Carroll’s new paintings give expression to his acute awareness
of the inherent dilemma of oppositional and contradictory sensations.
This awareness and rich visual expression of his move toward reconciliation,
more than resolution, rise out a deep investigation through spiritual
practice. For the viewer, it's always been a sharp wound of pain
and pleasure, experiencing Michael’s work, a moment on the
precipice of sensation, a kind of static pressure between an acute
presence and a subtle, spiny, cool reserve.
new paintings in the exhibition now in progress at The Schoolhouse
Center, all painted in the last year, do contain that quality of
stasis, hanging in the balance between closely structured interiors
and deeply private locations of our human selves, and in Carroll's
case, his most intimate companion, his dog Lucky; and landscape,
the open outside world where we encounter uncertainty, danger, opportunity,
work has always been about an intensive self-exploration and discovery.
One gets the feeling Carroll is going up that fevered river, alone,
into the sources of being. . Earlier paintings were darker in palette
and mood, confined to the interior; pictures of emotional place,
well contained, profound, relentlessly daily. These weren’t
congenial paintings. Still, like the interiors of 17th Century Dutch
painters whom Carroll admires, there was always an open window, light
flooding in; sometimes a bouncing ball.
has incorporated that outside world. The walls have nearly disappeared.
His palette is lighter, whiter, more cerulean blue. We know we are
inside because there's the exposed pipe, the table or mirror, the
finely executed tiled floor, like a little stage; but we're outside
at the same time. There's a silver plane in the sky. There's the
bird's nest with three eggs and the spindly tree, and the sap green
lawn, reminiscent of a suburban lawn gone back to nature. In several
paintings, Carroll has opened the ground itself, presenting a kind
of cross-sectional view of the landscape above and below the horizon.
Lucky is now less a witness and more a figure in the landscape with
his own yearning to explore the world.
outside, above, below, distant, close -- Carroll opens the world
to exploration from every perspective and challenges customary perceptions.
These new paintings are less mysterious, less moody, more direct,
even welcoming. His increased comfort and technical skill as a painter
seem to have brought him to a greater willingness to risk all the
ambiguities life and painting present. Yet, he maintains the equilibrium
between visual perception and abstract organization -- and the fullness
with which each is realized in these paintings marks a fine new distinction
in his work. Light falls on both the landscape and the interior with
the subtlest gradations, unifying all the objects in its blue tonality.
Details are spare, intricate, finely rendered. Carroll's pure love
of paint and the sensual surface of the canvas is evident in these
paintings. There is still a coolness, a certain detachment, but it
holds less tension here, less resistance; rather, it feels more a
detachment evolved from acceptance, a kind of visual affection for
the world as it is.
explains that this recent work comes out of "everything falling
apart." He only began painting five years ago. Having a show
a year for the past three years, he found himself restless with his
work. He felt it was becoming formulaic. "I found I had to let
the image fall apart piece by piece, to break it up. The only thing
to do was to let go of the established patterns that threatened to
become cliche." One of the things Carroll wanted to drop is
sentiment. He feels strongly now that sentiment, always resting on
historic references, is a great deceiver and dangerous to art. "It
is false experience, not real emotion. It is manipulative. I don't
want that in my painting. That shouldn't be determined by the artist." One
is reminded of Jack Tworkov's famous comment that "In painting,
nostalgia doesn't matter."
one does well transcends itself. Being a painter is not a mythic
occupation anymore. Now Carroll sees the painting as simply his work,
his practice. The surface of the paintings reveal that sense of practice,
his orderly method, working slowly, building layer upon layer, thoroughly
in the process of making. "This is what I do. Things are always
asking to exist," he says, "I find myself now more compelled
to select rather than to express." A painting may or may not
have a narrative element. What is there is surely based on an accumulation
of experience, and that's more directly presented now. The picture
itself is not mysterious. In this exhibition, Michael Carroll's painting
continues to achieve its memorable impact with a skillfully accomplished,
imaginatively intricate integration of figure and ground, content
and form, idea and image.