The Kunstmuseum Basel | Gegenwart joins forces with the swiss-guatemalan painter Vivian Suter to stage an immersive presentation of those among the artist’s works that date from the early 1980s through to the present day.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1949, Vivian Suter moved to Basel with her family at the age of thirteen. Here she studied painting at the former Kunstgewerbeschule and, as a young artist, would hold regular exhibitions of her work. She later settled in Panajachel, Guatemala, in 1982. The motivic reference to her subtropical surroundings has since been evident in her work.
Her early work in conceptual art was later followed in the first half of the 80’s by expressive, gestural painting. Suter began by applying thick layers of colour onto hand-cut paper, which she then assembled, collage-like, to form polygonal pictorial surfaces. She would later repeat this expressive language of forms in her large-format – in part intensely luminous, in part earthy and natural – paintings on canvas. In recent years, Suter has opted to leave her canvases unframed. When the tropical storm Agatha flooded her archive with mud in 2010, Suter decided to leave the traces of nature as a feature of her paintings. In doing so, she breaks to some degree with the traditional notion of controlling authorship, thereby allowing external factors, such as humidity, light, flora and fauna to exert a formative influence in her painting. What is depicted, the forces and structures of Guatemala’s exuberant subtropical nature, in tandem with the artist’s painterly manner, become the driving force in her paintings.
The system she devised for best storing the loose canvases in the climate of her adopted home, also informs the way in which Suter exhibits her paintings today: canvases suspended from the ceiling at varying heights, most of them loosely distributed around the space. Furthermore, in her presentations she arranges the canvases in close proximity, thus allowing them to overlap. The visitors thus quite literally wander through Suter’s paintings, physically immersing themselves in an atmospheric, densely layered work of forms, colours and the traces of weather.