For more than a decade, Elizabeth Porritt Carrington has been creating colorful, dreamlike landscapes inspired by the places she has lived, including her home country of Ireland, the French Pyrenees and Asheville, where she’s been since 2013. This month, a selection of her works is being featured (along with the creations of fiber artist Brenda McVey), in the F.W. Gallery at Woolworth Walk.
In 2002, Carrington graduated from the Centre for Creativity and the Arts in Galway, Ireland. “I had amazing teachers in college,” she says. “But they were very influential, and I wanted to please them and do what I thought I should do. So I probably spent about 10 years making art that I thought I should make.”
Her early focus was performance-based, as well as sound and video installations. “I loved doing that,” she says. “But I always felt I was missing something. I put up work on the wall, and you know, it would all be technology-based. … I wasn’t using my hands.”
Grief proved an unexpected source of power and influence, inspiring her to pick up the brush. Over the course of 10 years, Carrington grieved the loss of her mother, her first husband and her father. “In this culture we spend a great deal of time not thinking about [death] and pretending we don’t have to,” she says.
The act of painting was cathartic. “I was a mom with a little child, and that really changed everything for me,” she says. “What’s important is suddenly condensed into this very simple picture in front of you. It’s about doing the best you can.”
A second marriage led Carrington to Asheville in 2013. Now she has a studio in the Phil Mechanic building in the River Arts District.
Over the years, the artist’s medium continued to evolve from sketches to watercolor to acrylic and oils. She attributes it to a growing confidence in her skill, noting she has no formal training in painting.
This same confidence lent itself to her overall view of what it means to be an artist. Early on in her career, Carrington says she felt a need to be dark and edgy. “And I do dark and edgy things,” she says. “But it’s not all of me. I’m also kind of cuddly and cozy and want to make pretty pictures.”
Coziness aside, many of Carrington’s works at the F.W. Gallery at Woolworth Walk deal with the theme of grief. Her landscapes, while based on real locations, are morphed into the surreal through her colorful strokes. The hillsides and wooded trails become metaphorical thresholds leading viewers into the unknown. “The answers never come,” says Carrington. “The questions just get more sophisticated as you go along.” She offers this insight with a cheerful laugh.
“The painting helps me enormously to explore all of it,” she continues. “And to make peace with the mystery.”
WHAT: Featured works of Elizabeth Porritt Carrington and Brenda McVey
WHERE: F. W. Gallery at Woolworth Walk, 25 Haywood St., woolworthwalk.com
WHEN: Opening reception Friday, Jan. 6, 4-6 p.m. Free. The exhibit is on display through Tuesday, Jan. 31.