Caroline List: Landscapes of Sublime Abstraction
Posted by Rise Art on 25th September 2020
Caroline List's enquiry into colour and space sets up a conversation within her paintings, informed by references to signatures observed within nature, colour theory and formal abstraction. This eclectic mix of references generates a spatial language, a visual tension between blended horizons of colour, light & organic shapes. Her paintings play with the push and pull of the picture plane, form and ground, creating compositions with surreal spatial horizons which allude to otherworldly vistas.
Focusing on the interaction between space and matter, Caroline’s work has an element of the sublime about it. Many of her paintings are in a circular format, “I often use the format of the Renaissance tondo and the repetition of the circular form, a form which has no beginning or end, therefore the viewer can never fully complete the image”.
What’s your creative process?
The compositions and colour gradients are generated from collages and paintings on paper, these studies are later developed into large linen canvases or paintings on board or aluminium. I love the physical and haptic interaction of painting. The human physical element is very engaging.
I do make some digital work but I’m not that technical with digital platforms. The light boxes are made by myself, that was a significant digital, technical achievement. I learnt about led lights, digital printing on Perspex and Computer Numerical Control fabrication followed by hand finishing.
We often see circles and circular compositions in your work, what's the significance behind this?
I often use the format of the Renaissance tondo and the repetition of the circular form, a form which has no beginning or end, therefore the viewer can never fully complete the image. The compositions and colour gradients are generated from collages and paintings on paper, these studies are later developed into large linen canvases or paintings on board or aluminium. In a modernist context symmetry and repetition of the circular form generates motion and balance. In relation to nature the circle is a universal symbol.
Framing conventions such as the tondo and the depiction of the window within renaissance painting is a compositional device which transports the viewer into distant horizons. I am interested in these conventions of illusory spatial horizons and how this can be revisited within a contemporary context. The first examples of the tondi or tondo were found in Tuscany around 1430 and continued until the 16th Century. The celestial subject matter of the renaissance tondi signified holiness, perfection and ephemeral illusions of the world contained within this circular format.
Your colour palette is particularly striking, where do you find your inspiration for your combinations?
The surface absorbency of colour and light in my work is very important. I want the viewer to enjoy the visual experience of transient colour, which not only references modernist abstraction, but plays with organic totemic forms, illusory space and balance. My colour references come from a number of sources, colour theory and observation in nature phenomena. My recent use of heighten fluorescents references the modern synthetic colour palette, observed in the everyday, in the lights of the city, neon and the computer screen.
Are your works emotionally driven?
Yes, the atmosphere in my paintings and the transient space and light is all about feeling, generating an emotional response. The power of colour to evoke an emotional response is a key driver in my work.
Are your landscape works drawn from reality?
Observations of signature colours in nature are a reference and inspiration, especially with the colour gradients and suggested horizons colour blends, however modernist abstraction is a huge influence. The formal spatial compositional arrangements are drawn from the imagination and intuitive decision-making. I see my influences as fairly hybrid, artists recall their visual library which often comes from many observational sources.
What does being "an artist" mean to you? Do you think this comes with responsibilities or certain philosophies?
It means I can make some kind of visual sense of things observed. The artistic drive is in all of us, however how one channels this is up to the individual. “The medium is the message”, a powerful vehicle to communicate ideas, it is a very personal choice for the artist. I love the physical and haptic interaction of painting. The human physical element is very engaging. I do make some digital work but I’m not that technical with digital platforms.
What has been the most memorable experience or encounter in your career as an artist so far?
Having successful exhibitions, and it's great when collectors purchase work. In the past when the economy was strong, pre austerity and Covid, my best memory was having a sell-out show with a contemporary gallery in Shoreditch. It is important that artists exhibit in physical shows as well as virtual platforms. Nothing Beats seeing the physical work in a gallery space. I am hoping in the future artists can still have that choice and they can both coexist.