Romance in Black

Christopher Carroll

MIDWAY upon the journey of our life / I found myself within a forest dark, / For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

- Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy

Tree Line (summer), 2011, monoprint and inkwash on panel.

This series of paintings exposes me as a Romantic within the wider, perhaps more pragmatic, scope of contemporary art but it also connects me to a dynamic historical movement, at once nostalgic and mystical. The early-nineteenth century German Romantic philosopher, Novalis might describe my series of paintings as acts of “qualitative potentialzing”, efforts that make the insignificant appear monumental, the empty, full, and the shallow, deep. Although Novalis may be correct in his assessment of the final intentions of the Romantic, his implication of illusion or trickery as the means to such a goal is, in the case of my own work, and, I would venture, the work of many artists of the past, misguided.

2-North Forest Passage, 2011, monoprint and inkwash on panel.

As I worked through this series I had no ambition to deceive the viewer; instead, I was simply working through my infatuation with the color black, or, more specifically, the colors of darkness.  I was interested in the kind of black found in the background of Gustave Doré's “Dante in the Dusky Woods” (1861-1868), one of his many illustrations of the Divine Comedy. Dore's black is a black that reveals itself as an autonomous element, a sort of complete, pulsing manifestation of fear.

Limb, 2011, monoprint and inkwash on panel.

When I construct the images of nature found in this series, I too attempt to create a vivid image that induces the same psychological response that I perceive whilst looking at darkness. An embodied black, Dore’s black, the kind of black that exists in the tree lines of backyards and the closets of children. If I persist in this effort, perhaps, one evening, this chimera of the darkness will materialize and release me, allowing me to become one of those practical or even cynical artists for whom darkness might be quickly dispensed with a light bulb or brightly colored paint.

Three Trees (summer), 2011, monoprint and inkwash on panel.

Logging Trail (winter), 2012, monoprint and inkwash on panel.


 All works by and courtesy of Christopher Carroll


Christopher Carroll received his MFA from Massachusetts College of Art and Design and his BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University; he has also attended the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture.  Christopher has exhibited both nationally and internationally and produces art in a variety of media from painting and printmaking to video and sculpture.  Christopher’s work is often informed by his exploration of man’s physical relationship to the collision of Nature and society. Originally from Virginia, Christopher currently lives and works in New York City.