Vivian Suter makes exuberant, organic, abstract canvases inspired by the tropical landscape of Guatemala where she has lived for more than four decades. She leaves her unstretched canvases outdoors so that rain, leaves, twigs, dirt, and even animal paw prints become incorporated into her work. She adopted this practice after a hurricane devastated her studio in 2005, leading her to embrace the unpredictability of nature.
Born in Buenos Aires, her mother was the artist Elisabeth Wild (1922-2020). Her mother and her father moved to Basel, Switzerland in the early 1960s when she was thirteen. Suter studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Basel, Switzerland from 1967 to 1972. In 1982, she traveled through the United States, Mexico, and Central America and fell in love with Guatemala. For almost four decades, she lived in Guatemala near Lake Atitlan. Currently she lives in a former coffee plantation on the outskirts of a remote Guatemalan village, Panajachel.
Her artist mother Elisabeth Wild moved to Guatemala in 1996 to live near Suter. The two of them often collaborated closely, but their work was very different. While Wild’s works were precise, small-format colleges, composed of colorful, glossy magazine cuttings, Suter’s work was just the opposite. Her work consisted of large, abstract, brightly colored canvases filled with broad stripes of color and iterations of the natural world.
Suter’s work was shown in the 2017 edition of Documenta, the exhibition of contemporary art which takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany. In 2020, “Vivian Suter: Bonzo’s Dream” was exhibited at Berlin’s Brucke-Museum. Her paintings were shown alongside those of her mother and other Brucke artists: Emil Noodle, Otto Mueller, Max Pechstein, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.
Her exhibition “Tintin’s Sofa,” was shown at London’s Camden Arts Centre in 2020. Here some two hundred unstretched canvases were displayed in overlapping clusters across two rooms and part of a hallway. Her paintings were closely suspended from a rack and could be seen only partially as flashes of color. Her varied handling of oil and acrylic paint incorporated gestural brushstrokes, drips, and spatters and conveyed great physical energy.
She has had dozens of international solo exhibitions in London, Luxembourg, Toronto, Chicago, Los Angeles, Basel, Zurich, Bologna, and specifically at Tate Liverpool, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, New York’s The High Line, and Desert X 2021 in California’s Coachella Valley, among others.