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The art of Susan Vargas by Caroline Frances

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he paintings of Susan Vargas which I have been following for the past decade finds itself an autonomous place among contemporary art. Even though she has gone through academic training, she has left behind many conventions and has developed a personal style. This, for an artist , is  one of the best things can happen.. Her art has a personality of its own which I believe is due to certain factors. First, a restless mind which. Second the cultural adventure which she goes through as a matter of choice, by which I mean that she grew up in Colombia, studied in the U.S.A., Italy and Austria and now lives in Cyprus. These factors helped form the artistic language which Susan would follow. She has brought to Cyprus the Latin American art tradition and fused it organically to the Mediterranean space.

Her latest work is divided into two categories. The first one for practical reasons can be placed under Expressionism due to the use of color and the brush strokes. Here we can note the influence of American art not so much in the conceptual content as in the internal formulation. This art form although it is quite abstract keeps many allusions to visual reality. The “Bull of Bogotá” and “Fish and a Red Sky” are two examples of this period. The second unity has as a main element the human figure.

The figure determines the visual story (scenario?) of this body of work. Thematically it moves in it’s own personal myth personalizing elements from the environment giving them a metaphysical appearance and an essence of pre-Columbian art. It is interesting to note how the artist using simple everyday objects such as a table, a chair, a bird, pomegranates, fish, a bowl of olives, creates a code of symbolic elements which are placed in opposition to the figure therefore achieving a mysterious, enigmatic atmosphere. We can see the table in almost all the paintings. In the “Byzantine Emperors Table” and “Meal at a Red Table”  are   two works  where the table not only takes up a large visual space but also where the different objects are projected.

Susan Vargas’s main worry is to present the essence of things. Each expressive element must serve the aim. She has chosen minimalist flat forms. These spaces are energized by using opposite colors, tonal values and textures. Although her brushstrokes are expressive the economy of form and a tendency towards minimalism leads to a mysterious quietness which is unusual. The figures outstretched arm insinuates the Biblical gesture of Jude. In this case the old meaning can be reinterpreted as a multileveled message.   In “Invitation of a Bird” this is precisely what we can see. The painting questions the relationship of man with nature and also of man with himself. This dialectic transpires through all the artistic work.

Caroline Frances – Writer and Art Critic