PLACE - Alchemy Of Nature

20 Jul 2019 – 20 Aug 2019

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CIRCLE Contemporary Gallery

England, United Kingdom


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Inspired by ancient methods of painting, alchemy and ultimately the feeling of place, this exhibition features paintings which draw on Egypt’s ancient landscape and culture and the coastlines of Cornwall.


This solo show follows on from O’Carroll’s highly acclaimed exhibition at the Galerie Roger Katwijk, Amsterdam in 2018. 

The work of John O’Carroll is built upon cumulated and curated impressions from his travels, particularly through Texas, Mexico, New York and Holland. Now with studio spaces both in Egypt and Cornwall he is uniquely positioned to explore a range of landscapes, both cultural and physical. A trustee on the Dakhleh Oasis Project, John spends a portion of each year as an Archaeological Illustrator working on ancient dig sites and tombs in Egypt, documenting the historic finds, with each of these discoveries revealing the daily lives of a forgotten people. This time uncovering ancient stories and processes has led to John O’Carroll’s experimentation in his own work with methods and natural pigments from these landscapes.

“I was drawn to the Dakhleh Oasis Project when I heard about it through American artist Jenny Leimert and Director Professor Tony Mills who encouraged me to join. Documenting neolithic rock art, pharaonic temples, tomb inscriptions and excavated objects, I was immersed in a history of mark making - from line drawings to hieroglyphics and Greek, Arabic and Roman inscriptions” reflects John O’Carroll. “Taking part in the excavations I am able to study how cultures come and go, merge and disappear, engulfed by the vast landscape, reabsorbed into the colours and forms of nature, slipping back into the great silence of the beginning”.

The wide angle gestural paintings and the shaped wooden panels within ‘Place – Alchemy of Nature’ emulate the vastness and silhouettes of the Egyptian landscape, a sense of space drawing on John O’Carroll’s time spent in the big landscapes of the Western Sahara. His study of the structure and soil conditions of the Egyptian desert landscape and the artefacts uncovered there, add depth and further reference in his paintings with the untamed Cornish coast bringing its own inspiration. In his systematic, compelling way, O’Carroll brings the most remarkable of these various worlds together.

Speaking of his series of PLACE paintings, John says “Many of my works in this series depict a white mound - it’s a real place in the white desert, a limestone desert shimmering in space that could be mistaken for ice burgs. The round bent and curved panels are based on geological forms taken from the landscape, each creating shadows and light as the sun moves”. 

The PLACE paintings pay homage to ancient metallurgy and his understanding of natural pigments. reflecting the timelessness of essential nature through alchemy. Making prominent use of gold leaf, gesso and tempera in his latest series, O’Carroll has also integrated copper leaf into his paintings, enhancing its oxidation process to striking effect. Using these exceptional, delicate materials, O’Carroll creates a spectacular interpretation of the various landscapes he occupies. 

“Natural materials are significant to me and my work because they are embedded with the energy of the earth and place they are from. Making my own pigments has been important as it concentrates the mind. I am also interested in symbolic meaning of the colours” comments O’Carroll.  “My basic formula is a simple gesso and I use large brushstrokes to get movement into the piece - a dance translated to paint. The most important thing to me is movement and motion then the work you finally end up with has the energy of imagination and the sprit of the land.” 

“My work evokes places that are serene and powerful, happy without the touch of humanity and a place that evokes a timelessness” John O’Carroll. 

John O’Carroll’s exhibitions include: Holly Soloman Gallery, New York - USA; Galerie Roger Katwijk, Amsterdam - NL; Nanky De Vreeze Gallery - NL; PAN - Amsterdam - NL; Kunst Rai, Amsterdam - NL

Notable projects and collections include: Treasures of Ancient Rome - BBC 4; Treasures of Ancient Egypt - BBC 4; Valley of Nobles - Supreme Council for Antiquities; Saquarra Valley Temple Project - Ted Brock; Valley of Kings - Ted Brock;  NL Embassy - Egypt;  Holly Soloman Collection - USA; British Embassy, Mondrain Foundation - NL


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