in conversation with: Caroline Jackson

Layers and layers of different forms and shapes, Slade’er Caroline Jackson (class of 2022) plays with the power of paint. This vanguard artist isn’t afraid of struggling with paint. She goes at it. Instinctively. It’s bright and it’s dark. It’s earthy and it’s vibrant. Like there are multiple paintings on top of each other, some are moving inwards, some are moving outwards and some are entangled in each other. v dynamic. In this conversation between the London based artist and where’s the frame, we talk about her experience of Slade School of Art, her painterly process, pasta, and angry girl music.

What is the most memorable moment during your time at Slade School of Art?

The whole experience has been memorable! Id say, in general, being part of such a diverse bunch of people is really brilliant cause you learn so much from each other. The standout moment for me (in terms of realising things about my practice) was going to a Jade Fadojutimi talk and then getting to have a 1 on 1 tutorial with her. I found a lot of the things she was saying really resonated with me in terms of how powerful paint is and how often you can feel that as the artist you have little impact over the work and materials. But she made me realise that I don’t need to overthink everything I’m doing- some things don’t need reason. 


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Do you have any routine/rituals before you start working? Cigarettes? 10 cups of tea? Or maybe scrolling through Instagram?

I’m quite a lazy worker- it takes me a while to get going. I like to relax, que some songs on Spotify and organise my space (only to mess it up again in about 2 minutes once I start working.)


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Can you please describe your artwork as if you were talking to someone who can’t see?

My paintings are primarily about paint itself and vibrancy of colour- even if I’m using dark tones. There is a richness and viscosity in oil paint that is fun to play with and enables you to get really interesting textures and finishes. I’d say my paintings are pretty instinctive as I tend not to think much about what I’m putting down at first and then later on I’ll respond to those initial marks or drawings- even if they’re not visible anymore. There’s always this sense of exploration when I’m looking at a finished piece: I like to see the final product and imagine how I’ve travelled through the canvas to get to that point. But at the same time, have no idea how I could replicate it. I like to return to what Cecily Brown says which is “I want the experience of looking at it [the painting] to be the same as how I’ve come to make it.”. There is also a sense of struggle between me and the paint which I find is always clearly visible. I like the apprehension and un-comfortability of things going wrong in the process and having to resolve them through completely wiping areas away to reveal marks underneath, or starting over all together. 



You use a lot of fluidity in your work – from your brush strokes and the colour play. Can you tell us more about your process? 

It’s very immediate; I almost always start off with a drawing (more of a “doodle”), either in paint or charcoal and then just sort of play with the paint, trying different shapes and colours on the canvas. It gets to a certain point, however, where there’s no more room for play and you have to start dealing with the “mess” you’ve made. That’s when more thought comes in and I start to think about composition like: “well maybe I should get rid of that part? Or maybe this needs this shape or this line here.” Even at this point I like to keep a balance of intentional and unintentional mark marking to remain loose and keep that fluidity. Sometimes it can be difficult cause you don’t want to get rid of certain areas you like, but I find if I’m striving to maintain certain strokes or shapes within the piece, that the whole balance is thrown off and it never looks right. I find that by starting with a drawing I am continually anchored to the piece and it gives me some kind of structure even if the drawing is invisible after 5 mins of working. I like the idea that there’s dozens of paintings within one painting. There’s so many ends to one process- or stages of a painting that could be resolved. Even if at the end there’s only one singular outcome: I know all those stages and shapes are in there somewhere.


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As a young artist, what themes and contexts do you want to explore next?

This is a tricky one- I never really plan and don’t really know what crops up in my paintings. I guess it all depends on how I’m feeling that day or what I’m listening to or what’s around me. So, I’m not sure what the themes I’d intentionally want to explore are. I guess all my paintings are about me? I don’t even know! 


What is your greatest indulgence in life, so far? 

Pasta. Lots of pasta. 


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What’s the weirdest thing that you ever encounter in the streets of London?

Men. Men are weird. Especially in London – there’s so many weirdos I find myself arguing with some creep at least once a day.


Do you have a life motto? What would it be?

I don’t - but I’d like to not overthink everything so much- I think that’s probably a good one.

 

Do you have any life soundtrack? Like when a sad song comes on and you pretend that you’re in a music video, kind of song?

At the moment my sisters gotten me into angry girl music like Hole and pretty sick. So, when I walk down the road or get on the tube, I feel like a bad bitch that won’t take any shit. But for me, the ultimate “pretend you’re in a movie sad song” is (David bowie I love you) since I was six, by the Brian Jonestown Massacre. 


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What’s next for you in 2020/2021?

Hopefully just lots more painting! I want to try and draw more to inform my paintings and make my practice more continuous and productive. I might also buy more materials like pastels and chalk or mediums to mix in with my paints to create more textures. 



All photos courtesy of the artist.