In the Studio with Eleanor Carlingford

Eleanor Carlingford 119

This week we had the pleasure of visiting the studio of Eleanor Carlingford to discuss her new body of work – Interface – which is now on at Art Pistol gallery. This exhibition showcases fourteen new oil paintings, and a series of related drawings, exploring the relationship between the self and the reflection. We believe that an insight into Eleanor’s ideas and working processes could provide a fascinating context through which to view her new works. With that in mind, enjoy….

At Art Pistol, we completely adore discussing art. This is something we certainly have in common with Eleanor. However, she also shares our ethos of inclusiveness. She makes it clear to us that she doesn’t have all the “answers”, and, in fact, she revels in the idea that other people might experience her work differently to how she intended it. Whilst this may seem like a small, insignificant concept – it’s actually a liberating approach, that supports the idea that we can all enjoy art for no other reason than we like it. This approach is incredibly freeing, because it gives us all the opportunity to simply kick back and enjoy the work that Eleanor creates; hear her discuss how her ideas are materialised; and respond to her work completely organically and instinctively.

It seems that Eleanor’s work is fundamentally rooted in a fine balance between instinct and structure. The formation of her final works begin their lives in her sketchbooks and drawings, where she starts to collect “visual information” (from textures and forms, to figures and ideas). She describes this as the “structure” – the origin of a “mood” and “tone” that will eventually evolve into her final work. She asserts, however, that this “information” is not simply copied and “coloured in” when she translates it into paint and canvas. This, she believes, would create a “dead” work; and thus, she implies that she is looking to give her works life. In her words: “something has to happen” to move from that collection of information, to producing that finished work. She needs to channel the memory of the place, the experience, the colours, the textures, and, therefore, its effect on her internally, to really make the most of those initial ideas and responses. Essentially, she combines the initial structure that she creates through her sketchbooks, with her own instinct and internal responses, to eventually arrive at a finished painting. Whilst she doesn’t know, necessarily, what the painting will look like when she’s finished, the ultimate work will eventually “resonate” with her – she will know when it’s right.

Interface is Eleanor’s most recent collection of works that have evolved to this point of ‘rightness’. The initial seed of influence for this series was Jonathan Miller’s exhibition On Reflection, held at the Tate Britain in 1998. This exhibition displayed paintings of reflections in mirrors, across time and place, and in a multitude of artistic styles. It triggered in Eleanor a fascination with the psychology of mirrors – which has now been realised in Interface. Eleanor has used her work to explore the idea of the mirror as an instrument for the “interrogation of personal identity” – something through which to interrogate our own self-perception, and the comprehension of ourselves in the eyes of others. If we perceive Eleanor’s work as somewhat instinctive – constructed from her multi-dimensional experience of the world – then we might view her works in Interface as expressions of perception and reflection upon herself, and those things she interacts with. To articulate this, Eleanor has drawn on the words of Carl Jung, who stated that: “I consisted of my own history, and I felt with great certainty: this is what I am. I am this bundle of what has been, and what has been accomplished”. In other words – what insight into a person does a reflection bring? And how can such self-reflection be articulated through painting…

A Glimpse, Short But Real poignantly captures this idea of “interface” – perhaps a process of self-reflection, or a moment of perception between two individuals? Either way, two figurative forms are turned in on each other – one seemingly recognising and reacting to the other. The title itself seems to articulate a rush of stimuli arising from this single interfacing moment – whether with the self or another. Maybe this includes reaction, emotion, connection, and possibly the “bundle” of ideas that Jung aptly communicated. As is characteristic of Eleanor, she seems to express in the very application of paint itself, the ideas that she is transmitting.  Eleanor’s expressive storm of colours and forms reflects these stimuli, as the abstract forms appear to rise from each figure, and also intertwine them, in some kind of mutual connect. It is interesting to note that the dominant colour in this work is purple, because art historically, this is a colour deeply connected to love. Whilst this may bare no relevance to Eleanor’s idea, it certainly heightens the work’s emotive quality for those of us who love to unpick all the possible layers of meaning. Although, an excerpt from one of her sketchbooks certainly suggests that her choice of colour has calculated or instinctive resonance: “…then my whole dream was flooded with purple”…



We hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into Eleanor Carlingford’s new exhibition Interface. To see the collection in all its glory, swing by Art Pistol on Cresswell Lane, where the show will be open from 2pm on Saturday November 24th. As always, thanks for reading!