Caroline White (CRB)
Écrits
Extract from the catalogue of Saint Bertrand de Comminges– 2000
William Packer, Art Critic for The Financial Times

« Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose » , those familiar French words recognise a general and important truth, and never more so than in relation to matters of Art, and in particular to the work of an artist over the course of an extended career. Apparent interests and immediate pre-occupations may shift from one thing to another, sometimes even with arbitrary suddenness: new materials, even entirely new media – from painting to sculpture, print, photography and back again – may be tried and then adopted: technique will alter, become more accomplished and assured: and always the work will develop, more forward. But yet the more one stands back from the whole, the more one sees the whole, and in the full perspective of that career one will begin at once to recognise more the similarities then the differences – the same underlying formal structures: the same manipulation of space: the same essential imagery for all that it may be cast in such varied and different forms.

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Jacob's Ladder

I have known Caroline White and her work for rather more than 20 years, though latterly intermittently and at a distance. The work by which I first remember her was set on a personal, even intimate scale, and made in light and almost improvisatory materials – cardboard, paper, string. The interest was in domestic objects, furniture or personal paraphernalia, such as the parasol the umbrella, the chair, that were informed by their own peculiar architecture. And yet that interest was quite as much pictorial as it was structural or sculptural in the directly physical sense. The objects she made in her play with such imagery could hardly be used. They did not work. Rather they occupied that fascinating debatable territory of the relief, which is claimed by both painters and sculptors, for the pictorial ambiguities it affords, and the liberties it allows in the physical distortion and constriction of space. The things she made were painted and they worked as paintings, even though quite as likely to have been set on the floor in the middle of the room as hung on the wall. And yet they were objects none the less for that, real things occupying real space in the world. And so they still are, and still do.

For what one remembers then serves uncannily as description even of her most recent work. The paradox that was her abiding interest and essential subject, of the object between painting and sculpture that infers a pictorial, other, imaginary space even as it holds its own, remains as firm and consistent as ever it was, though now as likely to be cast in bronze as stuck together with glue. She may have moved on in the meantime, first from an implicit, domesticated, hidden architecture to the true architectural detail – vaults and arches, doors and windows, the gothic and the Romanesque – and so to something now abstracted and symbolic. But the architecture is always there. And with it there remains the sense of the inhabited, personal space. The portal is there to invite us to pass through it, the ladder, Jacob’s Ladder, there for us to climb in our imagination, and down again. In and out, up and down – plus ça change indeed            .