Caroline Larsen lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She has an undergraduate degree from the University of Waterloo and a Masters of Fine Arts degree from Pratt Institute. Larsen’s work has been in numerous group shows throughout Canada, America and Germany. She has been the recipient of grants from the Toronto Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Council, she has received Merit Based Scholarship and the Calrow Memorial Scholarship to study at Pratt Institute.
Statement for the more abstract works, Midnight Cove, Night Tropics, Breaking Night, Night Vines:
Using the memory of landscapes and imagery that I experienced during my upbringing in Sarasota, Florida as a springboard I create images that evoke a celebratory tropical frenzy. My interest in tropical landscapes stems from my lived experience, growing up in Florida and spending time in Panama as an adult has greatly influenced my aesthetic.
This work explores the sensation of being in the tropical landscape at night, when the heat exaggerates the saturation of the night hues. These paintings also start to play with the idea of abstraction. The paintings, I hope, coexist between a recognizable form and a nonrepresentational image, but at the same time they are pictorial; in these works I am interested in the in-between.
My backgrounds, rather than being passive, actively compete with the flora image. I heighten this tension by using, contrasting vibrant color along with a rich material density. The image is knitting together by cable like brushstrokes, but the activity of the color breaks the surface plane.
A constant focus of all of my work, is the attentiveness to color and its role of imparting feeling. My paint application, with its texture acting as line and pattern, is an organizing form in and of itself; the ridges cast shadows and create optical rhythms. The paintings use a full color palette, keeping with my intention to be as ornamental and vibrant as possible.
Statement for the houses and pool paintings:
These are paintings of suburban warm-weather homes. Locations vary from California, the Southwest and Florida. I use a slightly off-kilter perspective in these works to push and pull the viewer’s eyes around the canvas, enveloping them in a world that is specific but also surreal. They are specific because the houses that I have painted exist, I could travel to them if I wished. Using images sourced from landscaping blogs and real estate listings, these canvases depict the commercial ideal associated with personal success in America. Using a variety of painterly tools and techniques, I am extruding paint through bags, creating surface texture using combs and sponges alongside with brush and palette knife application.
Hi Caroline! You are currently an MFA candidate at Pratt, when will you graduate?
I am graduating this Friday! May the 15th.
So far in 2015 you have had four solo exhibitions and been a part of eight group exhibitions. Congratulations! How do you balance your exhibition schedule and your school schedule?
Thanks! Two of the solo shows are upcoming, so they wont clash with my school schedule, Night Tropics was my thesis exhibition, so that was a school requirement! My school program revolves around my artwork, I think, or thought, of them as all part of the same practice. Plus I make my husband help me with moving them and shipping them! Having a helper makes everything so much easier!
You have been very successful at getting involved in the art scene and exhibiting your work in a gallery setting! A lot of students struggle with the transition from student to working artist and getting their work out there. Can you talk a little bit about how you have been able to make this happen? Do you have any advice for recent grads?
I have been so lucky that people have been responding to my work! I think the best advice for people going to grad school, is don’t go right after undergrad, give yourself a few years to figured stuff out, and make work on your own, then when you start to feel stuck then start applying for grad school! Its been such an amazing experience for me, being totally absorbed in making, talking and looking at art! I think its been so great because I took took such a huge break from undergrad to graduate studies, I think if you do that you can take full advantage of the grad school experience.
You mention in your statement that you are interested in the tension that is created as the background and the foreground compete. I am fascinated by the rhythm created in your paintings on so many levels—from the textures and dimensionality of the paint, to the patterns and colors, to representation and abstraction. What interests you most about rhythms in the world around us?
I think about the way the light moves on the water, and how textile fabrics work together or don't work together. Everything is always moving. I wanted the paintings in the Night Tropics exhibition to have rhythm, like a pulse. They are inspired by being outside in the foliage at night when its sweltering out—to me, all the colors seem darker and richer, like the heat adds a massive amount of saturation to the surroundings.
Your paintings are beautiful, and so unique—and you must use a lot of paint! How did you begin working with the medium in this way? What are some of the challenges?
Thanks! I have always had a heavy hand when applying paint! In undergrad I starting playing around with squeezing paint from a bag. I had my wisdom teeth removed and the dentist had given me plastic syringes, and I started to squeeze paint out of those too! I loved the topographical feeling that the paintings took on. Now my paintings are quite thin in paint application, in comparison to my older work! Waiting for paint to dry has always been a drag!
Have you experimented with other materials and what keeps you coming back to oil paint as
your medium of choice?
During my graduate studies I spent a lot of time making ceramics—I wanted to make the 3-D versions of my paintings! I tried working with acrylic paint in the past, but it doesn't have the same luster of oils. Over the summer I will be without a studio for about 2 months, so I am planning of working with colored pencils in my apartment.
Can you talk a little bit about the tools and techniques you use to create texture?
Right now I only use a bag, but before when I was making the paintings in the Curb Appeal show, I was using squeegees, sponges, brushes, scrapers and palette knives.
What do you listen to while you work? Any music or podcasts we should check out?
I love podcasts, I listen to them when I paint! My favorites are: Stuff You Should Know, its totally cheesy, but it really cracks me up; The Bugle, which is John Oliver’s podcast and its hilarious. I also like the Slate Spoilers, I never go to the movies, so I just listen to these folks tell me the whole story line! I also love RadioLab, 99% Invisible, This American Life, Modern Art Notes, Bad a Sports, Planet Money, and Freaknomics. I don't usually listen to music when I work, I run so I like to save the music for my jogs!
Are there a few artists whose work you are currently looking at?
Chris Ofili is my favorite artist right now, I think you can see the influence on my work! I love Peter Shire and Yayoi Kusama! I also look at the work of Gina Beavers, Trudy Benson, Robert Otto Epstein, Jonathan Lasker, Tal R, Michael Berryhill, Michael Staniak and probs a million other artists! I love going to the MET and looking at the ceramics!
Anything else you would like to share about you or your work?
I have some upcoming shows! This summer in Toronto I am having a solo show called Tropical Blooms at General Hardware on Queen Street in Parkdale. The opening will be in July, but I am unsure of the date just yet. In September I am showing my mountain paintings for the first time at the Craig Krull Gallery in Santa Monica, which I am super excited about!
We can't wait to see them! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us! Good luck with your shows this summer and congrats on graduation!
To find out more about Caroline and her work, visit the artist's website.