Carolyn White at work

Carolyn White at work

Carolyn was an artist who revelled in the outdoors – painting on hillsides and cliff-tops in all weathers. Her legacy is a broad portfolio of paintings in pastel, watercolour and oils.

Passionate about art from her youth, Carolyn studied at Chelsea School of Art and Kingston College in the 1960s, followed by an ATD at Goldsmith’s. Her innate sense of colour was recognised by her tutor at Chelsea, the artist John Hoyland, and remained an integral part of her work ever since.   After graduating she worked as assistant to Bridgit Riley and Henry Moore at S.P.A.C.E. studios in London. In the 1970s she spent an adventurous 4 years in Sicily, travelling, teaching and painting. On her return in 1978 she was awarded an Arts Council grant and moved to the Cotswolds to work with textile designers Hugh and Sophia Blackwell at the Brewery Workshops, Cirencester.

After a spell of teaching at Bath College of Higher Education, she took the challenging decision in 1990 to give up teaching and become a full-time artist. Her medium in these early years was mainly watercolour, gouache and oils.

Carolyn loved travelling to far-flung places, drinking in the atmosphere and culture and translating this into her paintings. In 1989 she made the journey to Eastern Nepal where she trekked with a native porter, carrying easel, paints and canvases to remote areas. Given hospitality along the way by Nepali families (who had never previously seen a Western face, let alone a tube of paint!) she was moved by the grace and dignity of the women and felt impelled to break her habit as a landscape painter and paint the people too. A life-changing experience, this gave new zest to her work. Her ability to capture the sense and spirit of place shone through these paintings, all of which were subsequently sold in exhibitions – so none remain for this Retrospective.

Further travels over the years took her to Cyprus, the Caribbean, France, Italy, Spain, the Greek island of Andros and Turkey where her friend Sara had built a house overlooking Lake Koycegiz, which she frequently painted.

Living in Gloucestershire for 30 years imbued Carolyn with a strong empathy for the rolling wooded valleys which she painted in all seasons. She often stayed in a cottage at Driftcombe, high up in the Slad Valley which she loved above all others, revealing through her work its different guises at dawn, dusk and in the heat of the day.

Much as she loved the enfolding valleys around Stroud, her spirit also yearned for the sea and in this Cornwall became her focus. Long periods annually were spent on the Penwith peninsula in the far west where she ‘caught the moment’ as she painted on cliff-tops and rocks in all weathers. Her ability to distil the mood and spirit of place into colour, pattern and minimal detail – creating her own unique vision, is what gave her work such credence and drew so many to it in her lifetime.

As her cancer took hold, she found solace and healing in visualisation sessions with the Naturopath Nathaniel Hughes. The ‘Inscapes’ she created at that time were illuminating, having a vivacity of their own. They form part of the Retrospective collection.

Carolyn’s zest for life and love of painting kept her positive through eighteen years of recurring cancer. Her final solo exhibition ‘Light Years’ at the Museum in the Park, Stroud, which opened just before she died in September 2013, was received with great acclaim, attended by all who knew and loved her and collected her paintings.

Extracts from Carolyn’s Journals

Her mastery with handling pastels is reflected in this observation: “Pastels can get closer to the mood of places and is also the purest medium as it is closest to pure pigment.”

Written in March 2002 on Zennor cliffs, Cornwall:

There is magic afoot for me now and I am on a journey deep into the earth’s consciousness through my work and into my own soul….the building of my inner landscape with the Cornish Tors, Quoits and Logan Stones.”

Seeking always to distil the descriptive into abstraction, Carolyn experienced moments of perception to guide her in this aim. She wrote in 2003:

Am inspired by thoughts of allowing paint and colour to ‘journey’ on the page intuitively ‘a la Nolde’, finding forms and discovering subject later.”

And in 2008:

“My aim is not to do a picture of the landscape: my aim is to connect with it and the elements and express its personality at that particular time. Being there gives me peace of mind to enter into a dialogue with nature and so feel at liberty to heighten the colour and transpose it into a rhythm of forms.”

‘The Studio Windowsill’ oil

‘The Studio Windowsill’ oil