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As the all inspiring solo exhibition ‘Connections, passages and heart’ by Caroline Hands is drawing to a close next week, we can’t miss this chance to tell you more about her and encourage you to pay a last minute visit to the show.
The first time we visited Caroline’s South East London studio was over a year ago, where we were delighted to see her extensive production of exquisite artworks, ranging from painting, to textiles or metal. If I have to sum up in short her work, I would say that it ‘makes you feel alive’ and perhaps is because Caroline feels so passionate about the things that bring us together, no matter our culture or origins. Her tremendous vital energy comes out in these canvasses exploding with colour and movement; birds, dancers, the wind, celebrations of a thousand colours and shapes floating in her works, bringing to the viewer the energy of those moments Caroline experienced through her life, often in the Far East.
Her impeccable technique and craftsmanship allows her to create these beautiful and complex compositions which at times look chaotic at first sight, before revealing a fantastic universe hidden in the many layers of paint and fabrics and the many figures, uncovering stories which can only be seen once you get to connect with them on a deeper level.
Caroline has been a working artist all her life since she first exhibited age eleven in Harrods, London, through a competition judged by Augustus John.
After a false start in fashion in the 60s, a period where she sold her handmade silk batik scarves at Liberty and exported to Hong Kong, she rekindled her true identity of multimedia artist. Caroline has exhibited widely all her life through solo and group shows internationally, but also collaborating extensively with other artists and art forms especially with professional dancers, and as a textile designer for performing arts. Throughout her life she has also been involved in community arts and ‘Artist in Schools’ projects, believing passionately how important arts is, in all its forms, for society and what insanity it is now to cut it in schools.
She has spent a great deal of time in Asia, especially China where she had a large solo exhibition in Beijing. She loves to interact fully with all cultures and loves all their enormous variety in London. This reflects across her wide range of work.
How being connected has changed in the art world since you’ve started?
I’m not entirely sure what you mean, but if you are talking about ‘who you know’ sadly I think that has not changed, as in many professions.
I have been involved in arts all my life and consistently delivered exhibitions (not asked to pay fees!) workshops and festivals. It does seem that galleries want you to deliver similar work all the time if that particular style or image sells. Things change, so why not ones work?. Doing this, on some levels, has not always helped to earn a living but continues a constant stream of creativity. Also, to show now, is a whole different issue. Whether you can afford to pay the fees to exhibit and if you fit in to whatever style or fashion is popular. Of course not all work appeals to all people. Diversity is good and a wide experience of working in art in many different ways should account for something as in other professions. The art market and creativity are often two totally different things I think!
How do opportunities arise now and before?
All my life I felt many things, but never boredom. Every moment of every day is a chance of renewal, a journey and an opportunity, however hard. Maybe it’s the subtlety of and clarity to totally feel the next actions we take that is our never ceasing life journey, like the next mark we make in our work.
The migration of people, how we learn from each other, how we dance our dance, use our rhythm, and touch others. Learning more, understanding more, more complications, what a tapestry, how can we ignore it?
How important is it for an artist to be in love, or longing for it to be inspired to produce work?
In love with a flower, a gurgle of water, a child’s smile, a change of light, a shadow against the wall. As much as I may long to give and share love, and yes I do, that is not a conscious connection with my creativity. That I think comes from somewhere else. Not passion or emotion, but something much subtler. A space in between that is fed by our life experience. A journey and stepping away from it, that if one prepares one self right, it shows itself quietly but in splendour! And yes if the outcome gives out love that’s great!
Is it worth pursuing being a full-time artist?
I have always been an artist and it is hard and a lot of work also in someways can be very lonely, however enriching . You have no reassurance of anything. Whether you will receive any recognition, praise or financial reward to live on. Even wether you’ll be taken seriously (the whole “proper job’’ business!) I think you need to know your priorities and it depends on how much you truly believe arts is an important and necessary part of civilisation or whether we want that to disappear and just be dictated to by the business and academic sector.
