The desire to practice and pursue art can come to us in many ways. For some, it’s always been an inherent part of life, something that’s come naturally and grown naturally into a career, or it’s something that’s developed from a past time hobby later in life to a full-time passion. For others, it can come as a form of healing, acting as a place solace from life’s struggles where one can express their emotions, and for abstract painter Caroline Robinson, this was certainly the case.
“I’m not sure how it all developed, it seemed to come naturally. I found myself painting non-stop during my father’s battle with cancer and sadly after losing him, it became my full-time coping mechanism.”
In 2018, Caroline Robinson was busy in the throes of her life. With a young family and a full-time job in catering, her love of painting had taken a back seat, something she didn’t mind but definitely missed. Originally from Salisbury, Caroline moved to St Ives with a friend at the age of 18, eager for a new life by the sea. She’d just completed a fine art course at Brockenhurst College and continued her desire to pursue a career in art by continuing her education at Camborne College, studying for her Foundation degree in Fine Art in 2007. It wasn’t until her father’s diagnosis of terminal cancer that year, that Caroline would be inspired to return to the idea of a life as an artist.
“He asked me to paint him a picture of St Ives,” Caroline explains, “It had been a long time since I had painted and at the time it seemed to be a strange request. Now I realise that he’d never really wanted the painting, he’d just wanted me to pursue my art again and to remind me how much I loved it.”
The painting of St Ives reignited Caroline’s passion. Encouraged by her family and friends, Caroline gave up her job in catering and focused her energy on her large paintings, a renewed belief in the motto ‘you only live once’. During the summer of 2019, Caroline’s father sadly passed, and painting became a way for her to shut off from her grief. Soon, her work began to develop the more she explored her artistic side, moving from seascapes to larger more expressive forms of abstract pieces.
“It was like an overriding and constant desire to paint,” she explains, “I had the freedom to communicate how I was feeling without the need for putting it into words. I was hiding myself away and just painting and painting and painting. Looking at how my work has developed over the last year I can see that now. I just wanted to paint big, I had so many emotions, so much love, frustration and anger. I would paint on smaller canvases and I just kept painting on the wall around them by accident! I realised it was in me to paint on a much bigger scale.”
With the determination to push herself to explore bigger and more abstract pieces, Caroline saved up, bought an enormous roll of canvas and nailed a five-metre cut of it to the wall in her studio. Then, she locked herself away, and the result was her best work to date,
“You can’t imitate love and true passion. I could never recreate that work, and the energy within the painting speaks for itself.”
Today, Caroline’s work is as evocative as ever, filled with fluidity, passion and juxtaposing colour palettes that represent a myriad of emotions and memories, cleverly constructed on a sizeable scale. A strong headed character, it’s clear that Caroline is able to show a more vulnerable, emotive side through her work and enjoy the sheer thrill that comes with the freedom of creativity,
“I paint without any pre-disposition of what each painting will turn out like. My work comes from my mind, my memories and my heart and I could never control that. I love allowing the painting to have total freedom in its size, colour and final outcome. My paintings are filled with memories and moments, but I’ve tried to display them through colour and energy instead of a literal image. The beautiful thing about contemporary art is that everyone views what they want to see, not necessarily what I intended.”
Some days, Caroline finds herself gripped with the need to paint, spending hours and days in her studio, working with a sense of urgency. Other times she rests, allowing herself time away from the brush and letting moments of true inspiration guide her. Undoubtedly, Caroline’s rediscovery of painting has not only challenged her style and conceptual approach to art, but also challenged her approach to life as a working artist.
“Painting makes me feel happy, it’s my quiet time, my mental support. I find critique very challenging and actually selling my artwork and showing it to people. I think of each painting almost like an entry in a diary, so it leaves me feeling incredibly vulnerable. There was a time when I would paint and them re-paint over them or destroy them, the act of painting is far more important than the final image for me.
“It’s only really through the support of my following, family and friends that I have learned to allow people in, and that it’s also liberating for me to do so.”
Of course, Caroline’s father is never far from her thoughts, and it’s clear she channels her memories and her love for him into her work. Recently, she plucked up the courage to sell the St Ives painting she completed for him back in 2018, eager to see it go to a home where it will be loved and cherished as a work of art. Now, she is creating a new body of work which will be exhibiting at her solo show at the end of this year in London.
Caroline says, “The show is all about new beginnings, moving on and finding positivity and light even in the darkest of hours.”
You can follow Caroline and see more of her work via her Instagram account.