As I change the painting changes,

and as the painting changes, I change.

– Lawrence Carroll

lawrence carroll photo by Lucy Jones Carroll

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.


Carroll studio, Bolsena, Italy, 2018

He thought of himself always as a painter, not a sculptor, though many of his works extend out from the wall.

– David Carrier, Hyperallergic

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.

Lawrence’s larger works radically extend the usual morphology of the painting well beyond stretcher and linen to an utterly unconventional form. Constructed so as to reveal glimpses of their interior compartments and cavities would allow Lawrence to occasionally place objects inside the painting. These works take on something 
of a funereal sarcophagus, complete with reserves of implements and utensils, shoes and folded canvases, readied for work on the other side of the Styx. They are seldom bleak though – leavened by Carroll’s humour and the approachability and unpretentiousness of Arte Povera. They signal through their humanity and quirky organic actuality a kind of triumph over death.

– Andrew Jensen


Australian-born, American-raised Artist Lawrence Carroll (b.1954) practiced most of his painting career in Italy. He grew up in LA before moving with wife and young children to New York, after which they relocated to Italy where they live in Lake Bolsena, a couple hours north of Rome. Carroll studied at the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, but his painting practice was fairly unconventional.

He had many notable exhibitions including the 1992 Documenta IX in Kassel and the 55th Venice Biennale. His works are held in notable collections such as Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, The Museum of Contemporary Art in LA, the Vatican Museums in Rome and the Museo Cantonale d’Arte in Lugano. Still very much active in his career, Carroll passed away suddenly in 2019.

Fox Jensen Gallery works with the estate of Lawrence Carroll. 

Lawrence Carroll & Emma Fox at Carroll studio, Bolsena, Italy, 2018

Here, making art is a way of holding fleeting emotion and memory, of stopping time, even in its most banal moments…Carroll creates art that rewards a slower, more meditative way of viewing, and given time, his are works that stay with you.

Gemma Tipton, Artforum

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