27 May 2020

INSIDE THE STUDIO with Caro Halford

Zoë Foster

INSIDE THE STUDIO with Caro Halford

London-based artist Caro Halford talks to us in her Suffolk studio, discussing a new body of work that she has been making while in isolation.

Caro Halford​’s work spans performance, video, sculpture, collage and photography. Importantly, she examines social and political concerns of women and their sexuality in much of her practice. While in isolation, she makes a series of collages and paintings. These relate back to her recent performance work and research.

Watch Caro Halford talking about the new work in her studio.

Halford is focused on primarily examining the field of study of investigating the British women printmakers in the long eighteenth century. She looks in particular at artists Angelica Kauffman and Mary Moser and their female contemporaries. 

The Spotlight Room, Tate Britain

Caro draws her inspiration from the Spotlights Room at the Tate Britain. The room focuses on Angelica Kauffman. Caro Halford starts with a large collage piece which serves as the ‘mother’ piece for her subsequent smaller collage works. ‘Mary Moser’s Friends‘ consists of several photographs of different paintings shown in the Spotlights Room. The artist cuts and pastes them together, creating this large collage, The work serves to highlight the different parts of this room.

Mary Moser’s Friends, 2020 Caro Halford

Using this as her source, Caro then extracts characters from the piece to make each new collage. She is working on a number of these collage pieces at the same time, as shown here in progress on her work table. Each of her new collages relates back directly to a section of the main ‘Mary Moser’s Friends‘ collage. Her aim is to champion each of these women, bringing them back into the spotlight.

In 1768, Mary Moser and Angelica Kauffman were the only two women to be elected Royal Academicians out of thirty men. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that Laura Knight was also made a RA. That is 170 years later – no other women became RA’s in between these three women.

Halford is also passionate about addressing the absence of these women. She feels they have been in the shadows of their male contemporaries. She does this through artistic processes, collage, painting and performance.

Handsome Helen

Caro Halford

Handsome Helen

Collage, oil paint, 24 carat gold leaf, onion skin, dyed nylon, nylon cord, 2020

48 x 22 cm

Handsome Helen

One of the final collage pieces that Caro has recently finished is ‘Handsome Helen‘, shown above. This is a multimedia work – it consists of collage, oil paint, onion skin dyed nylon and nylon cord. Furthermore, Caro’s inspiration in this collage comes from a section of an Angelica Kauffman painting in the Spotlights Room entitled  ‘Paris and Helen directing Cupid to inflame each other’s hearts with love‘, 1773. Also of importance, the story of romance between hero Paris and the famously handsome Helen of Troy, which is a favourite subject for painters in the 18th century.  

Also, according to Tate curator Martin Myrone ‘This painting was among a group of classical paintings that (Angelica) Kauffman showed at the Royal Academy in 1774.  A critic gave a characteristic assessment of her art which emphasised her blurring of gender differences: ‘This lady has for years, stood deservedly high in the most difficult, yet most liberal line of her profession -History painting… though we would beg leave to observe there is too great a monotony of beauty in all her principal figures’.

Angelica and I Performance, 2018 Caro Halford
A staged performance in the Spotlights Room at the Tate Britain

These collages also relate directly to Caro’s recent performance work. In the collage of ‘Mary Moser’s Friends‘, the artist importantly includes an image of herself from her recent performance at the Tate Britain, Angelica and I Performance, 2018, which was performed in the Spotlights Room. This is therefore a partner piece to her performance at the National Portrait Gallery, ‘I have a meeting with Mary Moser’, 2019.