“Caroline Achaintre is an artist who looks to the past to redesign the future. Her joy in the assurance provided by traditions does not tie her down, but rather drives her enthusiasm for everything that is and that might come,” according to the curator and CEO of the Belvedere Museum, Vienna - Stella Rollig.
The artist works conceptually at the intersection of abstraction and objectivity. She creates characters, faces, masks, fantastical creatures and forms between object and subject. Her abstract pieces are still creatures, at least the skins of creatures—objects with soul, between human and animal. Constants in Achain- tre’s seemingly animate oeuvre are the masquerade, the archaic, the dark, and the mysterious— bordering on the uncanny. However, the German word “unheimlich” (English: “uncanny”) also includes the words “heimlich” (“mysterious”) and “Heim” (“home”). For this reason, Achaintre uses materials like wool that come from a domestic context.
Having trained as a blacksmith and studied at the University of Art and Design in Halle an der Saale, at Chelsea College of Art and Design, and at Gold- smiths, University of London, Caroline Achaintre’s early work was in metal and watercolor, but this has largely been superseded by installations—first in Sty- rofoam, later in wool and ceramic. Now that textiles and ceramics have been emancipated from attributions to the domestic in art since the 1960s/1970s, the artist can unreservedly use all the techniques and materials that are suited to her subjects and explorations of form.
What interests Caroline Achaintre about the media of wool, ceramic, and watercolor are their materiality, surface effect, and intuitive work process. The production process is very physical and energetic—and as such the pieces convey a certain aura and intensity. With the technique of tufting, pictures with a relief character emerge from individual threads of wool that are shot through the back of a canvas.
Achaintre’s language of form and iconography are rich and diverse. Stylistically her work contains references to German Expressionism, to Primitivism, to the Arts & Crafts movement, and to Fauvism. Thematically and formally, the artist explores Central European carnival and Mardi Gras customs. Influences from horror, the fetish, heavy metal, and science fiction find their way into her creative work, as does her examination of how ethnological collections are presented in museums. As such she alludes among other things to the legacy of colonialism, to aspects of psychoanalysis, and to niche aspects of youth culture.