Each of London-based artist Varda Caivano’s canvases represents an inquiry into the practice of painting, performed over time. Layers of paint are applied, then rubbed, scratched, and reworked to create compositions that recall both the physicality of Abstract Expressionism and the mysticism of Redon. In this tension, Caivano negotiates the legacies of abstract painting with a clarity of means and materials.
Self-described as an “old-fashioned painter,” Caivano’s process is intuitive, playful, and open-ended. She develops several paintings simultaneously in the studio, creating individual works that, when displayed together, contribute distinct phrases to a dynamic whole. In constant flux, the paintings present themselves as vulnerable, unfolding, failing, becoming, and disappearing.
While decidedly non-figurative, Caivano’s paintings summon the viewer to linger as textures and forms emerge. They particularly evoke a sense of place, sometimes recalling landscapes, though more frequently alluding to inner spaces and otherworldly realms. At the same time, they invite close attention to the canvases’ physical properties—their modest size, the range of brush strokes, or the way two colors sit next to each other.
For this Renaissance Society exhibition, Caivano and curator Solveig Øvstebø have assembled a group of the artist’s recent works that incorporate drawing more directly into the paintings, representing a new direction in her practice. With a muted palette and sparer markings, their tone is lighter, more suggestive of an elusive narrative than vivid emotion.
The exhibition, Caivano’s first solo presentation in the United States, will be accompanied by a full-color catalogue featuring documentation of the installation, and critical reflections on Caivano’s practice by Terry R. Myers, Barry Schwabsky, and Paula van den Bosch.
Varda Caivano (born 1971, Argentina) lives and works in London, where she received an MA from the Royal College of Art in 2004. She has had solo exhibitions at Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo (2013 and 2009), Victoria Miro Gallery, London (2011), Chisenhale Gallery, London (2007), and Kunstverein Freiburg (2006). Her work has recently been included in group exhibitions such as The Encyclopedic Palace, 55th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale (2013), Artists’ Artists, CentrePasquArt, Biel Switzerland (2013), and Gwangju Biennial, Korea (2012). Caivano was the recipient of the Abbey Award from the British School at Rome in 2011, and was nominated for the Max Mara Art Prize for Women in 2011.
This exhibition is supported by the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Chicago.