Carol Rhodes at Alison Jacques Gallery
Throughout her career, Rhodes produced a highly individual body of paintings describing the encroachment of human activity and occupation upon ‘natural’ landscapes. Primarily adopting aerial viewpoints, Rhodes favoured what she called ‘hidden areas’ or ‘left-over land’: industrial estates, airports, motorways and reservoirs, unpeopled and existing at the margin of more defined (urban or rural) environments.
Writing on this element of Rhodes’s work, the critic Tom Lubbock cited environmental theorist Marion Shoard’s identification of ‘edgelands’: ‘Between urban and rural stands a kind of landscape quite different […] Yet for most of us, most of the time, this mysterious no man’s land passes unnoticed: in our imaginations, as opposed to our actual lives, it barely exists.’ Rhodes similarly identified blind spots and occlusions in our consciousness. ‘Looking at things from above is detachment’, she once told curator Lynda Morris. ‘To have an opinion or view, you have to be outside society or your own particular group’.
Rendered in minute detail yet with painterly breadth, Rhodes’s paintings are fictional syntheses: composite landscapes drawn from disparate sources, including photographs taken by the artist herself or found in books on geography and geology, industrial archaeology and urban planning. Rhodes integrated these disjointed topographies through a complex, intuitive drawing and painting process. Her palette is subtle and particular, often using muted compound colours. (‘I like it bland’ she once said, though somewhat disingenuously.) Pictorial space can be compressed, even flattened, despite the vast distances described. Both foreground and horizon are mostly eliminated – Rhodes spoke of wanting an ‘egalitarian’ composition.