Discovering a mood between two colours: The ethereal artwork of Hermione Carline

This week we visit the studio of Hermione Carline to find out her inspirations, techniques and experiences as an artist.

How would you describe yourself?

I consider myself to have been an artist all my life. For as long as I can remember I have drawn and painted; even in my pram I had crayons. I come from a very artistic background as both my parents were artists and my aunt married Stanley Spencer. There has been a history of art in my family for generations and I was immersed in it, but at the same time always wanted to have my own voice. My parents were quite traditional painters and worked figuratively at a time when abstraction was all the rage.

My father was a great influence on me. I remember him talking to me about the importance of design in painting. That is very true to how I work now; to have a strong idea leading my work, rather than just splashing paint around. I feel like I have to have a very clear direction when I begin.

Can you expand on that?

I’ll give you an example – these paintings I am working on now. This one is very much divided into two and I have a rule not to have anything at the centre of the picture. There is a pink and a green side and I am finding a balance between the two.

Colour Breath, 2018 | Oil on wood | 30 x 30 cm | £475

Did you study at art school?

Yes, I went to Camberwell and studied fine art with textiles as a subsidiary and then I went on to the Royal College and did textile design. After graduating I worked as a textile designer for a company called The Collection. We sold to really top designers – Christian Dior and Christian Lacroix, and we travelled all over the world selling, mainly in Japan and the United States. When I finally made the decision to leave the textiles industry I had gained quite a lot of experience. Rather than just trying to change completely, I feel there is a lot in my work that is inspired by that time in my life.

What made you decide to become an artist?

I had three daughters and when the second one was very young I decided that I didn’t really want to continue textile designing, so I started teaching and set up my own mini art school. When my eldest was seven someone approached me and asked could I teach their daughter art and I thought “yeah I can do that.” I started doing classes on a Saturday morning and over the years I introduced more classes and they were very, very popular. They were after school and I was teaching a wide range of different techniques and themes. It was all very exciting and I still don’t repeat any of the same projects; I want each one to be new and different, so it remains exciting for me as a teacher.

Perfumed Sky, 2018 | Oil on wood | 80 x 100 cm | £2,900

Even the best ones?

They always have to have a new twist! Every time you do something new it’s edgy and exciting; you never know how it is going to work out. We have children that start aged about eight or nine and they often go on until they are in sixth form.

This bridged the gap between my career in textiles and my new direction as a fine artist. In about 2005/6 I thought, “I’m going to attend a few evening classes in painting and drawing,” which led to the thought “Why am I waiting? I really need to do this now.”

I went to Putney college of art and came across an absolutely fantastic teacher there, who made me feel that anything was possible. And whereas before I thought “oh, I’ll just be doing some painting in my spare time,” I never dreamt that I would be doing what I am doing now. Since then I have been building up the range of ways in which I work and finding out what I am all about.

We met you at an art fair. Do you think art fairs are a good way to present your work? Do you work with galleries? How do you get your work out there?

Doing art fairs is a really good thing to do; you are suddenly showing your work in front of wide number of people, you get a lot of footfall. I’ve met some great people, made great friends, and have worked on some exciting projects that have arisen out of them. I’ve been doing the Other Art Fair on and off since 2013. I have worked with a gallery called the Elena Shchukina gallery in Mayfair. I’ve had exhibitions with her that are very good, she is very supportive. I have had work in other shows as well.

I suppose having your own freedom is a good thing. Some galleries can be restrictive and expect you to churn out work, use certain styles, scales and colour ways that they prefer.

Cinnamon Sky, 2018 | Oil on wood | 30 x 30 cm | £475

Tell us about your techniques.

My camera is my notebook. I’m not too worried whether the photographs I take are fantastic quality, as long as they capture what I want. I take thousands of pictures and I draw as well.

I like to use stencils and cut pieces in all my work. I’ve always been interested in using scissors and scalpels rather like a pencil. I like the hardness of the edge, the crisp shape they create and also the softness within that shape. When I paint onto wood I use plastic stencils, they restrict where the paint goes. I paint using thin and dry paint with only a tiny bit of liquid to make the paint lighter. I use lots of layers and typically each work has ten or eleven layers with each drying for two days.

On my recent trip to China I saw so much that was really, really exciting. But mainly it was when I saw the mountains in Yangshuo in the region of Guanxi in south west China, where the mountains literally just rise out of the water. Four million years ago the whole area was under the sea, the mountains are made of limestone and they are just so incredible because they are so surprising, they are like nothing I have ever seen before. There I did quick drawings, because I was on a river cruise, so the mountains were coming and going and the landscape constantly changing. When I came back I looked through everything I had captured. So it may have been one sketch which inspired me, and I started creating mono-prints based directly from them. They were a starting point.

Does it make sense for you to be working on many pieces at once?

Yes, but it’s quite tricky. You might think that I can just go from one to the other, but I’m not working just in colour ways, I’m trying to get into a mood. It takes me a little while to think what am I trying to achieve in each picture.

So your sketches and photos inform the first prints, which inform stencils, which then go on to inform the paintings. You use lots of source material!

Yes, I need to have lots; I can’t work straight from my head.

It’s interesting that you work from multiple imagery sources and sometimes those can be previous artworks; it’s almost as though one work evolves from the last.

Yes, very often I’ll revisit something I did twenty years ago and bring it back into something I’m working on now. Nothing is wasted, the only problem is I have so much reference stuff that sometimes I don’t know what to do with it all. Ideally I’d have a big space with all of it hanging around, just to look at.

Have you always had your home studio?

I did have a spell working in a nice big studio space with other people, but the problem with that studio was that we had to put everything away at the end of each day and I couldn’t work like that. I like to just leave everything out and to be able to walk in and think “oh, that’s what that picture needs.” I’ll know I need to do more on something and I’ll leave it for a while and the idea will grow on me in the background until I know what to do.

Hermione will be exhibiting her latest paintings in our Winter Exhibition this December 11 - 15th at the Menier Gallery, London Bridge.

Click here to RSVP to the private view on Tuesday 11th December.