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The Hanging Paintings of Guatemala

Image credits: © Courtesy of the artist and Karma International, Zurich and Los Angeles; Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels; House of Gaga, Mexico City; and Proyectos Ultravioleta, Guatemala City. 

It is hard to imagine winter in these current sweltering conditions, but before we know it cold, grey weather will be here. But all will not be lost, because Tate Liverpool will be showing the first UK solo display of Vivian Suter’s exciting new work Nisyros (Vivian’s Bed).

Image credits: © Fred Dott 

This immersive installation of 53 hanging paintings will invite you to explore the tropical landscapes of Panajachel, Guatemala – where they were created. Bright, buoyant colour painted directly onto unstretched, untreated canvas will form a maze of artwork suspended in space. Navigating your way through these paintings, amongst the artist’s brushstrokes, you will be able to imagine the heat and the hum of the rainforest that surrounds her working environment.

Image credits: © Courtesy of the artist and Karma International, Zurich and Los Angeles; Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels; House of Gaga, Mexico City; and Proyectos Ultravioleta, Guatemala City. 

Born in 1949 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Vivian moved to Guatemala aged 33 to live with her mother, artist Elisabeth Wild, on the grounds of a former coffee plantation. She works in open-air wooden studio structures set against the lush tropical wilderness, drawing on abundant inspirations found amongst her backdrop of trees, vibrantly coloured flowers, exotic bird song and various other organic matter. Her bold and striking colour palette is similarly influenced by her South American surroundings – including dynamic shades of red, yellow, green and pink. 

Image credits: © Courtesy of the artist and Karma International, Zurich and Los Angeles; Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels; House of Gaga, Mexico City; and Proyectos Ultravioleta, Guatemala City. 

In 2005 a tropical storm flooded one of Vivian’s studios. The artist’s shifting approach to painting accepted this intrusion of nature gracefully and adapted to include it in her work. Vivian now purposefully leaves her canvases outdoors – embracing the effects of climate and environmental conditions. Work is allowed to co-exist with rural daily life and it naturally collects the imprints of its atmosphere, the local flora and fauna, and perhaps the occasional paw print from Vivian’s dog.

Nisyros (Vivian’s Bed) will be at Tate Liverpool 13 December 2019 – 15 March 2020 For more information visit the tate.org.uk.

A guest post written by graphic designer and illustrator Laura Heeks



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