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Vivienne Schadinsky

Vivienne Schadinsky is an artist and art educator best known for her evanescent Japanese ink and natural pigment paintings, capturing edible and non-edible plants and flowers that are scarce or soon distinct, due to climate change.

Observation of nature is the overarching theme in Vivienne’s work : from the study of the small changes within the 72 Japanese micro seasons1, to work developed from her very extensive research on the consequences of climate change — as well as the pollution of air and water. Her work is a reflection on the loss of biodiversity, plants’ ability to cope and thrive in extreme weather, food security 2, future foods, clean air and water. She also investigates the plant’s life cycle through installations and photographic documentations — with a particular focus on its journey into seed production.

Vivienne is especially drawn to, and battles with, the intangible space between abstraction and representation, often reflected in nature itself.
Born and raised in Switzerland, Vivienne spent much time in nature throughout her childhood. Coming from a family that highly cherishes and values the garden and nature as the source of food; foraging and slow food cooking instilled an early appreciation of a seasonal palette, the medicinal properties of plants — and the overall health benefits from spending time in nature.

Before studying interior design she worked as a woodworker, due to her fascination and love for trees and wood. This fascination later expanded into a love for paper, which initially included working with the novelty of cardboard furniture, sold in her own shop for some years. Later, a postgraduate course in Theatre Design brought her to London where she first designed sets and costumes for the Theatre followed by working as a production designer for the Film and Television industry.

Vivienne eventually left the design world to follow her vocation to stimulate thought and emotions with art. Her profession as an artist spans over ten years, a period that has offered her the opportunity to adapt a multi-faceted practice that encompasses environmental art and pushes the boundaries of ecological art. She creates ink and wash paintings, works with traditional etchings and monotypes, smaller scale installations, short films and photographic documentation.

Vivienne’s art projects raise questions. They underline the important role art has in visualising the impact climate change and loss of biodiversity have on our environment. To correctly convey these issues she receives information and advice directly from figures in the scientific community; such as a member of Kew Gardens’ Millennium Seed Bank in Wakehurst, the Head of Tree Collections at Kew Gardens, a Natural History Museum Collections’ curator and a professor specialised in international legumes breeding programmes to support future food security. Vivienne’s quest is to evoke an emotional and visceral response that encourages collective thought and conversation, to show her audience plants in unexpected ways to challenge their perception. This quest is in parallel minded to support wellbeing by evoking emotions of serenity and the appreciation of beauty.

Vivienne's work has been shown in solo exhibitions in London, Manningtree and Basel (Switzerland), and she has participated in group exhibitions in London, Norway and Japan. Her artworks are held in private collections throughout the UK, Europe and the US.

Gallery Collection

Galley Collection

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Artist Q&A

Artist Q&A

Q&A for the exhibition 'Trace' in June 2023:

Can you talk us through a usual day in your studio?

I like working in complete silence and minimal disruption to fully capture the energy and beauty of the natural world that I try to convey in my artwork. Working in daylight is essential to my creative process.
The changing seasons play a significant role in how my time in the studio is structured. During the light-filled days of spring and summer, I paint and practice all my art forms for long hours, sometimes starting at 6am.

The art materials I work with are really important to me. They have been carefully sourced over a long time. I believe that using natural and high-quality materials is essential in creating art that reflects the true essence of the world around us. From the Japanese brushes, inks and organic pigments to the different paper – I prioritise materials that are sustainable and environmentally friendly.

I choose which inks I will be using for the day. Deciding whether I will work in monochrome, using the black Japanese (sumi - e) ink or whether I will also use the colour pigments. Then I take the paper out depending which make and what size is appropriate for the work. And finally I prepare my brushes and line them up. I have my ink and water bowls, pallets and a special water spoon ready to create all the gradients.

This setting up plays already an important part of the process. Everything it is like a ritual. The ink and pigment grinding on the ink stone – the suzuri – and the water is always arranged and mixed in the exactly the same way. And then I start painting.

Before this stage I have researched all the information needed and can be completely in flow with the subject I studied beforehand. The painting process is concentrated and intense with complete focus – at the same time it is also calm and meditative.

In the winter months, I shift my attention more towards planning, networking, organising, developing new ideas, and cataloging my work. I also do some extensive reading and visit exhibitions and places that inspire me. But I do need to paint also during the darker month. Painting is like my energetic remedy and my life flows more freely when I create.

The seasonal variation in my routine allows me to evolve as an artist by adapting my creative process to the rhythms of nature and the changing seasons. This process feels enriching and I can capture the essence of the natural world that I am so passionate about.


What was your relationship with nature growing up? When did your passion for nature and environmental topics begin?

Growing up in Basel, Switzerland, I was fortunate to have regular access to some amazing natural landscapes. They had a profound impact on me and became an intrinsic part of my being.

My family also instilled in me a deep appreciation for the natural world, meaning I have always been surrounded with foraging, gardening, and slow cooking. This has nourished my connection with nature and the seasons.

As I spent more time in nature, I found a sense of peace there. This peacefulness and inspiration spoke to my soul and resonated with my artistic side. I was fascinated by the mountains, rivers, lakes and the play of light and shadow in the forests, and also the balance of the ecosystems that I observed in the Swiss countryside. I remember once spotting an Edelweiss flower in the mountains which we were not allowed to touch or pick as it was already endangered. There I felt the significance of species loss and my deep connection with the natural environment.

