• Varda Caivano, detail, studio view, 2014.

  • Varda Caivano, detail, studio view, 2014.

  • Varda Caivano, detail, studio view, 2014.

  • Varda Caivano, detail, studio view, 2014.

  • Varda Caivano, detail, studio view, 2014.


The Renaissance Society, The University of Chicago, 5811 South Ellis Avenue, Cobb Hall, 4th Floor, Chicago, IL 60637.

Published Wednesday 16 September 2015, Jonathan 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 [their] work, [they are] subordinate to it, and we have no reason for expecting [them] 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)

Varda Caivano, Untitled 2014, The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, 2015.

Varda Caivano, detail, Untitled 2014, The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, 2015.

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 William de Kooning and Frank Stella, but through this stasis the artworks are driven by the mechanism of artistic motion.

Motion: the act of becoming…

Varda Caivano, Untitled 2014, The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, 2015.

Varda Caivano, detail, Untitled 2014, The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, 2015.

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 unreconstructed 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)

Rather than a horizon line, these artworks contain multiple inflection points: gaps in the paint which expose raw canvas and underdrawing, morasses of paint that have clotted and coalesced with the washed-out daubs and tentative strokes of paint that arc and snake, and explore the surface. Paint has been applied at a range of speeds, with colour effecting differing densities. Caivano’s canvases appears before the viewer like a petrie dish cultivating cells. (8) An act of experimentation that is never unequivocal – the patient testing of a hypothesis.

Caivano’s paintings are autotelic, and “undeniably of themselves” (9) 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.


Sources and Further Reading:

(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) http://artreview.com

(4) http://www.independent.co.uk

(5) In conversation: Varda Caivano.

(6) Jennifer Higgie, Varda Caivano: painting as a site of struggle, doubt and pleasure,  Frieze, September 2005, p.120.

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

(8) “In her home town of Buenos Aires Caivano initially studied molecular biology (though, significantly, she discovered that her interest lay primarily in scientific images)”. Felicity Lunn, ‘Non-linear Thoughts: On the Paintings of Varda Caivano’, p. 7

(9) http://www.victoria-miro.com


Of Interest:

The Renaissance Society: http://www.renaissancesociety.org

Victoria Miro: http://www.victoria-miro.com

One Response to Varda Caivano

  1. Jules says:

    A true artist will not over think .they just do what comes
    Probably all of the above happen but are not thought about flow is all that matters
    Trained artists probably think it
    I only do as I see dont over think
    Seeing is all

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