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Carol Robertson
New Painting 2000

Catalogue Essay
by Sacha Craddock, 2000
Galleri Weinberger, Copenhagen, Denmark
18 February – 31 March 2000
Flowers East, London
17 March – 22 April 2000

The double-edged circle sets up a regular beat and still the image holds.

Carol Robertson Dalliance in the Garden 1999
Dalliance in the Garden 1999

The paint is put on evenly to avoid any sense of movement or volume. This gives a particular sensation, a fixed experience of non-reference. But such a break in the chain of imagery provides a back door to pleasure, and marks a subtle shift in Robertson's work. Earlier paintings would have had an unconscious, sublime set of associations about them with even the most simple geometric shape carrying its own parallel hint; for example, to a commonplace object or to an architectural plan or detail of some kind.

Now the relation between the edge of the circle for instance and the edge of the canvas is crucial in a different way. The paintings are not process driven equivalents of a fabric sample, they replace the arbitary 'all over' sense with a symbolism existing within. The imagery functions almost graphically showing how closely Robertson works with printing and drawing in transplanting and translating her repertoire. She works adamantly, 'underlining' the edge of the circle, forcing it to function in a direct and visual manner. Nor is this about any notion of pure shape or the paring down of components; the work is still more about the experience of looking rather than any dry representation of thought.

The basic elements placed within the margins provide both the place and the atmosphere in which they can appear. The 'place' is architectural as well as open. It is important to repeat here that nothing moves and yet a strange leap outwards towards heaven from a circle within its edge shows how one element can so quickly, easily and miraculously conjure another. The leap is without instruction or direction, however. While these paintings deal so emphatically with the here and now they remain separate from rigid distinctions between abstraction and figuration, from the duality of earlier arguments and positions.

Carol Robertson Centerfold 1999
Centerfold 1999

The paintings have markers in this world and appear, in their retinal intensity, to harvest the kind of energy and tension that comes either with the build-up before a storm or the subsequent blanket of violet light once the storm has broken.

Although occasionally envisaged in pairs, the relationships set up within each painting provides a highly unfashionable level of independence. Perhaps the strength of the simple single image is that it is able to glow, in the mind's eye, long after it has been seen. The particular direct relation to drawing guarantees that Red Night, Isis, and Dalliance In The Garden are consciously and effectively perceived and understood all at once. The drawing is nonetheless vulnerable, it reminds that even the most basic shape is the same and yet different each time.

Carol Robertson Hours 1999
Hours 1999

Each painting functions as a lightening conductor that flashes on the eye to establish an initial spark of mental place or space. In charting the relationship between the maker's intention and the observer's eye, leaving out perhaps artificially, the maker's continual presence, it is possible if a little simplistic, to draw a triangle with a sawn-off third point. That flat point is the picture plane itself. The artist here feeds in so much that an accumulation of intention over time, extends out at a diffuse angle to the viewer, just as head lights expand and extend their glow into the night.

Although it is always difficult and sometimes facetious to write about colour it is nonetheless possible to grasp at associations thrown out by it. As the eye passes through the pink centre in Neon Door, the atmosphere is really quite luxurious and shows that despite spare and simple reference, the subsequent pay-off carries the richness of an 18th century interior. Robertson states that despite a great attraction to minimal art she cannot consider herself a minimal artist. Neon Door carries all the architectural and cultural reference of centuries, an atmosphere that is a million miles away from spare singularity. It is instead as if the painting represents a still of a moving picture; a sequence of slides illustrating movement held forever.

Carol Robertson Pearl Sunrise 2000
Pearl Sunrise 2000

Reverberating aesthetic intentions allow an even glow and the artist is light with her titles, in recognition, it seems, of that moment of looking. Grey Light suggests the movements in between the edge and beyond. The reds of Red Night and Iota carry the weight and depth of paint placed over and across, and the colour takes many layers of change to establish itself, echoing from within the surface and producing the strange effect of the moon on a very cold night. Obviously any combination of mental and visual play resides, as well, in the ready-made collective consciousness of past painting and place.

Layers build up to make a convincing and intelligent base with the opaque authority of genuine Japanese lacquer. To carry a simplistic Oriental theme further it is good to think of the painting as the artist's working skin. Robertson works with drawing and with paint inside the contained edge until certain points become pressure points. This touching intensity, very sharp and almost painful at moments, takes the experience way past entertainment to a heightened pitch. Some points are more tender and sensitive than others. The very place at which one colour meets another is never passive but worked to a pitch by the artist to release or increase tension

The relationship between words and painting will always be problematic. Titles vary in function: these titles recognise a variety of functions, some descriptive and some not. The eye recognises the edge, the 'all over'; the moment is distilled and yet extended. The paintings insist on providing a strange sense of promise; there is an inevitable equality in looking, a basic democracy in the search for emotional space.

Text © Sacha Craddock 2000
Images © Carol Robertson 2000

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© 2017 Carol Robertson