Despite the reassurance offered by rosy-cheeked clouds and the artist’s baby-pink and -blue palette, this can be a confusing place. Fortunately, a cast of volcano enthusiasts appear like talking heads on standby to make sense of it all (including Katia and Maurice Krafft, the subjects of a new documentary voiced by Miranda July.) This is the first time Thuring has painted a group of portraits; yet, given her tendency to let images lie dormant and erupt at will throughout her practice, there is a chance this might not be the last we see of them.
Versioning new works from past motifs, and freely adopting a number of different vantage points, Caragh Thuring’s ‘The Foothills of Pleasure’ is not quite the walk in the park its title promises. Sharp cacti and shards pierce the compositions. Volcanoes rumble in the background of her canvases and threaten to spew. Different surfaces and depths appear like Thuring is syncing with geological time, the picture plane molten, hardening, reforming at odd angles.
"When making a painting a conversation develops between it and myself, and through this back and forth at some point tells you when it's finished"
Could you say something about the title The Foothills of Pleasure?
The foothills in geography are an area of gradual increase in elevation from plains to mountains terrain. An in-between space. Tectonic plates shift, one plate slips under another and creates a mountain range or volcano.
The title came to me the way any idea or thought might when you are meandering in your mind, daydreaming with your interests. It kept coming back to me, floating around and eventually stuck.
A number of people presumed it referred to existing literature either as title of a book or extracted from prose. For me it evokes humour, humans and potential, looking through the brick ‘hot dog’ legs in the eponymous painting at a volcanic landscape/ studio wall and a future.
"interrupters in a landscape"
I'm struck by elements that reoccur or get remixed in your work -- how do you know where one painting finishes? Where does one begin?
The exhibition contains a series of repeating paintings, The Foothills of Pleasure being the mothership work. This canvas is a weaving of a photograph of my studio wall, taken a number of years ago, so includes various elements that occur in my work. In a way, all the works in this show constitute a whole.
When making a painting a conversation develops between it and myself, and through this back and forth at some point tells you when it's finished. You know because if you are looking properly, if you really focus on what’s happening front of you, then all the information unfolds and helps you along.
A painting is finished when nothing more can be done and the essence of what you are attempting is staring you in the face. Sometimes you have to leave it alone for a while before you can be sure. Sometimes more is required and other times there is a danger of going too far and making a very different painting which should actually be the beginning of the next. It's a fine balance but if you are paying attention you know.
"I want to present a judder, disrupt the desire for an understood rendition."
For the first time in your practice, the exhibition includes a series of portraits.
Yes, the series is called Volcano lovers. It consists of a ménage a trois, of sorts, and a couple. They are both lovers of volcanoes and lovers in life. They therefore also have a relationship to the Foothills series.
"I am not interested in creating recognisable vignettes and scenes"
I was fascinated to hear you grew up by a US nuclear submarine base during the Cold War and can't help but think about your ongoing interest in volcanoes and things about to erupt.
Volcanoes are interrupters in a landscape. Lurking underneath the earth’s surface, they puncture it, build upon it and erupt into the atmosphere. A volcano operates in 3 different zones as do submarines, docklands and bricks, all subjects that reoccur in my work. Each of these can be mysterious, invisible, visible, dangerous and active. Across various states and boundaries, volcanoes are both generative and destructive, perpetually dynamic and visually arresting whatever state they are in.
"perpetually dynamic and visually arresting "
Could you say something about the picture plane in your work? Sometimes in one of your paintings I'll be looking up at a crane and looking down on a map at the same moment, and it feels nice to be jolted out of my (human) perspective.
The clash of planes is looking at something and then situating it. I am not interested in creating recognisable vignettes and scenes, but in the idea of how we navigate and sense environments. For example, our constantly shifting focus - taking in the bigger picture or zooming in on a detail. I want to present a judder, disrupt the desire for an understood rendition.
You can create multiple possible representations or interpretations of one thing and put them into the same space. Tourist postcards of any particular location vary, each with its own layout, angle or collage of options, showing off manmade or natural wonders, conjuring scenes and sensations. Painting is infinite, it’s minimal materiality and flatness allows you limitless possibility.
By Sammi Gale
Cover image: Caragh Thuring. The Foothills of Pleasure, 2022 © Caragh Thuring. Courtesy the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery. Photo: Lewis Ronald.