by Zoe Pawlak
I had the great pleasure of interviewing Carolyn Stockbridge last year for her two person show at The Elliott Louis Gallery and meeting her in person. Her wise sensibility, humble rock star approach and honest commitment to her work all contribute to a place she has rightly arrived at through the study and making of good paintings.
Originally from the UK, Carolyn Stockbridge is a contemporary abstract painter living in Vancouver. She emigrated to Canada in 1979. Carolyn is particularly interested in 1950’s Abstract Expressionism. While her paintings can be seen as large explorations of colour, surface, space and composition, she incorporates concerns of daily living as well as the balance between nature and the urban centre that often result in bold and sensitive works.
The following is an interview with Carolyn as she gears up for her first Vancouver solo show, Grounds For Interpretation, opening at The Elliott Louis Gallery on January 13th, 2011.
Zoe Pawlak: You have been in Vancouver for quite a while now. What does it mean to have your first solo show in a city you have come to call home?
Carolyn Stockbridge: Firstly, thank you for this opportunity to discuss my work with you again Zoe, it’s always a pleasure. Showing work in my home town means a great deal to me and does have a certain feeling of ‘arriving’. It feels very good to celebrate with friends as well the community that have supported me through the years. I’m appreciative of all opportunities to show and discuss my work, group and solo, it’s always rewarding. The time feels right and here we are!
ZP: Last time we talked about the influence of 1950’s Abstract Expressionism in your work. This is a less familiar visual language to Canadians than say landscape painting. Does Vancouver’s lesser familiarity with the history of Abstract Expressionism change the way your show is seen here, rather than if you were to show the work in say, LA or NYC?
CS: Well, I think Vancouver has quite a sophisticated viewer, as well, a history deeply steeped in painting of all styles including abstraction. I can’t say how the paintings will be seen as every viewer brings their own experience to what they are looking at and we all see through our own filters but I do believe abstraction is celebrated here just as NY or LA or Europe. The good thing about painting is that it allows for an immediate read and response and can be as simple as ‘I like it- I don’t like it’ even if its not entirely understood and I love that honesty. I can only hope that the show is well received and enjoyed by those who want to take a look!
ZP: You recently spent time in NY. What have you brought into the work from that trip?
CS: Time in NY and Woodstock was really about research and shifting mental gears. It pushed and pulled me out of my comfort zone which is exactly what I wanted and needed. Conversations with my mentor Henrietta Mantooth offered a deep stirring of creative juices and the work I saw in the city was paramount to taking the blinders off. So all in all, a very good ‘freeing up’ occurred and I returned to Vancouver fully charged with my brain and heart activated and vision on. I hope this is infused in my recent paintings.
ZP: You have mentioned influences of women like Shelley Muzylowski and Danielle Hogan whose sculptural works and paintings have informed your paintings. You also had the great pleasure of studying with one of Canada’s senior painters, Landon Mackenzie, at Emily Carr. Whose paintings are you looking at these days?
CS: Many actually, painters, sculptors, photographers. I am constantly searching for a sense of freedom in the work I look at and hope that I don’t ever stop looking. But most recently; the late Louise Bourgeois has captured my attention as so much of her work was created with an unapologetic irreverence. I’m taking in Cecily Brown, Joan Snyder and W. De Kooning side by side and of course Gorky and Diebenkorn are always a favourite. Yesterday I discovered books on Alice Neel and Howard Hodgkin buried under some stuff in the studio and there is the freedom of mark making I always want to invite into my work.