Courtauld Artist at Work: Christine Maria La Carbonara

Our Artists at Work exhibition in the Drawings Gallery is in full swing. We thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to shed some light on the artists among our colleagues at The Courtauld. Here we have Christine Maria La Carbonara, Retail Digital / E commerce Manager for The Courtauld Shop discussing her practices.

Could you tell us about your practice – what media you work in, what subject matter you focus on, what inspires you?

I work with different mediums. Oil painting is my primary method of expression. I also experiment with photography and painting with acrylics on various surfaces: including terracotta and wood. I am inspired by the trivial, the banalities that I only imagine many people interpret as the quotidian. Life excites me. I love documenting everything. Adding form, whether figurative or abstract, to a sensation or to  encapsulate a remarkable moment in time. The latter of course which holds meaning to me. I only hope that others will see or feel what I try to convey through my works.

Tell us about your working environment(s).

I do not have a studio.  The world around me is my studio. 

Do you work anywhere other than, or in addition to, a studio – and if so, where?

I have worked across three countries. Sometimes with an easel, sometimes painting a canvas that I’m simply embracing physically.

How does your working environment affect your art (if at all)?

I would love to have a dedicated space to create works of art. However, I find it challenging and exploratory creating a space for creation.

Are there any particular tools or objects you feel particularly passionate about and/or are central to your work?

Colour!! I need colour for my works.

How do you deal with creative block?

Creative block is something that happens, in my opinion, when we’ve platuead emotionally, psychologically, sentimentally. Take a trip! Approach a stranger for a random conversation. You’ll find inspiration once more.

Discover more of Christine’s work:

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Artists at Work
The Drawings Gallery
Until 15 July 2018 

Courtauld Artists At Work: Vicky Falconer

Our Artists at Work exhibition in the Drawings Gallery is in full swing. We thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to shed some light on the artists among our colleagues at The Courtauld. Here we have Vicky Falconer, Assistant Librarian, serials and e-resources at The Courtauld discussing her practices.

My practice is mixed media but almost always involves a lens-based element to it, as well as a strong engagement with space and architecture – and in particular a longstanding interest in the relationship between interior and exterior.

Since leaving art school I have only ever had studios for brief periods. I’ve worked from home for the last eight years, with the exception of using facilities for specialist processes I can’t do at home. I co-opt parts of my living space to use for whatever I need. But my domestic environment has also become an essential part of the work itself. At the moment I am working on a series of photographic works which I started last year – Inhale/Exhale – made in my living room and back garden. The inspiration for these was some beautiful double exposure photographs by Constantin Brâncuși, as well as a text that I had been reading, Through Vegetal Being, by Luce Irigaray and Michael Marder. There were some ideas in this text that felt really vivid for me: the necessity of breath, which immersion in plant life facilitates, and the capacity for that immersion to dissolve the usual boundaries between interior and exterior.

I can’t imagine having a studio now. So many artists these days have practices which are don’t require it. Perhaps this accounts partly for what seems to be have been a resurgence of interest in the domestic within contemporary art? In terms of ‘creative block’, like most other artists I have a number of commitments outside of my practice. Lack of time for creative practice is both a hardship and blessing in this sense! I go and do something else and by the time I have the opportunity to turn my attentions to my work again, some kind of direction, clarity or purpose has returned. In terms of objects or tools that are special to me, I have a few things which I’ve collected which sometimes make their way into works. I use both analogue and digital techniques, but the Inhale/Exhale works are made on an old Pentax SLR camera – which was actually my 21st birthday gift! It is lovely to think that I am still using it. I am a very un-technical artist in some ways, though. Just as I co-opt rooms in my house to use for what I need, I co-opt materials or processes to make the images or works that I have in mind.  I often put images through a number of transformative processes – scanning, digital recapture, etc. – and it is likely that these current works will be worked on in the same way, with the means of their production very much informed by whichever space they will be presented in eventually.


Discover more of Vicky ‘s work:


Artists at Work
The Drawings Gallery
Until 15 July 2018

Behind the Scenes in Prints and Drawings: Auditing the collection

The Courtauld Gallery’s collection of prints numbers over 26,000 individual works. While that doesn’t make it the largest such collection in the UK – to put this in perspective, the British Museum has over two million prints – it’s still an impressive number and a challenge to keep track of.

So how do we do it?

Dr Rachel Sloan, Assistant Curator of Works on Paper, and Rachel Hapoienu, Drawings Cataloguer: IMAF Project

May Fortune’s Faerie Barque by Wind and Wave Be Wafted Thee, hand-coloured print, Jessie Marion King (1875-1949)

Everyone who works with the print collection on a regular basis – curators, conservators, registrars and our team of postgraduate Print Room assistants – endeavours to be as careful as possible about returning prints to their correct locations when they’re taken out for study, conservation or loan. But every couple of years, we set aside a few weeks and undertake a survey of the whole, or a large portion of, the collection – an audit.

We recently completed an audit of our 11,000-strong collection of British prints. This was actually the first time we were able to survey our entire holdings in this area, as cataloguing was only completed two years ago. As usual in such a tight-knit team, many people pitched in to work through the boxes in pairs, checking their contents against what’s recorded on our collection database.

