I often find writing about myself and my work problematic, I offer here some of the opinions of others possibly more qualified, and able to write with more eloquence than I am capable of:

'The Blackbird's Song' watercolour and pastel, 43.5 x 38 cms available unframed in a double white mount.
From an interview with Lu Orza(C),
included in: ‘Portrait of the Artist: 25 Bridport Painters and Sculptors’
Ed. Kit Glaisyer, Writing: Lu Orza, Photographs by George Wright, Richmond House Publishing, © 2010

One assumes that all artists – if not all human beings – are on a journey of sorts, but few peoples’ journey can be played out and experiences on such a moment by moment basis as seems to be the case with Caroline Ireland. Nor do all journeys appear to be quite so rich with wonder, joy, celebration and discovery as hers do. It’s as if she’s a sort of Peter Pan, inhabiting a Never-Never Land of fantasy, mystery and imaginary landscapes. During a recent – and rare – pause for reflection Caroline considers that ‘in everything I’ve been doing ideas have been with me for a very long time; probably a lot of them since I was a child’.

On the other hand, Caroline’s work is so distinctive and displays such consistency as to suggest a sense of a solidly grounded self; a security and self-awareness that allows her to plumb her inner being for ideas, fantasies, memories and emotions, without being afraid of what she’ll find there. She appears to be in charge of an almost unlimited access to her inner world – something which many artists and writers seeking inspiration might find enviable. ‘Yes, I think that’s what it is really – I think that’s been going on since childhood – and it doesn’t matte what art I see or am inspired by I still end up doing exactly what is me, and in some ways I find that quite comforting’.

Most of Caroline’s paintings are done in one sitting. Some are executed very quickly, others require more time, but all are carried out in a sort of trance – lasting up to several days – which if interrupted, may break the flow of instinct and ideas which result in the final product. ‘I work on one thing at a time always – I find that if I start on the next one, I’ve lost the momentum of the first’. Like a dream, once she wakes up from it she can’t find her way back in.

Shapes, bright colours and patterns are the three elements that characterise Caroline’s work, achieving a vibrant quality. ‘I want something which gives a sense of life and joy and colour, but also somehow takes you on a journey’. These journeys come from within, but they are not her journeys, in the sense that there is no fixed narrative either represented or symbolised in the work. ‘it takes the viewer on a journey of their own’.

The process of achieving this kind of painting is intuitive and trusting. After first applying a watercolour wash to the paper, shapes begin to emerge. ‘ I don’t know if you have ever looked at wallpaper and seen faces and the man in the moon – well, it’s a similar thing…’ After beginning to work with pastels to give colour and definition to these shapes, the trance-like state kicks in, seemingly out of her control. ‘suddenly I get carried away as I am working ….and you start to get these incredible imaginary landscapes with plants and people and flowers and insects….different things emerge which sometimes I am surprised abut myself’.

Three years ago, following bereavement, Caroline found she was unable to draw of paint from her inner well. In order to carry on working she turned to still life drawings, again using pastels and arresting contrasts of colour, shape and patterns to define the images. ‘I make very quick decisions about composition and what colour to put where. Although the paintings lack the almost dreamtime narrative of her earlier work, they are executed in a similarly confident style. Clearly, Caroline was in need of a period of healing, recuperation and nourishment or rest ‘but then a funny thing happened….’ No major surprises there – ‘I was drawing pots and suddenly I was aware of the fact that my thoughts had fled into different places, and that different images kept coming into my mind’. The result was a series of still life drawings that contained ‘flashes of images that were just about the past’.

So where are we now? Caroline has just begun a new series of work which invokes more of her earlier style – mysterious shapes, flickery patterns, movement and joy are back. But the work is based on s series of charcoal sketches – a visual equivalent of conscious stream of thought exercises in which you ‘just mess around and shapes happen’. Caroline began to notice a recurring theme in the drawings: ‘cascades of birds kept appearing, and trees …no matter what I was trying to do ….well, I wasn’t trying to do anything, I was just letting it come’. Eventually she decided to put pastel back to paper, and lo! a cascade of birds flying around the central theme of a tree. I say birds, but they could equally be arrow heads, or angels, ‘Or penguins’ Caroline chimes in. Indeed, or penguins.


'Cats' Heads and Still Life'

Colourful, happy and quite graphic are words that sprang to my mind when I first saw Caroline Ireland‘s work three years ago in the St Michael’s studio she shares with artist David Brooke. Her use of pastels, charcoal and water colour is bold and her work leapt out to put a smile on my face.
Still-life and flower studies are abundant in Caroline’s work but she also likes to explore the esoteric world depending on where her mind takes her. When ideas come to her head, Caroline sees threads that she likes to follow to discover where they will lead. She enjoys playing with the medium that she uses and pushing it to its limits to find her way of expressing her vision.

Last year, Caroline was very sick with flu. With her mind having no choice but to rest, fresh ideas came flooding in. She had visions of cats’ features. What may sound weird at first makes more sense when you know that Caroline has a degree in History and Archeology and an avid interest in local medieval churches where she came across these cats’ features on human bodies.
Changes of direction are exciting but Caroline is very aware that when she tries something new, people don’t always like what they see at first. “Every major change seems alarming” Caroline muses. It was the same about twenty years ago when she started working with bright colours. She thinks that television programmes like ‘Changing Rooms’ and such like introduced the public to the idea of bringing more colour into the home. Looks like they didn’t just make MDF fashionable then, phew.

Take her pastels on black paper, shapes and colours are refined to fairly simple lines to let the imagination fill in the gaps, with the black paper showing through making a dramatic impact. “That was a joy to experiment and after a while people could see what I was trying to do which was great”
Caroline has been working on drawings for an exhibition David Brooke is curating. She shows me a tree with garland like branches falling to the floor drawn in bright colours, a preparatory work to ‘Angel resting on an oak tree’. A feeling of light both in the sense of not dark and not heavy makes me smile again.
Caroline’s work is on show at the Bridport Arts Centre’s Allsop Gallery 21 January to 18 February 2012 along with several talented artists. “Drawing: the visual representation of thought” is curated by artist David Brooke. Well worth a visit

Frances Everitt, Press Release for ‘New Season’s Colour Collection’, Bridport Arts Centre Café-Gallery, 2001-2.

Caroline Ireland’s new paintings will brighten up even the darkest winter days with their vibrant and luminous colours and joyful images. The images are rich and vivid with colour, pattern and shape, following the optimistic and hopeful theme of ‘new beginnings’. If they appear enigmatic this is because she loves the viewer to engage with the painting to create their own story and meaning.

She paints the surface of the paper with areas of wet, bright watercolour, which runs together and merges as it dries. She then draws with soft pastels into the shapes the drying watercolour has made, using the opaque pastels to emphasise the translucent quality of the watercolour and create shimmering and vivid images.

Her work expresses the richness of the experience we call life, urging the viewer to celebrate the wonders of the world in which we find ourselves and also those other worlds of which we may catch glimpses at different times in our lives. She urges us to be aware of the magic, colour and mystery all around us….