Reaching the Stuff Itself: The Delicate Empiricism of Carol Rhodes

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsSymposiumResearch


In an interview with Andrew Mummery, Carol Rhodes made the following observation in response to the question of proximity and distance: “Although the paintings are of things that are far away, each item I imagine very close up, even if it’s smell and texture, whether grass for example is damp or dry, whether soil is sandy or clay, or how deep some water is. Even though the photographs give a kind of double separation – because I am looking at the photo and the photo is ‘looking’ at the subject – I am to pass through these separations to reach the stuff itself.” Approached through the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Mummery’s question foregrounded the ostensible paradox of how, as a painter, it is possible to be both thoroughly in the world yet separate from it. Although Rhodes’ paintings where often characterised by themes of distance or separation, her statement suggests that despite or perhaps because of this separation, her aim was nevertheless an attempt to achieve a particular way of knowing and making that was given, in part, through proximity. Forming the overarching basis of the paper, Rhodes practice will be approached through Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s delicate empiricism or zarte Empirie. Entailing an approach that encompassed “prolonged emphatic looking and seeing grounded in direct experience,” “Reaching the Stuff Itself: The Delicate Empiricism of Carol Rhodes” will consider the particularity of the artist’s own methodologies. As such, whilst Goethe’s own way of knowing has certain parallels with phenomenology, the paper will explore the various points of imbrication between what Moira Jeffrey claims was the artist’s attempt to “produce a kind of painting that is open and empathetic, alert to the clamour and conundrums of the outside world” and the delicate empiricism as set out by Goethe. .
Period20 Apr 2024
Event titleCarol Rhodes: Seen and Unseen Symposium

The symposium speaks to Rhodes’ significant artist legacy, and to encourage the development of new contextual frameworks through which her practice might be engaged with. While the event seeks to locate itself within a timely discussion around the historicisation of British women painters of the 20th century, it also seeks to address how an artist’s political ideals and their contribution to a variety of communities may be articulated in relation to their practice.
Event typeOther
LocationGlasgow, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational