Meet the Bristol sculptor who sees things in a different light
David Clensy meets the Bristol sculptor who is heading to Barcelona for six months in search of fresh inspiration
Rodin always had a candle placed to one side of his work as he sculpted some of the finest figurative work the Western World has ever seen.
Bristol sculptor Carol Peace has a window rather than a candle. An enormous, floor to ceiling window, that lets the light flood in on her as she works away in the Paintworks studio that has been her base for the last 20 years.
The Yorkshire-born artist worked in a studio in Spike Island briefly when she first settled in Bristol. But as soon as she saw the Paintworks studio, she knew that this was where she should work.
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“It’s all about the light,” she tells me. “Passers by must think I’m a bit mad, because I’m always standing here, working away on something right in the window. But when you’re sculpting, you need the light to be right.
“Rodin had the right idea with his single candle. There is something about having light coming from just one angle that works well – it gives your work definition and shadows. It allows you to see the bumps and lumps you need to be working on.”
But Carol is preparing to move temporarily to a new studio – in the middle of Barcelona.
“I’m going to Barcelona for six months to work,” she tells me. “Sometimes, when you’re at home, the normal day to day stuff – the sending emails and doing the paperwork all gets in the way of the actual work.
“I want to go out there and spend three months sculpting and three months painting. I’ve not done much painting, but I would like to try it – painting is like a little voice that’s been saying ‘try me, try me’ for so long, that it will be easier to try it, rather than have it there nagging at me all the time.
“I want to paint still life – I do a lot of drawing, and that tends to be a lot of still life. But to me, having a couple of apples next to each other, is very much like my figurative sculpture – I like to put pairs of people together in my sculpture, or a person with an object. It’s about that relationship between the two things.
“With my still life, it may look like a picture of fruit and vegetables, but there’s always a message in there about families and relationships.”
To demonstrate the point, Carol shows me a drawing of a tomato, still attached to the tomato plant.
“It’s this sense of a person, still attached to what came before – the family tree idea, I suppose.
“People say, why do you have to move abroad for six months to paint vegetables? But it’s about being inspired by a new place, a new life experience, the general atmosphere of another country, the quality of the light – and to be honest, it’s also that they have much nicer fruit and vegetables than we do over here.”
Carol works in either resin or bronze – creating initial models in clay, from which she sets a rubber mould, which acts as frame for the final piece.
Among her more familiar commissions, Precious – two figures sitting side by side – was created for the Portishead seafront, and she was commissioned a few years ago to make a Madonna and Child for St Dunstan’s church, in Keynsham.
Carol was inspired to take the six month sabbatical after reading about the old masters, who spent all their working lives travelling slowly around Europe, moving from one commission to the next.
“I’ve always known they did that,” she says. “But it suddenly struck me why. New places are exciting – and being excited by your surroundings is inspirational. Ever since we set a date for when we’re going to Spain – March 14 – I’ve been beside myself with excitement, and I’ve produced a lot more work as a result.”
Carol will be joined by her partner Graham, whose work as a computer programmer means he can work pretty much anywhere with a broadband connection, and they will be accompanied on their adventure by their black Labrador Molly.
“I can’t wait,” Carol says. “I’m going to keep my studio here at the Paintworks – an artist friend is going to let the place while we’re away. The plan is that after the six months we’ll come back for six months, to do all the admin – sorting out my work with galleries, all the exhibitions that I want to arrange. Then we’ll look at travelling again – probably to Rome for six months.
“I thought the time was right for my life to become a bit more itinerant,” she says. “I want to make sure I’m doing the best work that I can, and to do that means enriching my experiences by living in other places.”
For more information about Carol’s work, and her forthcoming exhibitions, visit her website at www.carolpeace.com