Art / carol peace

Interview: Carol Peace

By steve wright, Tuesday Oct 13, 2015

Carol Peace is much admired in Bristol and worldwide for her beautiful, expressive sculptures of people – lone figures or pairs, looking contemplative, often serene.

Most apparent in her sculptures (and paintings and drawings, media in which she’s equally accomplished) is an immense interest in and feeling for humanity – our hopes, fears, and our need of love and touch. Later this month Carol opens the doors of her studio at Paintworks for visitors to see both recent projects and works in progress.

Tell us about one or two pieces visitors to the Open Studio will see.
Heartbeat (pictured below) sums up a lot of the recent ideas that have been swirling around the studio – the joy and cruelty of nature and time. We can be so sensitive, intimate and capable of intense love, and yet so stupid and greedy. The mother holds the child; the child looks over her shoulder away into his time; the bear (a symbol of time) nearly falls from his hand.
We have adopted bears as a symbol of a fragile planet: I hope the boy will learn from our actions and do better by our planet. Despite our blinkered greed, he will learn to hold onto the bear.
But people won’t see all this – they will see love, as this is the most important of all.

You’ve recently spent six months working in Barcelona. How has that impacted upon your work?
In Barcelona I played with colour. I haven’t shown this work before as it’s very different, I am a little confused by it, but an open studio is about this – an opportunity to see the work in progress as well as the finished thoughts. Some roads have dead ends, sometimes you go down a road and retreat, only to then revisit it years later. In the studio, in my history, all those journeys are apparent – ideas left on a shelf to be picked up later.

Clay has always been your 3D medium of choice. Why do you feel so at home with it?
Clay is like drawing, I see my sculptures as just drawings in three dimensions. I do paint, but clay is my language.

You also paint and draw. How do the two disciplines (2D and 3D) compare for you – their challenges, possibilities and rewards?
Casting clay into bronze is like magic – but, as with all magic, there is a huge amount of work behind it. The process of turning something so fluid and transient into the solidity and permanence of bronze is a long old process, and can take precious time away from being creative.
Drawing and painting is instant (and rewarding) but it’s not easier. I make sculpture from my imagination – but in paint I need reality, I find that intense enough. I mostly paint still life. Take a peach for example – just a simple, cloudy-surfaced peach. When I start to look at it, try and get it down in colour, all of life comes rushing in.

Your work starts with people and, often, their relationships. And your subjects often look serene. As such, it feels quite optimistic – whatever else, we will always have contact and touch…
I like what you say here: yes, there’s a lot going on in the everyday of people’s lives, and for that we need each other I think. Either through community, family or a partner, skin on skin.

How do you find Bristol as a place to live and work?
Bristol is home, so I am always going to think it’s the best place to live. I need contrasts: the business of the city, the people, and then the space and freedom of the countryside. I have been here over 20 years but I always want to remain a tourist, wide-eyed and stumbling.

If you were not making a living from your art, what might you be doing?
That’s very easy: I would be a farmer or a farm hand, depending on my budget!

Carol Peace: Open Studio Friday, Oct 23 to Sunday, Nov 1, Unit 5.3 Paintworks. For more info visit

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