Former journalist Caroline Hall on her art ambitions
PUBLISHED: 12:15 07 November 2017
Once a familiar face on local news bulletins, former journalist Caroline Hall now stands in front of a canvas instead of a camera. Sandra Smith met the woman who has sweeping ambitions for her art
“I am always trying to reflect the feeling I have when looking at a view or listening to music; I want to convey that same sense to whoever sees my work. Any painting is a balance between control and gesture. I try to control my paintings but I always want there to be an element of complete freedom.”
Caroline Hall is strikingly analytical. And articulate. Not that I expected anything less. She did, after all, spend the 1980s with BBC South Today as presenter, newsreader and roving reporter. She radiates effortless communication skills. It is this ease of interaction along with her earlier career which, by informing her paintings, contributes to an artistic presence permeating the art world.
“I would sit and draw from as early as I can remember, as soon as I could pick up a pencil,” the 57-year-old recalls from her studio in front of Winchester Cathedral’s business premises. “But at an academic school art wasn’t considered a proper job; if you were remotely bright you used your brain. In the back of my mind I was always driven to paint, but I have no regrets because what I do now is fed by my time in broadcasting.”
It was once her three children had started school that Caroline decided to develop her talent by studying a part time Conceptual Art Degree over four years at Winchester School of Art. She is effusive in her praise of this experience – “liberating, fantastic, bliss” – where she fed off others, many of whom were, like her, reinventing themselves. And her academic achievement didn’t stop there.
“I said if I got a First I’d do a Masters then that’s it, art will become my profession. I wanted to do the best I could. They don’t teach you how to paint, that’s up to you, but the course gives you the rigour, discipline and background to give your work substance. You document what you do, find a reason for it and I apply that to my work all the time. I have an acute understanding of contemporary art as a result. Also, having a Masters in Fine Art gives you a seriousness that a degree doesn’t, it puts me up a level.”
After graduating in 2007, Caroline built a studio in the garage of her home and within a year celebrated sales of her work. She hired a gallery space for a solo exhibition, was named as an emerging artist and entered competitions. The individuality of this artist is matched by an unwavering resolve. Self belief, stimulates a willingness to experiment.
“I was exploring completely flat surfaces for linear paintings where lines have to be exact. Canvas bows as you push into it and you never get that same sense. At the time I was referencing digital images and I ordered some sheets of aluminium. Now I mostly paint on metal. The oils just slide across the surface; this is a seductive way to paint and allows me to manipulate the oils.”
Caroline favours Michael Harding paints for their pigment content, a brand favoured by the likes of David Hockney. “The brush takes it differently to any other paint. They are expensive but I’ve tied myself to using them. I’m constantly reading about Howard Hodgkin whose colour is extraordinary. He documented a particular painting and mentioned Michael Harding paints. I bought a couple of tubes – there’s a certain blue that runs through a lot of my work – and it became the paint I use.”
As well as linear seascapes and intensely charismatic landscapes, Caroline also produces pixel images, abstract visions capturing a sense of movement. These acrylics on Perspex indulge her fondness for colour. “They are very popular. And they’re my guilty pleasure! Perspex is like glass. I like an excuse to explore colour on a transparent surface.”
Caroline’s enthusiasm extends to her working environment. A meticulousness for cleaning brushes is echoed in the organisation of her studio. Unlike the messy creativity usually surrounding artists, here paintings are neatly stacked, palettes organised and 100 brushes stored in jars.
“I can’t start painting unless I’m tidy,” she says. “I’m not a frivolous painter. I think hard about every mark. I want work to have a seriousness although I’m learning that I can play, not every painting needs to be a masterpiece.” Given this organised approach, when I ask about a favourite or recurring topic, I’m surprised by the initial response, “I’m a bit of a butterfly.” As she elucidates, I appreciate her point. Galleries need collections of work, to see cohesion. A scattergun approach doesn’t appeal so, although she recognises beauty everywhere and is overwhelmed by Hampshire’s countryside, themes are a necessity.
With a fondness for commissions, which make up 10 per cent of her output, Caroline welcomes clients to her studio so they can view work in progress. She takes pleasure in the rewards of giving someone exactly what they want. Eureka moments, however, are the icing on the cake. “I struggle to resolve things and I can be hell to live with when something occupies every waking second, but by giving myself time, distance, there is a point when I get that eureka moment. Sometimes I work on ideas on my iPad, using it for colour, tone or to shape ideas.”
Delving into the subject of colour, we sidetrack towards the mesmerising International Klein Blue before agreeing the merits of synesthesia. Caroline is a piano player and learning a Ravel piece is driving one of next year’s projects.
On the business side she is organised, submitting images annually to the Royal Academy with a belief that one day she will be accepted. A desire to “get my name out there” means she has a commitment to marketing. She has major listings in her portfolio, including this year’s exhibition in Jersey plus a Solo Show in her adopted county. “Exhibiting at Southampton City Art Gallery was fantastic. To get your work into a public gallery is a privilege. I was showing next to Renoir, Degas and Turner. My ambition is to sell all 24 paintings that came back to me! I’m also hoping to take an installation to Portsmouth.”
At the same time as appreciating that prestigious galleries are selling her work, a desire to have the space and knowledge to produce “massive” paintings is an ongoing ambition. “I don’t paint for the joy of painting. I want other people to love what I do. I want to become more successful, to sell work and to find myself in terms of how I work. I’m always looking to find my painting language. Perhaps I never will but I’m a hard taskmaster.”
Honesty is an honourable quality, one which connects Caroline Hall as a person and her expressively exciting art.
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