At Victoria Miro, Varda Caivano’s Latest Paintings Capture Thoughts in Process

Laura Purseglove
Sep 22, 2015 10:25PM

Installation view of Varda Caivano at Victoria Miro, London. Courtesy Victoria Miro and the artist

Varda Caivano’s paintings—filled with stormy greys and electrified by inky blues and occasional flashes of yellow—invite you in and prompt you to walk around. Block-like shapes gently tessellate across the canvases now on view at Victoria Miro, with densely built areas giving way to open spaces; an oblique reflection of the urban landscape perhaps, fitting given Caivano’s London home.

Like many good artists, Caivano has created a visual lexicon so sophisticated that she succeeds in referencing the external world through touches that pull her paintings back from the brink of pure abstraction. This allows her work to evoke the shared, spatial world as well as private, psychological space. 


The works at Victoria Miro have been described as representing a “third moment” in Caivano’s practice. This new phase is characterized by the more decisive role that drawing plays in the recent paintings, evidenced by the selection of small drawings on view as well as the more graphic nature of the paintings. The different roles played by pencil and paint typify Caivano’s close attention to process and mastery of her materials; careful charcoal marks, dense pigment, and ethereal washes are united in their controlled application.

Installation view of Varda Caivano at Victoria Miro, London. Courtesy Victoria Miro and the artist

Caivano’s newly adopted palette of greys makes the subtle architecture of her paintings more visible. Areas of unpainted canvas reveal the pencil markings beneath, offering a glimpse into the underlying structure. Order and discipline do not diminish the warmth and liveliness of her work; rather, they enable it. This balancing act is her great strength.

Speaking with The Independent earlier this year, the artist proposed that her paintings “are like thoughts.” Considering this comparison, Terry R. Myers added in a recent piece for ArtReview that Caivano’s work is fundamentally discursive in nature. The paintings are metacognitive—thoughts about thought—mental energy metered out in line and shade. And, by the same token, they are paintings about painting.

Laura Purseglove

Varda Caivano is on view at Victoria Miro, London, Sep. 9–Oct. 3, 2015.

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