Everyday I am here
For more than thirty years now I have been acutely aware of the privilege and risk of entering an artist’s studio. Creative sites can be loaded with the atmosphere of invention, littered with clues as to the conjuring and alchemy that is practiced inside. Most often however, there is an oddly prosaic configuration to many an artist’s studio, a secular system that serves to contain unruly materials and marshal uncertain processes. Lending organisation to systems and thinking that – at least in my romantically inclined mind – could easily become hazardous, must be a prerequisite for making.
Lawrence Carroll’s Bolsena studio, roughly two hours north of Rome, does a good job of mimicking a nondescript Italian farmer’s shed – the large aluminium doors could’ve been concealing a dusty Fiat tractor and a small selection of harvesting equipment. Discreetly located at the end of a covert driveway, the exterior gave precious few clues as to what went on inside. And on a warm autumn morning where our senses were being steadily cushioned by the soft Umbrian atmosphere, we were not prepared for the interior of those two spaces, let alone the glimpse inside of Lawrence’s mind.
The privilege I speak of is that so much can be gleaned from such visits. Being with paintings in various states of undress grants insights into process and cognition, simultaneously de-mystifying and seducing us with chance insights. Lawrence’s studio was brimming with material, notes and clues in every nook and cranny. I felt a little like a child in a fantastical chamber, curious almost to the point of being impolite, wanting as I did to look around, under and behind everything. Restraining myself to consider individual pieces, it became apparent that each one in fact, was brimming with material, notes, clues, nooks and crannies. Even the most orthodox paintings Lawrence made speak of concealment and veiling. The process of assembling the surface by laying fragments of cloth down, painting, stapling and collaging as he went – continually masking and camouflaging much that lay beneath feels central to Lawrence’s practice. Though it feels less about disguise than about rehabilitation – the thin washes of acrylic paint – a balm, the abraded fabrics – dressings that stem the implied structural fatigue and fragility – not of Lawrence’s paintings per se, but a recognition of the sensitivity and essential contradiction that painting offers, one where powerful and delicate gestures alike, are evidence of the strength and frailty of our very existence.
In a sense rural Italy was happily compatible with his sensibility. Away from the grandiosity and suffocating weight of history that Rome and Florence can provoke, there is an arcadian climate and mood that drew Twombly close by, that sustained Morandi and Fontana and engendered the unpolished resistance of Arte Povera. This defiance of the mannered elegance of the late Renaissance no doubt appealed to Lawrence especially given the availability of Trecento and Quattrocento painting whose curious richness and modernity he loved and kept his feet firmly astride the Atlantic, away from his other home in America. However, it was to America that Lawrence was turning his attention again in recent years. Meeting him and Lucy in late 2018, they were excitedly recalibrating their lives to accommodate new opportunities in America and thrillingly for us, with Australia. Lawrence was born in Melbourne and he still has family in Victoria. To say he knew it well is an overstatement but he was delighted that by working with the gallery there was the opportunity to visit the country of his father and build ties there that were practical…and mystical.
We are desperately sad that Lawrence has gone and that we didn’t have the chance to enjoy Australia through his perceptive eyes, to work alongside him, install his works together and introduce him to friends. However, we are so blessed to know Lucy Jones Carroll, his wife, travelling companion and confidant and thereby bring Lawrence’s work to greater visibility in Australia and New Zealand especially.
So it is with a profound mix of emotions that we welcome Lucy to Sydney and with a great sense of occasion that we present this body of works.
– Andrew Jensen, 2020