Caroline Achaintre is a Toulouse born artist who works in multimedia installations to investigate simultaneous contrasts and relationships. Her interest includes periods of primitivism, as they present junctures between ancient and modern, psychological and physical, and exoticism and technology. These installations include wall-hangings, drawings, paintings and ceramics. All of her works are very colourful and finds colour very important as this sets the tone for the world, or the character that the piece is from. The colour is sometimes muted and very subtle within the piece. The use of play in association with medium, technique, process and colour allow the free movement of the works. These characters are closely linked to the psychology of the mask work that features throughout her work and is inspired by all mentioned above.
“The work is always personal, even if it does not necessarily talk from one’s direct background. I create my own world in a way, characters that coexist with each other, sometimes within one piece. I am interested in the idea of looking in and out simultaneously, which often results in mask-like pieces. It is a fusion of the mask and the bearer of it, they are both real. There is more than one persona within one being. Within the world I create there are certainly aspects of my own persona, but in not such a literal way.” – Aesthetic
The aim of the work is to evoke the subversive spirit of European carnival and creating an atmosphere that is simultaneously playful and absurd in order to have an intense and playful tone.
In her works, Achaintre cites German Expressionism, post-war British sculpture and Primitivism. The specifics of the German Expressionism that Caroline Achaintre is inspired by is the dark side within it and the portrayal of ‘angst’. Other inspirations and connections that are made throughout her artwork include contemporary sub-cultural strands of sci-fi, Goth metal, psychedelic and horror films. These inspirations weave their way into her ink and watercolour designs, and transformed into large, weaved, wall-hanged rugs. Recently, ceramics and prints have also been explored as Achaintre explores the further use of materials.
Texture is a key part of Caroline Achaintre’s work from her rugs all through to the ceramic works. She explains in Aesthetic that she wants the work to be non-neutral, and finds that texture supports this. Emulating surfaces such as the skin and the fur in her works allows each piece to have its own unique texture, due to the length of the wool, or the pattern on the ceramic. The shaggy wall-hangings, or the rugs as they are otherwise known, have their own eerie feeling to them, simultaneously looking like hair and having a pure animist quality. These wall hangings have an intense, strong, physical presence due to their imposing texture. On the other hand, the clay sculptures that Achaintre also creates, operate on a more seductive level to the gallery space and the audience. The texture also allows Achaintre’s pieces to be dynamic – one of her aims in her artwork is for her artwork to always be dynamic and for it to never be stiff in one thing.
For her ink works, Achaintre was often inspired by the European carnival with both the morbidity and the childlike colours. Throughout these works, she experimented, and still experiments with colours and other materials in the process. She often uses wax before she paints with the inks to create a rejection and a coexistence. She started these ink paintings and experiments in Goldsmiths University, where she studied for a small time. Often these are also a dialogue with herself as she creates geometric shapes and patterns, and then places something on top, again studying coexistence. The smallness of these pieces captures the intense worlds that are within them.
Achaintre was then interested in domestic materials and looked into and explored with carpets – the furriness, shagginess, length of wool and colour were all explored. In an interview, she explains that she feels like she discovered a new language with the material and the technique. The process that which she has used as also allowed for accidents. This is something that appeals to her and has inspired her professed love for expressionism. The process used for these carpets is called tufting and is in which a rotating blade shoots through the piece of material on the loom and cuts it off. This is a very back to front process as you have to do this from the back, meaning you cannot see the front. Working blind also gives these accidents that Achaintre incorporates into the works. The pieces are then covered with latex from behind to ensure that it is all fixed. Caroline Achaintre also explains in the interview that she fell in love with both the outcome and the process and still continues to use this today. The works are always large, and in the small studio, the ceiling is the limit, and so some of the pieces have to be rolled up in order to complete it in several stages.
“When I end up showing them together, certainly. Sometimes, the same process or form will find its way into both – a way of folding, for example. To that extent, they influence each other. I like showing them together because there are nice correspondences: the wool is quite an eerie material, shaggy and attractive yet repulsive at the same time; whereas clay, at least as I use it, has a seductiveness.” – Frieze
Caroline Achaintre has also begun to explore lino cuts and ceramics. She found that she has gotten tired of transforming her ink pieces into wool and tired of the guessing work involved, and wanted to try something with a little more control. It has been found that she chooses materials for its rawness, which lead her to ceramics and the seductive and primitive nature of it when both raw and glazed. Ceramic has been found to be a very direct medium. There is a love of taking it onto other surfaces and through the inspiration of exotic scales, finds it easy to play with and apply textures. The ceramic gives the combination of snake-like object and shed skin. Often in the process to gain this combination, Achaintre uses a frozen movement after ‘squishing’ the clay, and finds the most difficult part is to get it in the kiln after this process has been done. From here, she has gone on to work with leather to gain a more in depth scale effect.
The first time Achaintre had her own studio was in 2016 after studying in Kunsthochschule, Halle (Saale), Germany. She was awarded a DAAD Scholarship and chose to come to London to study and draw. What attracted her to London was the YBA art scene, heavy metal bands including Slipknot, and clowning (where musicians apply one face on top of another).
Caroline Achaintre’s full CV can be found here and her website can be found here. The gallery that is predominantly associated with the artworks and the artist is the Arcade Fine Arts Gallery, London. To get a sense of her studio space and the way she works, visit the Frieze website.
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