due to a depressive crisis, which she attributed to the “sick” art system, dominated by markets and obligations. This move followed a series of exhibitions in Switzerland in the 1970s and early 1980s, including the most significant one, a group exhibition curated by Jean-Christophe Ammann at Kunsthalle Basel in 1981. After years of relative isolation, Suter gained maturity and international market recognition from 2014 onwards. She was first represented by the renowned Swiss gallery Karma International and subsequently, since 2019, by Gladstone Gallery in the United States. This return to the art world she had previously rejected was marked by an explosion of works that brought the Argentine artist to the attention of a wider audience in the last decade.
As the daughter of artist Elisabeth Wild (recently exhibited at Mumok in Vienna), Suter spent years dedicated to painting amidst trees, using canvases mixed with mud and rain, as well as facing a series of hurricanes, as it is described in her dialogue with Adam Szymczyk and R.H. Quaytman in the publication “Vivian Suter,” published by Hatje Cantz in 2019. In Bergamo, approximately two hundred canvases, along with a small selection of additional works on paper, are presented in two adjacent rooms. These artworks fully embody her approach, blurring the boundaries between Art and Nature, which is prevalent in her work and life. Beneath their myriad of gestural and abstract variations, the canvases conceal a deep mimetic and naturalistic immersion, where gestures and the artist’s body return to the essence of the subject. Circles, lines, scribbles, or impulsive actions reconstruct fruits, trees, branches, animals, sky, and earth.
Upon entering the first room, visitors find themselves immersed in a chaotic jungle. Free-hanging canvases cover the entire space, sometimes on white walls and other times painted in cerulean blue and sienna, with the clear intention of contextualizing the artwork. These fabrics interweave and merge with wooden beams spanning the room, recreating the central structure of the artist’s home. They hang in various ways: suspended to the floor, placed at angles, or piled, as in her previous exhibitions at Museo Experimental el Eco in Mexico City in 2017 or the ICA in Boston in 2019.
The second room, a clean and well-organized corridor with a single glass wall, offers a different experience. On the left, immediately after the entrance, a small intimate area houses a glass case, inside of which colorful works on paper (unpublished pieces) are displayed. These works are less immersive and more reflective. Three canvases hang on the wall around it, allowing space between the case and the viewer, creating a more contemplative atmosphere, similar to the arrangement of altarpieces, without encroaching on the visitor’s space. Turning to the right in this corridor, one sees a structure running along its length, presenting a series of canvases placed one after the other, in a fluid rhythm, to be observed as if they were articles of clothing in a store. This approach, aimed at establishing a relational connection with the audience, evokes the example of her bold exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel in 2014.
The value of Suter’s work is undisputed. The structural solidity of her practice, coupled with the immediacy of her free brushwork and naturalistic compositional research, confirms her status as an artist. Suter has been pursuing this research since the beginning of her career, with a focus on gesturality and the reunion of art and nature at its core. However, it is only in the last decade that she has achieved international recognition and entered the art market with a bang. In Suter’s case, it is not just the work itself but also the narrative surrounding it that generates interest, and the 200 canvases are what drive demand and market growth. The exotic and retro allure of her exile, akin to Gauguin’s, displayed through the abundance of canvases, holds immense power and impact on the audience and collectors, making this very characteristic the essence of the exhibition. The experience is akin to a cinematic projection. The viewer is overwhelmed by the simultaneity of the works, much like in films through editing, and can thus lose themselves in imagining Guatemala, the lush greenery, or any reality beyond the confines of the White Cube’s walls.
Vivian Suter. Home
23/06 – 24/09/2023
Via San Tomaso, 53, Bergamo
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