It might not be glamorous work, and reading off endless strings of numbers can swiftly lead to a condition we jokingly referred to as ‘print audit brain’, but not only is it necessary for the proper management of the collection, it can turn up unexpected delights – for example, some lovely hand-coloured prints by Scottish illustrator Jessie Marion King (1875-1949), a contemporary of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It’s always good to be reminded of exactly how many treasures we have in store.

By Dr Rachel Sloan

Inscribing Prints

The Prints and Drawings Study Room is hosting a new displays that responds our Reading Drawings in The Courtauld Gallery. Print Room Assistants Imogen Tedbury and Sean Ketteringham talk us through the latest display.

Timed to coincide with the exhibition Reading Drawings, which showcases inscriptions on drawings in the Courtauld collection, this display in the Prints and Drawings Study Room looks at the function of inscriptions in prints. The Courtauld Gallery has 7,000 drawings, but it also has over 26,000 prints – so we had plenty of works to choose from!

Printed text in printed images can function very differently to handwritten text in drawings. So, we decided to leave aside the themes thoroughly examined in the drawings exhibition – attribution, the history of collecting and working practices – instead exploring why and how prints include text, and what functions word and image can serve together, across a broad range of dates and places. Playing around with the word and concept of ‘Authority’, we thought about the relative ‘authorities’ of text in an image: what happens when text moves from the frame or border to take up an active role in the image itself?

Some Early Modern printmakers represented God by representing the Word of God – his textual ‘authority’, if you like. In these prints, the physical representation of God’s Word as visual sign plays a central role within the image. In the Fall of the Tower of Babel, for example, the illegible rotation of the Latin text signifies the fragmentation of earthly language.

We were also interested in how an authority – whether political, religious or artistic – can be undermined by the use of inscription. Two eighteenth-century satirical prints chosen for the display use fragments of text to make fun of their subjects, subverting them by parodying religious language. An attack by an anonymous artist on Robert Walpole, the first prime minister of Britain, even seems a forerunner for 2017 Turner Prize nominee Anthea Hamilton’s installation of a giant bottom, Project for Door (After Gaetano Pesce), or Pauline Boty’s 1966 painting, Bum!

Printmaking’s close relationship with book-printing inspires the last group of prints – a selection of title pages and cover images from Canaletto to Wyndham Lewis considering how frontispieces reveal and conceal their textual and pictorial content. In these prints no clear boundary can be drawn between word and image, as together they combine to communicate the author’s identity.

Come and see these printed treasures, some of which have not been on display before. The Prints and Drawings Study Room is open by appointment Monday-Thursday 10am-5pm, or drop in on Wednesday afternoons during term time, 1.30-4pm, no appointment needed

Idol-Worship or The Way to Preferment, a portrait of Robert Walpole., 1740, © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

Van Gogh’s Ear. The True Story

By Dr Karen Serres , Schroder Foundation Curator of Paintings

As curators, we spend so much time with the collection we care for that it is both rare and exciting when new facts emerge about one of our paintings. This was the case of a few years ago when an independent art historian living near Arles, Bernadette Murphy, came to discuss Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with a Bandaged Ear. She was undertaking research about van Gogh’s time in Arles, including his network of friends and the specific timeline of events following his notorious dispute with Gauguin that led to the mutilation of his ear. She had fascinating things to say about the Self-Portrait, painted just a few days after van Gogh left the hospital. She talked about the novelty of the dressing used to heal his wounded ear, about van Gogh’s adoption of the heavy coat traditionally worn by shepherds in the region and about the room in which van Gogh stood, the ground floor studio of his little house in Arles. To paint this self-portrait, Van Gogh may have used the very mirror he looked into to cut off his ear a few weeks earlier.

Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1889) Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889 © The Courtauld Gallery, London

Bernadette’s research is now encompassed in a book, out today, called Van Gogh’s Ear. The True Story. It considers Van Gogh’s stay in the south of France in forensic details and unpicks a lot of the myths created and repeated around Van Gogh’s self-mutilation, including the nature of his wound. Until now, most accounts have trusted the painter Paul Signac who asserted that Van Gogh cut off a portion of the lobe of his left ear. Bernadette tracked down early sources, such as newspaper accounts and first-hand testimony, to prove that in fact the painter cut off his entire ear. She also argues that he survived such a wound thanks to the intervention of Felix Rey (whose portrait by Van Gogh is in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow), a young doctor who had recently come to Arles and was trained in new treatment techniques.

The book is a testament to Bernadette’s resolve during a seven-year quest and to the fact that the most unexpected avenues of research can yield the greatest rewards. It also shows that there is still light to be shed on even the most scrutinized of episodes.

Bernadette’s findings are also included in an illuminating exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam that examines all the manifestations and theories surrounding van Gogh’s mental illness, On the Verge of Insanity. It opens a much-needed dialogue between art historians and medical professionals to understand the nature and extent of van Gogh’s illness, but also to counter the idea that he was simply a slave to his demons. Van Gogh was a willful and deliberate artist that shaped his world on the canvas and created works of art that resonate more than ever with viewers.