Caroline Hall’s paintings are all made up of horizontal streaks of brilliant colour, ranging from greens to reds and purples. Her second solo exhibition, at the DegreeArt.com Gallery in Vyner Street, east London, is inspired by a Robert Louis Stevenson poem, From a Railway Carriage.
Unlike other exhibitions that claim to be inspired by something else where the relationship between the two often remains obscure, in this one the link is obvious. Hall’s work is Stevenson’s words turned into painting.
The poem opens: “Faster than fairies, faster than witches, bridges and houses, hedges and ditches; And charging along like troops in a battle all through the meadows the horses and cattle: All of the sights of the hill and the plain fly as thick as driving rain; And ever again, in the wink of an eye, painted stations whistle by.”
Not all paintings are views from a train – some refer to trips Hall made by car or boat in places as diverse as Cape Town, Austria and Marrakech.
The artist says: “These are not conventional landscapes but they all share a moment of brilliant colour. They are fragments of image viewed at speed, stretched, blurred and frozen in time by the paintbrush. My subject matter is the fleeting moment, but my method of working means each painting takes days and sometimes weeks to complete. It is this pairing of opposites, the fact that I am attempting to make the transient tangible, that intrigues me.”
Hall worked as a television reporter and presenter for the BBC for 15 years, and it shows. All her paintings have their roots in the moving image. In the ‘passing’ series, she videoed the journey from a train or car window and slowed down the shutter speed to allow the camera to deconstruct each landscape. She then selected one video frame from each recording and reconstructed it with paint.
“I set out to capture the essence of something that never stops – the sense of a landscape rushing past a car window too fast to grasp,” she says.
A Long Walk (late Summer) becomes a warm blur of yellow, green, brown and blue horizontals, while Passing Sea 5 is all cool blues and Beaulieu to Brockenhurst, Spring indulges in fresh greens, perfectly capturing the various moods of those moments.
Also in the exhibition, a video showing Hall drawing the moving view from her train journey into Waterloo, and two of those drawings. She projects the journeys she has filmed onto paper and traces the buildings as they appear and disappear outside the window. The video is looped and the drawing also becomes a continuous journey where the pencil never leaves the paper from the point that it starts tracing the passing landscape.
In this case, however, one wishes that she had ditched the camera as an intermediary for once, and drawn the journey as it happened.
Following her broadcasting career, Hall briefly moved to Berlin with her family at the start of the Millennium. Upon her return to England in 2001, she enrolled in a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Art at Winchester School of Art, from where she graduated with a first class degree three years later, followed by a Masters in Painting in 2007.
During her studies, she started experimenting with video projections on canvas and found a way of turning video into paint. The digital image is broken down into its component parts, removing all trace of narrative and making the original image almost illegible. Hall started off by painting moving pixels before moving on to (slightly less abstract) luminous streaks of colour zipping across the image plane.
Her latest paintings manage to capture the energy and speed, as well as the mood, of the fleeting moment. Over time her oil paintings, usually executed on aluminium or board, have become smoother. It will be intriguing to see where she goes next.