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The Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane presents a survey exhibition of key works by Lawrence Carroll
Installation view of 'Lawrence Carroll: In the world I live' at Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane. Photograph: Eugene Langan. All artworks © Lawrence Carroll.

By: Barbara Dawson

DUBLIN.- Encountering Lawrence Carroll’s works is a curious experience. They are familiar yet strange. Are they painted sculptures or paintings? Stitched together, folded and illuminated, they push the concept of the painting beyond its traditional limits. An Irish artist born in Australia, Lawrence Carroll was based in the u.s.a. before moving to Venice in 2007. Informed by American modernism, Carroll cites influences as wide ranging as Donald Judd and Carl Andre whose sculptures form part of the minimalist canon, sculpture and video by Bruce Nauman, as well as the large scale abstract paintings of Frank Stella and Sean Scully.

In the 1980s, Carroll began to deconstruct the painting by cutting into the canvas surface and its support. He creates new forms through the reassembled work by exposing the inside of the painting and its inherent vulnerability. He breaks the surface of the work with cuts, stitched up in crooked lines, soothed over with a wax finish that creates his signature off white / cream colour. The desire for the viewer to experience and contemplate painting from multiple perspectives has led Carroll to make work which cannot be perceived, let alone appreciated, without some prolonged engagement. Carroll continuously references new concepts in the process of making his paintings and he sets up scenarios that demand effort in the looking. “It is not about the survival of materials. It is about the survival of their meaning”.

Carroll’s “Page Paintings” protrude directly out from the wall (gallery 15 & 17). As they have no facade or front to them, they require the viewer to make alternative approaches to seeing them. His stacked paintings (gallery 16) with superimposed layers of wood and canvas explore the notion of the painting as a container and a support. “A painting can breathe, can sleep, can support”. Carroll fills the work with his perceptions of the world as opposed to the emptying out favoured by an earlier generation of artists such as Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt.

Like his hero Giorgio Morandi, whose still lifes place simple everyday bottles and vases in layered sequences, Carroll inserts into his paintings poor, unpretentious and often worn out items which jostle up one against the other, setting off other sequences of association. Objects such as flowers, ivy, boots and light bulbs are introduced. His use of the light bulb makes the work active and awake until it burns out. That endgame takes the work somewhere else; the bulb is replaced or not; the idea tired and burnt out moves somewhere else but keeps its history.

In the early 1980s Carroll wrote to Robert Rauschenberg asking him for a pair of his shoes. Just as Rauschenberg had erased a drawing by Willem de Kooning in the process of creating his own work, Carroll wanted to incorporate Rauschenberg’s shoes into his work in some way. Over a couple of years, having tried but failed to work with them in his paintings, he decided to try them on. Large, size 12, paint spattered and white, Carroll danced around the studio in them. “It was a beautiful moment, to dance with a lover, a father to me in some ways, my American Picasso and there I was dancing in his shoes”. He still failed to find a context for them in his paintings. It was then the “Closet Painting” concept came to him (gallery 18): “A painting could hold anything that I had around me in the studio that had failed me in some way, in becoming a part of a painting for some reason or other”. The personal history is concealed yet referenced, waiting for another context when the items will be revealed, prompting another meaning while still carrying with them their earlier history.

Within all of his works can be found his concerns with the complexity of the daily routine of life and the mysterious possibilities it presents. Imbuing everyday and often discarded objects with new meanings is a constant in Carroll’s work. His worn-out boots (gallery 17) are not discarded but are preserved, frozen solid and covered in a beautiful patina of ice. In the world I live is like poetry, a shortcut to sensation in a visual narrative arising out of Lawrence Carroll’s sensibilities and experiences.

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The Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane presents a survey exhibition of key works by Lawrence Carroll

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