San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Swiss Artist Embraces Adventure of Painting

Seventh in an ongoing series on Atenasbased artists.

“In the work of Andrés Studer, nature is not depicted, not caught up; on the contrary, nature spreads out and captures the painting,” writes Swiss art historian Kerstin Richter in her laudatory speech on the occasion of the artist’s 2004 solo exhibit in his native town of Basel, Switzerland.

Studer, 55, a contemporary painter and designer, now resides in the coffee town of Atenas, northwest of San José. He and his Canadian wife Gya Barrette say they appreciate the friendliness of the residents and the slow pace of life, and consider the Atenas climate one of the best in the world.

With nature Studer’s main subject, he is mesmerized by the country’s natural wonders.

“In my paintings, I instinctively try to react to the power of nature,” says Studer, who came to Costa Rica 10 years ago. “I’m especially fascinated by the abundance of the tropical mangrove and rain forests. As soon as one tree falls, another seedling germinates to replace it.”

At once abstract and representational, Studer’s large-format acrylics are dominated by strong, dark lines that contour the object depicted.His paintings are made lively by the beauty of the colors, which make the compositions soft and variable.

Studer’s motifs include tropical flowers, fruits and seeds that are not beautifully arranged but rather seem to grow out of the canvas, self-confident and wild. Like a metaphor for the flexibility of nature, some canvases consist of three to five different parts, which are interchangeable and can be displayed in a variety of arrangements.

“If someone admires a sunset or one of my paintings, to me, it is the same,” Studer says.

“I neither aim to depict beauty nor to stress people. I want them to feel comfortable with my art.

“Beauty is no problem, since it has been made many times by others. If you want to see dreadfulness and horror, watch the news. I’m not working for that purpose. I do not like to copy other artists; I like to be surprised by my own creativity, by my own work.” Studer cannot work in absolute stillness.

Music and environmental noises and sounds are as essential to him as natural light. He says  he is especially inspired by the sound sculpturesof his friend Dominique Barthassat, a composer and pianist from the French-speaking part of Switzerland, who provides the background music for Studer’s art showings.

In accordance with the concept that painting is keeping a surface alive, Studer uses mixed medias. In his paintings, he incorporates items that have personal meaning to him: photographs, press cuttings or train tickets. His instinctively inspired art enables him to work on his pieces over years.

“Painting is an adventure,” he says. “I try to do something important, that corresponds to me. Years later, I can go over the piece again. However, the original picture is still there, still visible. It’s not lost. It’s also present in my mind.”

Studer’s creative abilities also include sculpture and design. “Molusco” (“Mollusk”), his latest project, is a three-dimensional sitting object that can be used as a chair, stool or sculpture. Barrette, a leather worker, is currently developing the first prototypes in the couple’s Atenas studio.

Born to a French-speaking mother and a German father, Studer grew up bilingual. He learned to look at life from two different cultures, and is convinced that these experiences generated greater mental flexibility in him.

Because his native town of Basel is a center for modern art, as a teenager Studer had the opportunity to see works by internationally acclaimed artists such as Frank Stella, Richard Rauschenberg, Jean Tinguely and Joseph Beuyes.

“When I was 16, my favorite painters, Rauschenberg and Stella, were exhibited at the ContemporaryArt Museum in Basel,” Studer recalls. “I felt as if I had fallen into the soup.”

Studer studied painting and design at the École des Beaux Arts, in Aix-en-Provence, France, where he received a fine-arts degree with distinction, after which he moved to Montreal to live and work for 20 years. But it was not until the year 2000 that he felt ready for solo exhibits in Basel, where his work was shown for three consecutive years. He plans to hold his first Costa Rican exhibit in 2007.

As part of his legacy, Studer supports the Art for Tropical Forests Foundation in Basel, established by renowned gallery owner and museum founder Ernst Beyeler “for the permanent protection of tropical forests and their inhabitants,” Beyeler writes in the foundation’s brochure. “Nature has provided art with a lot of input,” he continues. “It is time for art to return the favor.”

For more information, write Studer at Apartamentos Atenas, 4013 Atenas, Apdo. 88. For more information on the foundation, visit


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