Vivian Suter (Argentine-Swiss, born 1949) installs her large-scale abstract paintings as immersive interiors that mirror the exterior of her home: the Guatemalan rainforest. For the past 30 years, Suter has lived and worked in a remote studio on a former coffee plantation in Panajachel, Guatemala, over 100 miles from Guatemala City. Much like the porous architecture of the Central American rainforest, Suter’s colorful paintings on untreated canvases are exposed to the rainforest, absorbing elements of the environment along the way. Monsoons, hurricanes, bright equatorial sun, and plant and animal life leave their marks on the paintings and contribute to the generative life of the work.
Suter explains her method of painting as a profoundly sensory experience: “I allow my consciousness to permeate the moment of painting, enabling all of my senses to simultaneously influence the canvas in front me: how I feel about myself and others; the noises of the village in the distance; my natural surroundings, light, temperature, sun, rain, and trees all intermingle to inspire me. The seasons highly affect my paintings. At the moment, it is rain season in Guatemala, so my work is impacted by the rainfall and thunderstorms. I use the rain water to wet my pigments, oils, acrylics, and fish glue, and the mud finds its way onto the canvases.”
Suter embraces the inevitability of her work’s natural decay, underscoring the cycles of life of which they are a part and, ultimately, their mortality as organic objects. Her approach to the installation of her work expands from the ecology of its production. While each painting retains its independence, the works are closely associated, together forming an ecosystem of related parts.
For el bosque interior, a suite of Suter’s paintings populates the Modern Wing’s Griffin Court, configured in response to the space. This assemblage creates an interior in which the various elements are at once autonomous and congruent, harmonious and dissonant.
Vivian Suter. Untitled, n.d. Courtesy of the artist.