As my passion for art developed, I began to translate the tranquility I found in nature into my art. My work became a visual expression of my reverence for nature and a celebration of its wonders and beauty.
Now based in urban London, I find inspiration in the beautiful parks and green spaces that the city offers. My relationship with the natural environment continues to evolve and deepen, and I am grateful for that connection and the ability to share this through my art.


Has nature always been a starting point for your art?

Choosing plants as my medium was not so much a conscious decision, but rather something I was drawn to. When I started focusing on fine art full time over 10 years ago, I experimented with various subjects and techniques, and whilst others also appreciated my landscapes and portraits, I was always fascinated by plants, especially the close up or even a more immersive and abstract take on them. I found myself constantly observing them in parks and in my immediate surroundings and bringing them into my studio to take photos, to sketch and to press them.

From there, the environmental art naturally evolved. Each time an idea of a new project consolidates, I carefully consider whether to open that door or not. Once I have gathered enough information and, if possible, collaborated with a specialist from the scientific field to ensure factual accuracy, I can anchor the new project into my existing body of work.

Sometimes, I already feel fulfilled with the scope of my projects. However, when I find room for more and then realise how enriched I feel by adding a new project, it adds to the overall completeness of my vision.

The research you are part of and advised by is fascinating, does your artwork come intuitively from it or do you find you need time to process?

I have different scientific advisors – for example for my project MAGIC HOUR I am advised by a plant ecologist from The Millenium Seedbank in Wakehurst, Kew Gardens. Their work focuses on finding solution for sustainable ways to use seeds and how they can develop plant diversity and the conservation of threatened plant species.

Having this specialist from this field is important to my work. We are in the Anthropocene age, global climate and environmental changes are a result of human activity, which causes the rapid extinction of plant diversity. This threatens the wild plants that we use for food and medicine. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew conducts research and documents plant and fungal diversity through international projects. This is a thorough process, that uses various connections with rural communities.

As an artist I focus on only one aspect of their work. To do their incredible wealth of knowledge and action justice, I spend a lot of time learning how to translate scientific knowledge into my visual world.

It takes long time for me to digest the information, to make sense of it, and finding ways how this knowledge can be relevant in communicating it through my art.

There are many endangered food plants that are very familiar to us. The Cavendish banana – the banana that is most commonly known to us, the one we see in all our supermarkets – is tangible because I can still eat it and therefore have a sensory connection to it. This feeling is really the reason why I started the sculptures. By creating three-dimensional pieces I can further connect with my subject matter on another level. The tactile nature of it allows me to deepen my understanding of the endangered foods. This sensorial information helps me to understand better what is around us. I can therefore pay more attention to the details through this experience. We see with our eyes, the hands can touch and create something visual – and that visual can evoke a feeling in our soul. My work is an attempt to capture the imaginative realm that is beyond our verbal communication.

Once I have absorbed all the information and I take the ideas to my studio the work is very intuitive. It is a meditative flow – connecting to the energy and emotion reflecting what I learnt from my research.


Do you create many paintings of each plant? Do you find yourself returning to particular ones?

My process usually involves doing many paintings of a plant in order to truly understand it. The mind becomes more refined and sensitive trough the repetition. I am fascinated by the philosophy of sumi-e, a Japanese black ink painting style. It captures something alive by reducing everything that is unnecessary. The aim is to evoke emotions that can be felt by everyone and communicate the true essence of nature.

Observation of nature is the overarching theme of all my work. I have been studying the small changes that occur within the 72 Japanese micro seasons for some years now. Therefore I automatically return to certain plants that I find particularly inspiring, for example during my favourite time of year in spring when all the fruit trees blossom or to observe them when they are at another point in their life cycle.


Can you tell us more about your Magic Hour series? How long has this project been on-going and has your approach to it changed as its developed?

MAGIC HOUR has been a project close to my heart for the past four years. Ever since I became aware of the effects of climate change on truffles in Piedmont, Italy.

As I delved deeper into the issue, I realised that many of our food plants are endangered or at risk due to changing weather patterns and other environmental factors.

The realisation of plant extinction had originally led me to launch my first environment art project related to plants SUNRISE - SUNSET – which focuses on endangered flowers. This eventually lead to MAGIC HOUR which explores the extinction of food plants.

My environmental art as such started with my clean water project SINE AQUA NON VITA / without water there is no life in 2016.
MAGIC HOUR not only highlights the importance of food plants but also explores the cultural significance of food in our lives and the ways in which it binds us to our history, traditions and heritage.

As I continue to work on my projects, I am learning more of the connections between them. For example, my focus on the extinction of food plants in MAGIC HOUR led me to launch my future food project CIBUS, which explores ways to ensure food security and sustainability in the face of climate change. This in return led to SEGES, a project that examines food plants that thrive in extreme weather conditions such as heatwaves, droughts, fires, storms and floods, and was inspired by the unprecedented heat we experienced last summer.

Although I cannot give my full attention to all projects simultaneously, each work I create influences the next, and I do not want to miss any of these connections.

The projects are all re-visited in regular intervals and with each return I have gained more knowledge and have therefore a slightly different approach.

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