Juana Subercaseaux is a painter who employs the genre of landscape to question established tropes while creating a space of wonder. Her often dark and ominous landscapes emit a feeling of uncertainty, a darkness that seeps slowly and viscously from the natural world. Figures are absent from these scenes in which the alienation between contemporary society and our natural origins begin to cleave an inseparable distance. The paintings create theatre sets in which landscape becomes an unreachable and foreign place. In those distant sets of the sublime, there is a philosophical reversal of nature in which it is something much greater than us. Considerations of Kant’s ‘sublime’ and our relation to the environment that surrounds us are collected into poetic epithets. Rather than man’s drive to conquer nature, we encounter a natural world that inspires fear and terror, at once able to sustain our life as quickly as it can be taken away.
Living and working in Santiago de Chile, Subercaseaux explores the relationship between the vast urban centre and the imposing presence of nature around it. Encapsulated by the jagged Andes to the West and the Pacific Ocean to the East, Santiago is surrounded by natural dangers. Society co-habits with this constant instability of nature and learns to live in its shadow, appreciating the rapid changes and accustomed to the monthly murmurs of the earth as it shakes below the city.