|Atlas, Caroline Underwood|
I was born in London and returned here as an adult, moving here at first to study and then staying for work. For the first time in my life I feel part of a local community – and how lucky am I for it to be one so rich in culture and diversity. Throughout my life my family has been scattered across Europe, Africa, America, Australasia. In between leaving London and coming home, I have travelled.
My early years spent in Saudi Arabia are a subconscious influence on my work. Images surface in my dreams. I navigate streets lined with dusty and homogenous buildings. I round a corner to be confronted by a vertiginous wall of water, unexpected - the Red Sea. I do not know for certain if it is real or imagined but the memory of it feeds my practice, intangible and intriguing.
Islamic art and architecture has a visceral impact on me. It takes me back to a place that I recognise but do not know. I am increasingly interested in investigating this through my work, but at the same time I sense that this exploration is a longer journey. In the mean time, I employ fractals, words and number structures borrowed from everyday scenarios to compose meditations on the historical context and emotive power of built spaces and invoke the restorative potential of landscape and nature.
Working in black and white and across disciplines, I draw on a range of painting, printmaking and other processes, combining traditional and experimental techniques and materials. My approach is informed by research into Philosophical Taoism and East Asian landscape painting theories, as well as ideas about the Sublime and our relationship with space and time. The work is created in series or as installations, reflecting the way we experience our environment – not just looking at it, but moving through it, being in it.
And so my work happens as a result of the movements I make, the places I go, the time I spend there. I spend as much time as I can out and about, being in nature: on boats, on walks; in weather. Much of my work is inspired by the sea. The other recurring theme is trees.
The focus of my most recent work is – quite literally – close to home. A year ago I relocated my practice to a studio in my garden, in leafy South East London. I have begun exploring, on a daily basis, the green spaces surrounding my home and studio. Walking and running, morning and night, in sunshine, snow and mist… I have been collecting visual material both in my head and on my cameraphone since January. This collection of snapshots – glimpses into the world on my doorstep – has inspired a new series of paintings and prints inspired by the South East London landscape.