Vivian Suter: Tintin’s Sofa at Camden Arts Centre

On a stormy Sunday afternoon Ed took refuge in this paint-sodden exhibition at Camden Arts Centre.


Vivian Suter’s show ‘Tintin’s Sofa’ at Camden Arts Centre is the perfect exhibition for a rainy day. I mean that literally: Suter works outdoors at her Guatemalan studio, and sees the unpredictable marks left by the weather and the natural world as an integral part of her creative process. There is a damp, elemental quality to her vibrant canvases that dovetails nicely with dreary English weather.

So when I visited Camden Arts Centre on a rainy weekend during Storm Dennis, I enjoyed the irony that part of the exhibition, in the gallery’s garden, was closed due to the weather.

I was sad to miss the outdoor installation because the work on display inside was excellent. Suter and her curators have done away with frames and captions to create an immersive installation of draped canvas. Some works hang in racks, as if they are drying, whilst others cascade from the ceiling, or lie crumpled on the floor. According to Suter the exhibition was put together intuitively and everywhere at once. “We start somewhere” she observes in an interview “and continue adding things to it”. As a result its curation captures the same quality that makes Suter’s work pop, a feeling of accidental chance, steered by an astute creative eye.

It’s hard to single particular pieces out, and to do so would be missing the point a bit. The works are put together in such a way that it’s impossible to say where one piece starts and another stops. They become a delicate visual ecosystem and demand to be taken in altogether all at the same time. Removing an individual canvas, framing it, and hanging it on the wall of an illustrious collector’s Chelsea mansion would be like cutting down a tree in the Guatemalan jungle and turning it into a chest of drawers.

‘Tintin’s Sofa’ is about colliding contexts: the context of the jungle, marked by muddy accidentals; the intertextual relationships between the works themselves; and the context in which the exhibition is explored. Visiting the colourful, muddy world of ‘Tintin’s Sofa’ is an excellent kind of escapism, and well worth braving stormy spring weather to see.

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