Caroline James

Paintings

This new work reflects the influences of a year of waiting and looking and more waiting, for a new beginning somewhere. This is the beginning of a new story. After four years of painting “the birds” it became very clear to me that that story had run its creative course. For the first time since grad school, twelve years ago, I found my self in that terrifying place where there is, seemingly, nothing within. Empty, void, silence. In the absence of a voice through which to paint I found my self obsessively collecting fabric of all things, and dreaming of squares and rectangles in quiet geometric order while at the same time gathering to me, and tearing up, paper (into smaller rectangles), wall paper, paper of all kinds including brown grocery bags, news print, old books especially of the instructive kind. and old photographs of everything from cowgirls to burning buildings to old images of Canadian culture. My studio filled up with drywall compound, mesh tape, varathane and varnish and old painted plywood. Having no clear vision, only unexplained obsession, I continued to trust this would all come to something. These new works are the beginning of that something. Eventually one gives in to the voice that is telling you to pour bleach and strong tea on Manila paper and this will be a good thing.

I have been strongly influenced by the great modernist painters of the 50’ and 60’s including those proponents of the minimal/color field schools especially Agnes Martin, but also Clifford Still, Barnett Newman, Marc Rothko. The turn to collage in my work has many contemporary influences but there is also a deep reflection of my admiration for Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg will always be a hero of mine.

The many influences from all of my “looking at pictures of pictures” are secondary to what appears to be a preoccupation with the meaning found in the “Silent space” and “peace”, in all of its many meanings and contextual forms most notably the peace of accepting that things are often not peaceful. There also appears in this work a deep pull to the silence of memory, the aged, the worn, and the image that has been silenced by time. Layered and monotone in nature the work is homage to stillness, and the process of coming to that place. It is a slow, evolution to the removal of the predominance of color and mark, a quieting, if you will, when it seems like “not saying” is the most important thing to say.

Often utterly minimal is aspect these works are reflective of my own as well as what I perceive as a cultural turning to inner contemplative silence, a deep longing for quiet both within and without. There is a reflection of a deep longing for order amidst the ongoing and ever increasing violence and chaos. The feud between enthalpy and entropy lives here in this work in the ordered shapes and their faded patina.

There is a fascination for me in the process of making this work, and a challenge for the viewer, to simply be with what is before you without asking anything from it; to allow the work to give you what is has and to simply show you your own reaction to being there, quietly.

Try not thinking.

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