A Week of Canadian Painting: Caroline Larsen

Because we are a Canadian-run publication and we admire those who continue to work with the arguably dated medium of paint, in the arguably dismal landscape of the Canadian art-world, we have decided to do a week-long feature on some of our favorite current Canadian painters, in no particular order. Stay tuned this week to see who we believe to be among the greatest established and emerging painters the Great White North has to offer!


Goodnight Tiger, Oil on Canvas, 31 x 27 inches, 2015

I had the pleasure of seeing Caroline Larsen’s paintings this summer at General Hardware in Toronto. It was my first view of the Night Blooms series and of Larsen’s work in large-scale. Her aesthetic, though technically consistent, has cultured in recent years. Having painted an array of subjects – from balmy suburbia to cars swathed in flame – Caroline has intensified her focus toward landscapes of plant life. Her flora is celebratory, hallucinatory, and a little carnivorous; does something sinister hide under all that foliage, or is it just the presumed heat?

JPEGs of Larsen’s paintings are often mistaken for embroidery, an effect she achieves by applying thick, two-toned ridges of paint on the canvas through a bag, similar to a baker laying frosting on a cake. Though retaining her characteristic meticulousness, a formal austerity that Larsen balances with a (sincere) kitschiness and sense of pleasure, the paintings have gained in abstraction and are arranged with more unexpected detail. Her tropical works are lush, tactile and seductive; in person, still sweet with the slick smell of oil. It all contributes to her optical game. Larsen’s paintings solicit quiet interaction; face front to the canvas, it’s hard not to trace the fractal geometries and study the dense color palettes, hard not to try separating the background from the fore. Concentrated meditation on the work is sure to open up a psychedelic window. Am I looking at a blossom, or is Sarasota on fire?

“When you cut a flower, it’s dying, but succulents and cactus, they live for what feels like forever!” Caroline writes in a cheerful email.

Indeed, plants make us feel better; they’re known to reduce stress, to improve concentration and our awareness of space. Even looking at a picture of a plant can provide psychological benefit, and the more one interacts with flora, the more potent their gifts. That’s science. Caroline’s paintings, like desert plants in bloom, give much, but give more when examined closely. Further, the grandiosity, vitality and lack of pretention implicit in Larsen’s work speaks more broadly (albeit, unintentionally) to a limp Canadian art market. – Arianne Di Nardo

unnamedPassion Splash, Oil on Board, 20 x 16 inches, 2015

unnamed-5Midnight Boogie Woogie, Oil on Canvas, 31 x 27 inches, 2015

Where did you grow up? What was the landscape like?
I grew up in Markham, Ontario and in Sarasota, Florida. The landscapes were very different as you can imagine! Markham is kinda of, this super suburb, so the landscape is filled with very similar houses and supermarkets, big box stores and so many cars! Sarasota was very hot and tropical all the time, but also many cars and was very suburban.

Do you think being Canadian has had any impact on your work?
Not in particular.

What is your favorite medium to work with?
Oil paint and ceramics.

What themes do you work with, if any?
Tropical, landscapes, lushness, hot summer nights

Are you inspired by any Canadian painters?
I am inspired by so many painters! Chris Ofili is my favorite artist right now, I think you can see the influence on my work! I love Peter Shire and Yayoi Kusama! I also look at the work of Gina Beavers, Trudy Benson, Robert Otto Epstein, Jonathan Lasker, Tal R, Michael Berryhill, Michael Staniak and probs a million other artists!

unnamed-1In the Jungle, Oil on Canvas, 30 x 40 inches, 2015

unnamed-4Red Vines, Oil on Board, 24 x 20 inches, 2015

Is there any one painter who has influenced your work more than others?
I would say it has to be Chris Ofili, I have the book from his show Night and Day exhibition from the New Museum and I look at it almost daily.

Are you drawn to any particular historical art movement?
I really like pointillism.

Do you consider your work to be political?

What do you think is missing from the Canadian art scene?
I think that there are so many really great opportunities for artists in Canada that you can’t find elsewhere in North America. The granting programs in Ontario are just amazing, and I think that should be a source of pride among Canadian artists.



An exhibition of her ceramic work opens December 12th at Side Effects Gallery, Brooklyn, in a two-person exhibition alongside Oliver Sayes.