Tintin’s Sofa, Vivian Suter at Camden Arts Centre
PUBLISHED: 15:00 22 January 2020
Scores of canvases that have been left out in the tropical rainforest hang from every surface of the Hampstead gallery as part of a timely exhibition that higlights the connection between civilisation and a threatened ecological environment
Scores of canvases that have been left out in the tropical rainforest hang from every surface at Camden Arts Centre.
They are part of Tintin's Sofa, the first London exhibition by artist Vivian Suter whose immersive works mirror and bear the marks of the jungle where they were made.
Born in Buenos Aires, the Argentinian-Swiss artist moved to Panajachel Guatemala in 1982 setting up her home and studio in the middle of the jungle beside volcanic lake Atitlan.
There she drew inspiration from the lush plants, flowers, tropical birds and constantly changing weather in mixed media abstract paintings that evoke the living energy of the forest.
In 2005, a tropical storm flooded Suter's studio, but rather than treating the mud-caked water-stained canvases as damaged, she saw them as a development of her work - in response to and in harmony with their environment.
Now the 71-year-old embraces the unpredictability of the rainforest, actively encouraging the intrusion of the elements into her practice.
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Working between open-air studios and spaces, her unprimed canvases are hung outdoors to absorb the traces of falling leaves, rain water, dirt and passing animals, imprinting the daily life of the forest on their surface.
She has filled the Hampstead art gallery with delicate paintings which suspended, draped, overlapping and organic, bring the rainforest canopy to Hampstead.
The new body of works, named after one of her three dogs, who likes to lie around the paintings, now hang in a wintry landscape.
One outside in the arts centre garden will evolve throughout the exhibition taking on the memory of the environment it has inhabited.
The paintings themselves evoke the living energy of the forest: large, unstretched canvases swathed in colour, gestural brushstrokes and organic motifs, creating a record of the passage of time and forming a membrane between nature and civilisation.
Removed from the tropical setting in which they were conceived, the paintings bear timely witness to their unique environment at a moment of renewed focus on this vital but increasingly vulnerable ecological resource.
Tintin's Sofa runs at Camden Arts Centre until April 5. Suter also has a major new commission for Art on the Underground which will open at Stratford in summer 2020.