JOHN O’CARROLL: Passage
John O’Carroll’s abstract paintings and mixed media wall pieces sit neatly within British and European modernism and yet they are set free from historical context. A master with pigment, O’Carroll’s airy minimalist paintings are built from impressions of the spaces through which he has traveled. ‘Making’ is fundamental to his sense of self and John can’t imagine life without the flow of creative expression. Over the years O’Carroll has explored a range of traditional and modern painting techniques and his home- made paint from raw pigments has roots in his study of ancient civilisations.
In the exhibition ‘Passage’ , O’Carroll draws upon two aspects of his life , his attraction to the vast landscapes of the Egyptian desert and his active participation in Egyptology. Taken from illustrations on papyrus scrolls he uses the shadow figure ‘ Sheut’ , a transformative figure placed on celestial barks which pass between realities through door ways referenced by his amorphous monochromatic wall sculptures. These works are juxtaposed by his paintings , landscapes, influenced by Japanese and Chinese lacquered screens , which whisper the vastness of unpeopled places , places of the primal scream , each distilled into elegant abstract panoramas.
The Boat of Millions of years
For ancient Egyptians, death was a journey, a ride down the Nile with Aken, the god of the underworld and his ferryman Mahaf in a papyrus boat. Fast forward into modernity and John O‘Carroll’s new sculptures and wall discs. O’Carroll reclaims the emblems of Ra – the boat and the sun. His interest in purity of shape and the symbolic motif run parallel. John is aesthetically mythopoeic, predominately interested in the visual effect of a stand alone piece. By avoiding a direct historical narrative – his works avoid being facsimiles – we, the viewer, can find our own meaning.
In Hermann Hesse’s iconic novel Siddhartha, the ferryman is a guide for both the river and the path to enlightenment. Clairvoyant mediums conjure the spirits of those who have crossed over. And in the here and now, in Britain, our gracious long serving Queen has crossed the river – into heavenly afterlife.
John O’Carroll’s celestial boats could be a metaphor for the anxious times we live in, a reminder of his and our mortality. His featureless silhouettes row silently, their dreamboats are still – wooden cutouts for reflective thought.