24 July 2013

Carolyn Quartermaine: the Summer Traveller


 Summer brings changes in pace-some grow lazy with idyll rocking-some grow lean with frenzied swimming-some grow rich with a camera and an artful eye. 

Luckily some stop here at little augury in their travels. Here- Carolyn Quartermaine brings her fine eye to the horizon, with an accompaniment in words by Kate Constable.

‘The eye has to travel,’ declared Diana Vreeland. But dear Diana, in that smartpuss way of not giving away the entire dish of cream, knew that the eye has to do a lot more than restlessly flit about. The eye has to delight, it has to dream, it has to select ‘with rigour and vigour’. And, of course, there has to be something behind that nomadic eye. The eye as to have a more reclusive, dream-laden twin, the inner eye to which the outer eye can send postcards from far flung places. 

Carolyn Quartermaine’s photographs are like postcards to her inner eye. These images, fleeting, fluttering moments in her day have been captured like butterflies and pinned out so their ephemeral beauty can be properly observed. These are not ‘grand shots’ of grand places. They are nothing ‘more’ than a blade of light slicing across hexagonal tiles, or a chandelier wrapped in plastic while her house is being painted, but when photographed as a postcard to her inner eye, the chandelier appears as remarkable as Miss Haversham’s tattered bridal raiment. 

Each photograph is a melding of what is and what might be… There are shades of mood and a feeling which, although taken with all the rapidity of photojournalism (and I have been with Quartermaine when she takes photos… the action is literally no more than a blink) they share a beautiful stillness. This stillness, however, is never ponderous or heavy or contrived, instead they are reminiscent of  Twombley’s polaroids, or Tarkovsky’s, with their air of perfection akin to the space between the in and out breath.
Her albums, here is Horizon Line, have seductive names like ‘Voyage’, or ‘The Key’. She picks the photographs with an ease and intuitive alertness to the patterns and rhythm in the story. There is a real ease in their lack of contrivance that means the viewer can delight in these images and be taken on a journey. Wish you were here?  

Artist and textile designer, Carolyn Quartermaine, divides her time between London and the South of France. Conversation Piece, an exhibition she curated for the Costa family, is currently on show at the Musee Fragonard in Grasse. 

Kate Constable  wrote Carolyn Quartermaine Unwrapped/ She is a journalist and has written for Elle Decor, Elle, the Sunday Times, and the Independent.)

 Carolyn Quartermaine Here



  1. Grasse...a HEAVENLY SCENTED locale...too sublime for words but heady for the eyes and nose! Fragonard knew where best to live, hanging those special castoffs by Dubarry for Louviciennes. Years later, J.P.Morgan purchased them and they now hang within the Frick!

  2. This is delicious -all of it -from the text by Kate Constable to the original photography by Carolyn Quartermaine. One generally does not know that you are inhabiting a "Golden Age' of anything, until that moment is over, and you can then look back and see a period of time for what it was...but I would assert that we are in a golden age of photography right now -and Quartermaine is one of best contemporary photographers in capturing an elusive mood, a point of view, an aesthetic experience.
    This collaboration is also like something of a dream: Little Augury, Kate Constable and Carolyn Quartermain -together creating magic.

  3. Oh...I haved LOVED Quatermaine's fabrics for over 20 years...can never figure out who was first...Angele Parlange or Carolyn? I think CQ was...though love Madame X by AP.

    CQs images are very Deborah Turbeville - ish!

    1. I think you will find that CQ was the originator of this particular style of decorating .I too have collected her textiles since the early 1980s and observe QUITE a difference in these two presentations!

    2. I just her Script....on a Louis Louis all the more!

  4. The text here is such a lovely little piece of cake! Just wonderful!

  5. Utterly ravishing photography! I had heard of Quartermain but for whatever reason, never investigated her work. The text is beautifully poetic too. Her comments remind me of Max Ernst's about the inner eye: "If you open your eyes, and look at the outside world, you can see another way. If you close your eyes and you look into your inner world, and I believe the best to do is to have one eye closed and to look inside, and this is the inner eye, and with your other eye you have it fixed on reality, what is going on in the world. If you can make a kind of a synthesis of these two important worlds, you come to a result which can be considered as a synthesis of objective and subjective life." His English was rather awkward, but he and Constable and Quartermain are all on the same page. Thank you for sharing.

  6. I absolutely love Carolyn's photographs and her collages. I am happy she is working with film now as well. I first fell in love with her fabulous fabrics back in 1985 when she did the entire window at the corner of Regent Street for Richard Stuart Liberty. I was working on a townhouse on Connaught Square at the time. I remember first seeing her fabrics... the original scripts so delicately done, the layers of silks, voile, and her use of color and patterns. Her "alphabet"pattern is such a wonderful play on scale. The detail in her original text with the incredible fluid lettering could never be matched and all done on the most delightful colors that seem to come alive. So many have come after her and it understandable. She is the best and the brightest star in creating the real magic with the text, the letters and her marvelous collages. I commissioned her once to make the most fantastic designs for a suite of period French furniture. It was stunning. It is a beautiful thing to behold--- to see her passion in her painting, and one only has to look at her book "Unwrapped" to find delight in her multi-faceted work. Carolyn's exploration of colors and shapes transcends common silk screening. The magic she imparts simply cannot be duplicated. It's just as good as it gets. (I agree with Fay) not even close..

  7. she was the textile queen in my 80's london...the original.
    copied a million times over now.
    as my friend philip would say - " to be copied is the highest form of flattery, "
    but difficult when you are the original.

  8. thanks so much for visiting-I can only say thank you to Carolyn and Kate. What a beautiful gift to bring Me and everyone lucky enough to stop in at this moment. PGT



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