Opening on January 26th from 6 pm
Curator : Antoine Marchand
Caroline Achaintre works across a diverse range of media that includes textiles, ceramics, woodcuts and watercolours, using techniques typically associated with the applied arts. Her sculptures, wall hangings, drawings and paintings are colourful and potent, evoking the subversive spirit of European carnival, and creating an atmosphere that is simultaneously playful and absurd. Citing German Expressionism, post-war British sculpture and Primitivism as influences, there are also references to more contemporary sub-cultural strands of sci-fi, the Goth-metal scene, psychedelia and horror films.
Drawing is the foundation of Achaintre’s practice. Working with watercolour, ink, woodcuts and linocuts, her drawings oscillate between the abstract and the figurative, showing coloured and murky compositions that recall the shape of a face, like a series of ghostly portraits. Recent works use latex and wax to mask out rose-pink and pistachio-green harlequin patterns, over which inky ice-cream coloured spectres seem to float.
Achaintre’s sketches also continue to underpin her textile and ceramic works. Often taking the form of playful ceramic masks, the artist’s sculptures are made from fired and glazed paper clay, where the material is folded and refolded to create delicate structures. The process of making is spontaneous, often a quick gesture of gathering the clay so it warps. The ceramic masks bear crude facial expressions or grimaces, evoking the primitive and the carnivalesque.
Interested in the dialogue between an object and its display, Achaintre explores this in her installations by assembling her ceramic sculptures on custom-made modular structures. The artist has compared her installations to an ethnological museum displays in which objects are displaced from their function and place of origin, and brought into a contemporary context.
Achaintre’s richly coloured textile wall hangings are made by hand-tufting wool into a widely woven canvas base, a labour-intensive process which she likens to painting with wool. The artist uses a tufting gun to shoot woollen thread through canvas. The length, texture and colour of each thread takes on the qualities of an expressionist painting. Achaintre likens the process of making these works to ‘painting with wool’.
The FRAC Champagne-Ardenne exhibition will explore the breath of Achaintre’s practice, comprising a selection of work from the last decade together with work made specially for the exhibition including a large-scale textile work, ceramic sculptures and a body of new drawings.
The exhibition will be accompanied by the artist’s first monograph with scholarly texts by Anne Dressen, Curator at Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and Zoë Gray, Senior Curator at WIELS, Brussels.
Caroline Achaintre (born Toulouse, 1969) spent her formative years in Germany studying Fine Art at Kunsthochschule in Halle/Saale (1996-98), with her postgraduate Studies in Fine Art and Combined Media at Chelsea College of Art & Design, London (1998-2000) and a MA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, London (2001-03). She trained as a blacksmith before coming to London, where she now lives and works.
Recent exhibitions include: Present/Future Illy Art Prize, Castello di Rivoli Museo d'Arte Contemporanea (2014); BP Spotlight at Tate Britain, London (2014); Camp Coo, University of Hertfordshire Galleries and Smith Row, Hertfordshire and Bury St. Edmunds (2013); DEEDIE, The Showroom, London (2005); Quarters, Whitechapel Project Space (2004). In 2014, Achaintre was artist in residence at Camden Arts Centre (and Japan in 2015). She is currently showing work in the British Art Show 8, organised by Hayward Touring.