Varda Caivano at Victoria Miro Gallery, London

Varda Caivano’s third show with her London gallery allows us an in-depth view of her evolving practice.  For over a decade now, Caivano has been singled out for the integrity of her negotiations of painting as a proposition.  The artist studied art history before moving from Buenos Aires to London to study at the Royal College, so a deep knowledge of the history of the medium is a given.  The developments in the work on show now at the Mayfair gallery are exciting – a huge crowd had turned out for the opening on Tuesday night.

When someone talks about a painter in terms of the materiality of paint, you might be forgiven for expecting to see deeply impastoed canvasses, glossy swirls or pools of oil colour deliciously evoking food metaphors, or directly mimicking the vulnerable fleshiness of the human body.

Varda Caivano’s paintings are notable in that they fully explore paint’s physical qualities without trading in any of these strategies.  In the past her canvasses have been dense with colour – ultramarine has been a favourite – with closely packed patches of colour often achieved with short, urgent brushstrokes.  We read the energy of the brushstroke in the way the downward force of it reveals the ground underneath.  Sense the mind of the artist trained on the canvas through the hand.  The current show presents a looser, less highly-wrought body of work; there is still the palpable sense of watching an artist think through every mark, but there is also a greater lyricism to the final effect.  A more expansive self-confidence is perhaps also discernible in the variety of formats that Caivano has used for this body of work.  Tall and slender, or small landscape size, the proportions of the canvas operate hand in hand with each composition.

A delicate black line, dryly applied, creates loose armatures or space frames and there is a recurrent concern with the edges of the canvas.  Over and through these devices, which deftly establish spatial depth, Caivano layers in bodies of colour, tender greys and faded blues.  Nothing is left to chance in her abstract vocabulary:  there is no dripping or splashing, but instead a poised choreography of infinitely evocative form.  When Caivano introduces a tiny patch of sunshine yellow, so near the edge of the canvas that at first glance it could almost be a painty fingerprint from moving the work in the studio – you soon realise the positioning is so finely judged, the way the colour activates the muted greys so subtle, that this is the work of the most accomplished of painters.

Don’t miss this relatively rare opportunity to immerse yourself in a very distinctive body of work by one of our most serious painters.  Highly recommended.

Caroline Douglas


Victoria Miro Mayfair, 14 St George Street, London W1S 1FE. Exhibition open until 3 October 2015, Tuesday – Saturday 10.00-18.00.


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