Caroline Achaintre, artist: 'It's the first time I am in a studio and it's warmer inside than outdoors'

Karen Wright meets the artist in her modest studio in Homerton, east London

Karen Wright
Thursday 04 February 2016 17:31

Caroline Achaintre moved into her modest studio in Homerton, east London, three years ago. "I am happy it is well insulated. It's the first time I am in a studio and it's warmer inside than outdoors." It is a cluster of 50 studios under a block of modern flats. Achaintre admits it is isolated; there are no communal spaces to meet in. "It means you crack on with your work. I have a nine-year-old kid and her school and my house are close by. It is my Bermuda Triangle".

Achaintre was born in Toulouse in 1969. Her parents split up when she was young and her German mother took her to live in a small city near Nuremberg. She studied first at the Kunsthochschule in Halle (Saale), in the former East Germany, where she was awarded a DAAD scholarship.

She chose to use it to come to London to study, drawn, she says, by the YBA art scene and music. She was attracted to heavy metal bands including Slipknot, clarifying that she was interested in the "clowning", where the musicians were "applying one face on top of another".

Growing up in Germany she became interested in German Expressionism and primitivism, channelling her initial artistic energy into producing watercolours and large wall painting. Studying first at Chelsea College of Art and Design and then at Goldsmiths College, she was frustrated at her attempts at painting and "I wanted to find a domestic medium".

She decided to try to make a carpet of her work. She approached the textile department, discovering an old tufting gun with which she began to experiment, and discovered the medium and materials that she has now made the centre of her practice.

In the studio there is a loom set up with a tufting work in progress and I admit to a fascination with the technique. She jumps up and gamely gives me a demonstration of the noisy procedure. Shooting the threads through a canvas, working from the back to the front, she is basically working blind. She mixes the lengths of threads, producing an uneven surface and allowing accident, something that appeals to her, inspired by her professed love of expressionism.

The dominant although incomplete work on the loom is destined for ARCO, an art fair in Barcelona, her work now being eminently collectable. With a forthcoming solo show at the Baltic in Gateshead and her inclusion in the British Art Show 8, she is an artist to watch.

Achaintre is engaging to speak to and animated. With an infectious laugh she tells me: "I have to put latex on the back of the almost finished work so the wool stays in place. I come in the next day and the whole studio smells like a sneaker factory. I like that."

Caroline Achaintre in the British Art Show 8 opens in Edinburgh on 13 February and runs until 8 May (

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