Caroline White (CRB)
texts
Extract from « Transition » 1990

 

This catalogue of my recent work marks a watershed in both my personal and artistic development, and coincides with my decision to live in France, after having spent the previous twenty years of my life in Devizes and Bristol, in the south-west of England. This move to near Toulouse seemed to me inevitable, arising as it did from a fundamental shift in my cultural and artistic preoccupations, and a desire to be closer to the source of so much of my inspiration - the architecture, and special sense of light and space, of southern Europe.

My particular preoccupation, developed over the last six years, is with Romanesque Architecture, its powerful design and structure, its richness of colour and texture, its content of different layers of information, its suggestion of a past stretching back through Byzantium to Ancient Egypt. This architectural source of inspiration was triggered first by the Norman church of St John in Devizes, and by the hidden geometry of the nearby Avebury stones. These set me off on a “journey” which led me to the cloisters and Baptistery of Saint Sauveur, Aix-en-Provence, to St Germain-des-Près, Paris, to the Cistercian Abbeys of Le Thoronet and Senanques, and more recently to the great Burgundian masterpieces of Vezelay and Tournus, as well as to the Italian churches and cathedrals of Siena, San Gimignano, San Galgano et Ravenna.

I became similarly fascinated by the medieval Villages and towns typical of southern France and Italy. My “journey” to these places brought about an increasing realisation that their unique atmosphere is created through the organisation of space and light within their structure and history, and I felt consequently an increasing need to understand this organisation, and express it through my work. I am constantly overwhelmed by the power, intelligence, humility and practical perfection which come together in the construction of these marvellous buildings.

The work shown in this catalogue marks a move away from my earlier figurative studies, in which I was striving to come to terms with the nature of the forms I had been looking at. Moe recently I have begun to do more than merely make a record of my “journeys”, by attempting to express a broader range of ideas through a more intuitive and ultimately simpler abstract analysis of what the journeys mean to me. My underlying intention, it could be said, is to discover the means of creating an implied or illusory space which is at the same time both real and of the imagination, and which equates to the sense of space, light and atmosphere I have discovered, and been absorbed by, in Romanesque architecture.

 

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Network 90

 

The work of Piero della Francesca has also been a particular influence on my thinking. I am drawn not only by its sublime beauty, subtlety and apparent simplicity, but also by the many other levels of knowledge that it contains, and by its ability to reveal more of itself on each encounter..Recently I met and talked to Professor Richard Gregory as a result of his having seen Network 90, and I was struck by a phrase he used in describing his fascination with astrolabes, that they are ”objects that contain knowledge”. I believe that this is inherently true of all great art, and I find myself returning again and again to the words of Matisse, written in 1933:

1. One gets into a state of creativety by conscious work. To prepare one’s work is first to nourish one’s     feelings by studies which have a certain analogy with the picture, and it is through this that the choice of elements can be made. It is these studies that permit the painter to free his unconscious mind.
The harmony of all the elements of  the picture which have a part in the unity of feeling, which comes not from a simple thing but from a complex thing, and which is simplified by the purification of the subject and the mind of whoever translated it.

 

In discussing influences on my work I should not admit to mention the impact made on me by the German artist Kurt Schwitters. My admiration for him stems not so much from his contribution to Dada, but from his understanding and sensitivety to tonal and colour relationship, as from his profound awareness, evident in his numerous collages and constructions, of what Gaston Bachelard has called “The Poetics of Space”.

All my work is principally a process of evolution, beginning with drawings made in situ in which I attempt to understand the structure and content of a subject, and developing into forms of two or three dimensions which are increasingly abstract in nature. Underlying all these forms is a strongly geometric structure of arcs, circles and ellipses drawn through the space in an attempt to reflect the infinite possibilities of form, light and colour. The geometry, proportion and ratio of earlier work were largely classical in nature, in the sense that they had their origins in Renaissance construction (golden section, Fibonacci), numerology and Pythagorean and “Egyptian” geometry; more recently however, the geometry of the forms has become more intuitive.

The use of a variety of materials, from painted, carved or constructed wood, to resins, plaster and papier-maché, arises from a continual process of carving, cutting, modelling and painting into and onto different constructed surfaces. Within this process, the tactile as well as the visual nature of the form is all important, as is the interplay of texture and colour, with their implied tonal/spatial relationships. The evolution and resolution of ideas is part of the process of working and making, rather than the result of any intellectual preconceptions. I move constantly between drawing and relief work, and this combination of disciplines is an inherent part of my working process, as is the need to work on a number of pieces simultaneously, as one piece feeds off the other.

Network 90, the recently completed commission for BBC South and West, has increased my desire to make “site specific” work in collaboration with artists and designers, as well as pieces for exhibition in a gallery space. The specific, nature, structure and purpose of a place, and the function the artist performs in contributing to this, ate major concerns in all my work.

1. English from J.D. Flam. Matisse on Art – Phaidon Press, London 1973