In the studio: Varda Caivano, artist - 'My paintings are like thoughts... I make many of them at the same time'


Karen Wright
Friday 03 January 2014 20:00
True colours: Varda Caivano in her east London studio
True colours: Varda Caivano in her east London studio

Varda Caivano works in a studio close to the train tracks in semi-fashionable Hackney Wick, east London, near where she lives with her partner and young son. Her studio is small, with many paintings turned face to the walls. People are coming soon to collect paintings for her upcoming show at a gallery in Tokyo, and she is still considering what to send. "I always take 40 per cent more then I need so I can see how it looks in the space."

Caivano has had a high-profile year, with a room of her paintings included in the Venice Biennale. Biennale director, Massimiliano Gioni, selected works with her via Skype, she confides, as she makes me a strong coffee.

Born in 1971 in Buenos Aires, with a Jewish psychoanalyst mother and Danish/Italian father, she confesses that her life was comfortable. She attended "a Jewish school that had a lot of recreational activities; it was a really liberal, fun place to learn." Her family were all doctors "so I studied biology, but eventually decided I wanted to be a painter." Her mother encouraged her to study art history, which she did before "getting a scholarship" at Buenos Aires artist Guillermo Kuitca's studio. She then got a job in a museum.

Spending her days studying works of art, she asked questions about technique that seemed to irritate the curators, before admitting that this was not what she wanted to do.

Caivano came to London and attended the Royal College of Art. Chris Ofili, a fan of her work, introduced her to her gallerist Victoria Miro, with whom she continues to show.

Caivano hangs some paintings for me to look at. They are tantalising: elements of figuration flirt with total abstraction and the palette of blues and violets is both seductive and mystical. "I think the paintings are like thoughts," she says. I point out how unusual it is to see so many paintings in a studio at one time, and she replies: "I think the studio works like a head, because I make many paintings at the same time."

It is up to the viewer to make their own decisions about the canvases. Caivano does not make it easy, leaving them untitled. "I don't want to tell them titles, or anything – but I want to explain to them that this is what's happening in the studio."

"I think it's also because the function of some paintings is to have fights and arguments with other paintings, rather than just sitting there." The activity of the work chimes with her own intense involvement. "I mean, you paint with all of you! You paint with what you read, what you see, with what you know."

Vara Caivano will be showing at Victoria Miro Gallery, London (020 7336 8109) in 2014

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