Since the age of five I knew what I had to do. And I have followed that path. I believe totally in arts and culture and what it does in society. The diabolical decisions to cut arts in schools: dance, music, visual art and then they wonder why there is more knife crime etc.? People need many different ways to communicate on many levels. This is something I feel passionately about. I have worked in many different situations within arts and have seen how beneficial it is. From energy coming off paintings, to workshops, residencies and festivals.
How have audiences changed, are we now more appreciative and in tune to feelings of the artist or less?
Well, maybe in some ways ‘arts’ is more popular, but from where I’m looking at much is superficial and without depth. Clever words, passions and slick digital processes, I don’t want to sound negative or cynical, but look around us the quality and energy and colour used. What does it give people? The mystery, integrity and uniqueness and afterlife of a work, where is it?
Your art has been a constant source of inspiration for dancers and musician, how do you explain that?
I do often relate more to dancers and musicians. Something to do with the intensity and directness of the movement or sound, the spaces in between. I never talk about the process of painting, I just do it. I feel technique can be a trap. I believe in excellence, but for me its about the quality of the energy, the mark and what the colour gives out. Maybe that’s where dancer, musicians and I meet.
Your workshops are extremely popular and engaging with kids, what is the secret of that success?
Being open to every single individual that joins the workshop. With no preconceived ideas of them. Just the joy of encouraging each individual child to bring out what they want to share in a way that elates and excites them and makes them curious . Introducing materials and processes encouraging their ideas to flow and find their own way of doing things.
You make pretty much anything, what would be your ultimate artistic up cycling / recycling be?
I would like to work on some very large pieces for public buildings. Very multi layered. Painting, prints, textiles, copper and enamel, some film and an absolute celebration of positivity and our wonderful diversity. A piece of work people will stare at and be engrossed, touched and inspired by to use their own creativity and to feel loved! I would like to work with a team that can help me to execute my ideas in all its different forms, their knowledge etc.
Through history artistic movements have reacted to war, stagnation, preconception, are we on the wake of new artistic movements? And if so, what would their main characteristics be?
I look around to try and be aware of my fellow human beings and the space we occupy how we interact .How we treat the growth around us and within us. We are not saints and live in a world full of contradictions. It’s a lifetime job to manoeuvre ourselves through it all. Fashions come fashions go, it’s a bit of a nonsense really, isn’t it?! Colour for me is a whole philosophy, subtle and all about energy. Do we use a lot of that in England? Look around us, how we’re building our cities and what we’re destroying and what its doing to our moral. Are we looking, feeling, being sensitive to…? I just hope that whatever the next movements are, that the work will make people stop, look, breath, feel, warm hearts, smile and dance, give a general feeling of uplift from a depth which will enter the whole cultural scene and spread into everyday life. Not an elitism!
What would be your piece of advice for a. a new artist, b. a new collector, c. a child?
To a new artist I’d suggest they asked themselves some questions … How serious am I? How hard am I prepared to work? What do I want to share with the world? And will I look after my vessel to let the very best of me out? Why do I want to follow this path?
Also to be brave enough to look, see, feel and learn from all that’s around and within you and be brave enough to make your own decisions.
A new collector, Be brave enough to decide on what you personally like. Be more aware of artists’ journeys and dedication to this. That it is a serious job, as any other, and we have to live, feed and water ourselves! Just like everyone else. And experience does count for something, as in any other professions. Try and get to know the artist . Share your collections so that more people can appreciate them.
A child, Be the totally magical person you are and be brave enough to be your amazing selves. If you have a positive good idea, make sure you do it and don’t let anyone, whatever age, stop you! Teach adults with your abundance of excitement and ideas don’t let anyone dampen you ! Look around you to see what’s going on in the real world as well as in the virtual. Draw nature, draw people and animals, buildings whatevers around you from life as well as from imagination. Explore, explore, explore.
‘Connections, passages and heart’ exhibition by Caroline Hands
RB12 Design Space
6 King John St, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3EZ
From 7 November to 12 December 2019
Follow Caroline on Instagram!