Varda Caivano: The Density of The Actions.

Published 20 September 2015, Jonathon McWilliam.

The primordial experience, is the source of [the visionary artist’s] creativeness; it cannot be fathomed…In itself it offers no words or images…Being essentially the instrument for his work, he is subordinate to it, and we have no reason for expecting him to interpret it for us…A great work of art is like a dream; for all its apparent obviousness it does not explain itself and it is never unequivocal. [1]

What does it mean to paint today as a serious artist? How does an artist confront and engage with the history of  painting and the much debated ‘death of painting’? [2] After several do not resuscitates, what does a painting look like that has vitality, that is powerful, that is necessary and is critically contemporary? Caivano’s objective is to make a successful image. Success, in terms of the dynamism of the composition. Caivano’s process is to overcome the abstract challenge of making an image succeed.

London based artist, Varda Caivano’s most recent exhibition at the University of Chicago’s Renaissance Society is, as put by Terry Meyers, another example of how this artist has “in productive and meaningful ways been painting versions of the same painting – her painting”. [3] Varda Caivano realises the compositions through a process of contextual disorientation and re-orientation. This process sometimes starts with cutting and removing a small section from a larger painted work in her studio, rotating and re-understanding this to use and build into a final image. Other times it is rotating, inverting and distancing her macro-image-composition from the micro-material-process.

Working through each compositional beginning, the artist works to form an image resolution. Each painting is a temporal, multi-dimensional material transfer of the artistic process. Caivano’s artworks are the material expression of the introspective dialogue between artist and artwork – or as put by the artist, “I think the paintings are like thoughts”. [4]

“Each painting is a game with its own rules”. [5] Each of Caivano’s works are a collection of temporal pivots – changes in perspective, line and colour – oscillating between a dead painting and the possibility of a beginning. For Caivano, “each painting is a game with its own rules”. Painting, thinking, working, leaving, un-thinking, re-seeing, re-working ,un doing, over painting, over-working, cutting, contracting, rotating, expanding: the paintings are alive and in-flux; they are in motion.The organising principle of the game is the language of medium – the language of artists such as Frank Stella and – but through this stasis the artworks are driven by the mechanism of artistic motion.

Motion: The Act of Becoming…

The success of the images hinges on how time and space is controlled, collapsed and ultimately integrated by both the language of the medium and the harmonised structure of a compositional balance – the success of which generates a visual dynamism that absorbs the viewer into liminal space. Caivano’s artworks are not about operating within or breaking from tradition, nor are they a critical reduction of the form to the truth of the medium painting – they are the representation of conscious process, of unconscious vision and compositional resolution.

“There is something un-reconstructed in Caivano’s approach, a sense that decades of theory about the life and death of painting have somehow passed her by..” [6] It is an attempt to make, to create. Caivano produces images of beautifully tactile motion: of the nature of painting and its discursive processes. The artworks are the motion of becoming, of Picasso’s cubist ‘passage’ in Les Demoiselle d’Avignons , of Jackson Pollack’s Mural: the motion of the artistic process. This motion is a dynamic liminal space, at once becoming – but crucially, never arriving.

“The scholar must set himself in motion, displace his body and his point of view, proceed to a sort of transfer by which the timbre of those unheard voices – and, one might also say, paraphrasing Walter Benjamin, the unconscious vision – would be suddenly revealed.” [7] Caivano’s paintings are autotelic, and undeniably of themselves in the sense that their image is their own experience, their own process. Caivano’s images are expressive interrelating coordinates; the subject is self erasing and self-effacing, it is an undoing, redoing, without linguistic or figurative reference and without its transgressions and limitations.

“Born in Buenos Aires in 1971, Varda Caivano lives and works in London, where she graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2004. The artist has presented solo exhibitions at institutions including the Renaissance Society, Chicago (2015); Chisenhale gallery, London (2007) and Kunstverein Freiburg, (2006). In 2013 a concise presentation of paintings throughout Caivano’s practice, from early career to her most recent work, was included in The Encyclopedic Palace, the 55th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, selected by curator Massimiliano Gioni. Other recent exhibitions include Artists’ Artists, curated by Jane Neal at the CentrePasqueArt, Biel, Switzerland (2013); Collection 2 – Focus on Recent Acquisitions, National Gallery of Osaka, Japan (2010); British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet, Hayward Gallery, London (2010); Resonance, Suntory Museum, Osaka, Japan (2010); East End Academy: The Painting Edition, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2009); Busan Biennale, South Korea (2008); and Very Abstract and Hyper Figurative, curated by Jens Hoffmann (2007). Varda Caivano is a recipient of the prestigious Abbey Award, British School at Rome (2011)”. 

Courtesy Victoria Miro Gallery London.

[1] Carl G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, trans. W. S. Dell and Cary F. Baynes, New York, 1966 [1933], pp. 164, 171.

[2] J.J. Charlesworth, Art Review: May 2011, Issue 50, Page 116.

[3] Myers, Terry R. Our profile on the British-Argentine artist, whose paintings exist somewhere on the edge of nameability.

[4] Wright Karen. In the studio: Varda Caivano, artist – ‘My paintings are like thoughts… I make many of them at the same time’

[5] Varda Caivano.

[6] Jennifer Higgie, ‘Varda Caivano: painting as a site of struggle, doubt and pleasure’ in frieze, September 2005, p.120.

[7] Aby Warburg and the Image in Motion, Georges Didi-Huberman, page 18.