Interview - Carol Rhodes

Carol Rhodes, known for her landscapes painted from a vertiginous aerial perspective, talks to Alexander Kennedy about her new exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

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Alexander Kennedy Can you share some of the main themes and formal concerns you deal with in this show?

Carol Rhodes The show is a selection from almost 15 years’ work. Some of the paintings precede the aerial view that I’ve mostly been working with. And in some of the latest paintings I come in closer to the ground. But for me, as much as for visitors, I hope the themes will emerge from seeing the work together. I don’t have one subject or area of interest; there is more variety than one might think. The work can be about lots of different things, even though it might all be ‘landscape’.

AK Why did you decide to take such a high, aerial perspective in your work?

CR The first aerial landscape – from 1994 – is in the show. Before that there were single image paintings of, say, a tent, or a caravan. A couple of those are in the exhibition also. People have talked a lot about the meaning of the high viewpoint – the essays in the publication for this exhibition discuss this, for instance. I’d just say that this perspective in itself doesn’t guarantee an interesting painting or that certain meanings are necessarily conveyed or contained. There has to be a lot more going on to make the aerial view interesting or meaningful. I may not paint aerial views forever!

AK Some of the canvases recall gashes and orifices on the human body.

CR Of course I am aware of those associations in the work. After a while, the term ‘the body’ became such a cliché in art theory that one slightly cringes to hear it used now. But again, one of the essays in the publication does discuss this aspect of my paintings in detail, and very persuasively. It’s one aspect among many. An artist can never fully know what the meanings are that she or he is creating; but at the same time you try to control and direct and understand your meanings. It’s too easy to just say ‘my work means whatever the viewer wants it to mean’.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Sat 1 Dec–Sun 24 Feb.

Collage City: Urban Space in Contemporary Art

  • 4 stars

Works on paper by artists such as Toby Paterson, Langlands and Bell and Carol Rhodes looking at the way skylines, maps and city architecture have inspired creative work. This exhibition highlights the crucial position of urban space as a playground for artists over the past 60 years.

Carol Rhodes

  • 4 stars

Series of modest, 'functional' landscapes in the first major retrospective for the Scottish artist. Rhodes creates small, still spaces for contemplation, with an absorbing interiority.

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